Bit of back story for this one: last night in the UK Commons there was a vote on a proposal to allow people suspected of terrorism offences to be held for up to 42 days without/before being charged (under certain circumstances). The limit for this type of offence is currently 28 days. This has been a huge talking point recently and was widely held by some commentators to be tantamount to a personal verdict on Gordon Brown as much as anything else. The Government won and the Bill passed this stage, but by only 9 votes and the support of some of the Democratic Unionists, who had previously appeared to be against the measure. A good number of Labour MPs voted against the Government proposal, contrary to instructions, as did the Conservative party.
David Davis, the Conservative Home Secretary, so his party’s spokesman on this and other issues, has just resigned his post as an MP. His stated intention is to force a by-election in his constituency which he will fight on the basis of opposition to the Labour Goverment’s ‘erosion of civil liberties’. The 42 day limit seems to be just the trigger - he’s just given a statement with a long explanation of his actions. One of his fears seems to be that the Government will use the Parliament Act to force this legislation through the House of Lords if and when it faces opposition to the 42 day limit there. Story here
The resignation seems to have been a huge shock both inside of the Conservative party and outside and appears to be a move pretty much without precedent. Off the record briefings hint that the Conservative leadership aren’t very happy - it has been said that there won’t be the normal party admin type support for his fighting the by-election.
I have to say - I’m stunned. I am about as left-leaning as you can get in this country and still bother to vote at all, and David Davis has never struck me as much more than an odious Tory politician. However, I find myself almost cheering for this man! It really does seem to me that he’s putting his job on the line, along with any further hopes he had of higher office (he did stand for Tory leadership and lost to David Cameron, the current Leader of the Opposition) over a matter of principle. The fact that I do mostly agree with his concerns is almost a side issue.
It seems that his majority was around 5000, so in theory there is a chance he won’t be re-elected. That’s less of a risk to him if we look at recent results and the hammering the Labour party have taken, but I’d say it does mean his gesture isn’t totally an empty one, even if you don’t believe he’s genuine.
So what say you Dopers? Do you believe this is on principle? Is he doing the right thing? Will it have anything other than short-term impact?
Side issue, and not to detract from the main point, but I couldn’t resist. Didn’t Alan B’Stard represent Haltemprice?