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David Davis resigns (sort of)

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William Crawley | 16:59 UK time, Thursday, 12 June 2008

david_davis_080315.276.jpgIn a move that is (to my knowledge, at least) unprecedented in the history of British politics, David Davis, the shadow home secretary, has resigned as an MP to force a by-election in his own constituency as a test of support for his own party's opposition to the new 42-day anti-terror legislation. (Watch here.) Presumably, the Labour Party could decide to simply stand aside from this by-election and allow Mr Davis to be re-elected. That would put Mr Davis back in the House, but would it evacuate his gesture of political power?


  • Comment number 1.

    Good on David Davis.

    I've been following this news since it broke today.
    Frankly I don't much agree with the comments of MPs, BBC reporters, or 'the pundits'. I am really not interested in the Westminster village ego masturbation.

    Until David Davis today NO-ONE has been listening to the British public. We are sick of being ignored and getting very, very angry.

  • Comment number 2.

    Whether David Davis is re-elected as a result of an election victory or because others stand aside, he has at least highlighted the fact that government is intended to serve the people of a nation rather than itself. Democratic governments are not elected to do as they please, but to do as they have promised.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    William you need to read the history of the Unionist protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement by all the unionist politicians, hardly unprecedented.

  • Comment number 5.

    Puritan, you are right to point out the resignation of the then 15 Unionist MPs in 1986; I remember the moment very clearly. And at least five other MPs have resigned in the 20th century -- the first I can identify was the resignation in 1912 of George Lansbury, the Labour MP for Bow and Bromley, who resigned as a gesture of support for the suffragette movement. Other MPs have resigned over issues including nuclear defence and Europe (typically in opposition to their own party's views). But I am not aware of a front bench figure of this standing resigning IN DEFENCE of his party's vote on an issue. Admittedly, that's a fairly circumscribed sense of 'unprecedented', but this is certainly a page-turn moment in Westminster affairs.

  • Comment number 6.

    The lead up to the by-election will focus attention on the drift that Mr Davis highlights. This is the important thing as it could help change the 'tenor of the times', which are taking on an increasingly bullying nature. The campaigns of Martin Bell against sleaze and George Galloway against the invasion of Iraq gave opportunities for their constituents to make a point over single issues. They were important bell-weathers at the time.
    And the points Mr Davis makes are well founded. It is certainly true, for example, that many senior police officers tend to act without much concern for civil liberties over the DNA data base. A big vote for Davis might make them review their position - or at least stimulate some political action over the matter.
    Perhaps a recognition that individuals feel threatened and and are made uncomfortable by the campaigns of commercial organisations will be highlighted too. Take the licencing arm of the BBC, which ran the thuggish and patronising 'Get one or Get done' campaign not so long ago and currently brags about its database. Here is a Big Brother that needs taking down a peg or two.

  • Comment number 7.

    If Labour stands aside, then it may suggest that they have lost their stomach for by-elections. With Lib-Dem support, they could make a strong challenge for the seat.
    Otherwise, I can't see the logic in Davis' actions. Unless he is tired of Cameron's style of opposition.

    Graham Veale


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