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Laughing off a late life crisis

Nick Robinson | 17:48 UK time, Thursday, 12 June 2008

Wow. Cor blimey. Gordon Bennett.

Just some of the repeatable things said round Westminster on hearing the news that David Davis planned to step into the history books by resigning his seat to take the fight for civil liberties to the people.

What David Cameron said in private when he was told - not asked, not consulted, mind you - is probably unbroadcastable.

The two Tory Davids - one who beat the other to become Tory leader - insist they've not fallen out and not rowed about policy.

David Davis resignsDavid Davis has, however, bounced his leader into a by-election he didn't want, on an issue he wanted to move on from and he has done it without consulting his colleagues in the shadow cabinet. It is hard to see how the two men could work comfortably with each other in future.

The man who is already the former shadow home secretary insists he's making a principled stand and laughs off suggestions from friends and foes alike that he's having a late life crisis.

A politician who is a self-confessed adrenalin junkie has just injected a little unpredictability into British politics.

PS: Earlier I wrongly said that there was no precedent for this. Thanks to those who pointed to the following:

George Lansbury, 1912
The Labour MP for Tower Hamlets, Bow and Bromley resigned to fight a by-election on a platform of votes for women. The Labour Party disapproved of his resignation and Lansbury lost the contest to the Conservative candidate by 731 votes.

Northern Ireland, 1986
All 15 Ulster unionist MPs resigned and provoked by-elections in protest over the Anglo-Irish Agreement. 14 of them were re-elected, many with increased majorities, but they ultimately failed to influence Government policy.


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  • Comment number 1.

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

  • Comment number 2.

    Nick I'm a little perplexed by your attitude to Davis' resignation. In between watching you and, I think, the Policial Editor at the Telegraph, describing how ridiculous and dangerous the move was, we had the news reader saying that "99%" of comments coming in were in strong support of Mr Davis. Do you remember who politicians work for Nick, yes that's right, the same people you're meant to - the public. An overwhelming majority of whom seem to have acquired a new found affection for a Tory. Now you're not stupid and you must be able to see the public response, so why are you reporting this in such a biased manner?

  • Comment number 3.

    Perhaps he thinks this point really is above party politics. I do. Shame more MPs dont vote with their conscience than simply follow the party line. It would surely lead to much better quality legislation. It has been shameful that so many MPs either abstained, or had their votes on such a fundamental issue purchased by the PM.

  • Comment number 4.

    Nick, instead of reporting rumours can you outline the possible outcomes of this story?

    OK, it's unpredictable but you can hedge your bets and give us chaps off the street something to go on.

    You sound like you have a ghost writer from the Labour spin team at the moment.

  • Comment number 5.

    You are still peddling the line that this is a problem for the Tories???

    Go and challenge some Labour toadies on this one. Better still, find some of the Labour rebels and see what they think.

  • Comment number 6.


    This is just what you said on the BBC News. Now instead of going home to Notting Hill, or wherever you live and having a laugh with your friends about what we, the uneducated plebs, write on this blog, try sitting down and providing us with a balanced view of today's news.

    This is really important to the freedom loving public. You may find yourself seriously ridiculed if you don't put some balance into your reporting.

  • Comment number 7.

    I can imagine Cameron is angry, this move will make him only the 3rd most important Tory in the country for the next couple of months...

    One interesting aspect of this story is the rolling over of the Lib Dems. Surely by not competing they are saying to the electorate that the Conservatives are the party to defend Civil Liberties

  • Comment number 8.

    "is hard to see how the two men could work comfortably with each other in future"

    News or speculation? Do you have any evidence that the working relationship between the two of them has broken down - if so, that would be NEWS.

    Please, for heaven's sake, let us know what is actually happening.

  • Comment number 9.


    Again you are following the line given to you by Labour media types.

    This is not what we expect from you.

    Actually, now it is what we have come to expect.

    David Davis has given a very clear account of his decision. He has taken a principled stand.

    Now I know it might be hard for a journalist of your ilk to believe this - but a lot (and looking round the webosphere - a vast majority) of people can see what he has done and support his stand.

    Principles in politics have been missing for a long time - it is good to see them return

  • Comment number 10.

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

  • Comment number 11.

    9 simonofoxford

    Please don't suggest to political journalists that we need our MPs to be principled. If that were to happen they would be out of a job AND we would have proper government.

    Heaven forbid!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    My first comment has been passed over to moderation however it simply repeats what has been mentioned above i.e. that Nick Robinson is peddling unsubstantiated rumour and conjecture as fact.

  • Comment number 13.

    As a very confirmed non Conservative voter Davis has hugely gone up in my estimation. He is actually taking a stand for what he believes to be right rather than what may be good for his political career. Something that is sorely lacking in MP's of the other parties.

  • Comment number 14.

    This looks like a "moment of madness". Maybe, he'll get the seat back. It's an easy ticket anyway. Problem is, the guy's a busted flush. What's next? Is he going to run naked through parliament with his pants on his head or something?

    Jeez. Take up some Zen, dude.

  • Comment number 15.

    #7: "One interesting aspect of this story is the rolling over of the Lib Dems. Surely by not competing they are saying to the electorate that the Conservatives are the party to defend Civil Liberties"

    Well, you could argue that the Lib Dems are taking a principled stand about this. They accept that Davis is going to make this by-election all about locking people up for 42 days, and since the Lib Dems agree with Davis, they are putting the issues above party politics and giving Davis their support.

    However, the Lib Dems are politicians too, so although that's a possible scenario, I guess it's more likely that they have some sneaky ulterior motive. But wouldn't it be nice if they were all being principled just for once?

  • Comment number 16.

    #8edgarbug :" News or speculation? Do you have any evidence that the working relationship between the two of them has broken down - if so, that would be NEWS."

    It's quite amusing really. I recall making almost exactly the same comment more than once when the political journalists were reporting the internicine warfare going on between Blair and Brown. Of course, then the tory contributors loved it. Unfortunately for me then, and them now, the journalists were shown to be largely accurate on this, if not on many other stories.

  • Comment number 17.

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

  • Comment number 18.


    He went straight up in my estimation, too, when first I heard the news. Mind you, he slipped somewhat when I learnt that his is a safe seat and he had been critical of the 1998 Human Rights Act.

    Still, at least someone is not prepared to let the issue drop and for that he should be applauded.

    And whilst many commentators and bloggers may support him, it's depressing to note that opinion polls (Yougov was one cited) are suggesting the public at large are 70% in favour of extending the length of time suspects can be held without charges being brought.

    This leaves to ponder the unpalatable truth that, on this issue at least, Gordon Brown may actually be in touch with the public, so ultimately it may be an empty gesture.

  • Comment number 19.

    A principled senior politician.

    Naaaah, you don't fool me that easily :-)

    This is an "and finally" story that will turn out to be a complete rumour ... right ?

    Score +1 for the Tories [did I just say that?]

  • Comment number 20.

    I suppose it's not surprising that BBC commentators have been so hard on David David brave stand against the "database state."

    I'm a Labour voter, and usually keen on the BBC, but I am sure I am not alone in finding the BBC's broadcasts threats - based on its database - to license non-payers more than a little Orwellian.

  • Comment number 21.

    Who is "Laughing off a late life crisis"? He resigns on a matter of principle. That is to be applauded. Robin Cook would be pleased. I watched his resignation speech on TV and couldn't believe my eyes or ears. It was very refreshing. In the media driven world of politics and spin today I think you were caught on the back foot. Sour grapes?

  • Comment number 22.

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

  • Comment number 23.

    If Gordon Brown has any sense he won't put a candidate up. He cannot win in such a strong Tory seat where the second party Lib Dems will support Davis on principle.

    Labour couldn't win a by-election now if they offered every voter £1,000,000. (And neither do they deserve to...)

    When he wins it will NOT be about 42 days detention. If the Tories as a whole were so certain it's a single issue national debate they can win why have they not pushed for a referendum?

    Answer because they'll lose, and they know it.

    I say this as a floating voter who probably would be a conservative supporter had Davis won the leadership.

    I do not doubt his sincerity although I disagree and do have severe doubts about the sincerity of some of his colleagues. Unfortunately, this has just removed one of the two members of the front bench that truly resonate with non-traditional Tories. (The other being William Hague).

    Also it's interesting that 28 days did not in his opinion break ranks with the Magna Carta. I don't remember it being that specific, obviously my old school need to revise their history lessons !

  • Comment number 24.

    But wouldn't it be nice if they were all being principled just for once?

    The Tao comments that people who talk up morality take their attention off being moral, and people who are moral are so busy being moral they don't have time to talk about it. The Prime Minister compares well with David Davies in that regard.

    I note, the seratonin buzz addicts are peppering their comment with "principle" and giving each other hearty backslaps, while casually ignoring the focused and consensual approach of people who don't fit their world view. Close, but no cigar.

    This is just more Mugabe style politics and if Cameron can't fully support it as some Tory's can't fully support the CBI, perhaps, there's a shred of humanity in them. If they came out against corporate bullying and the low wage economy it might grow a bit.
  • Comment number 25.

    Awesome! Conviction politics. Well done David Davies, nobody can accuse him of being bought off by anyone for 'pieces of silver'.

    I am so pleased that someone is taking a stand on civil liberties. Come on Shami Chakrabarti - lets get behind David Davis. There is a big list to fight for:

    - 42 days
    - E-mail snooping
    - ID cards
    - Criminalisng children for minor issues
    - CCTV Britain
    - Database incompetence

    The government is obsessed with controlling us, they find it easier to meddle with peoples lives than to do anyhing positive for the country.

    The benefits of society are health, education, trade and defence of our freedom. Increased control over our own population is not a benefit.

    We have to stand up and stop this governments 'control-the-people-instinct'. We should help David Davies fight the by-election by going to London and protest marching en-masse.

  • Comment number 26.

    From what Davies is continuously saying - I want, I want, I want - looks like the man is more arrogant then previously thought.

    What would the Tories say if this had happened within the Labour Party? Here is what the media would come up with:-

    There you have it, the rifts are coming our in the open, the cracks are more visible then before, look at the way MPs are defying Brown and do what they want, ignoring his command. He has lost all control of his own MPs.

    But, thank God it is happening to the Tories.

    Even though the BBC has no knowledge of this yet, but Labour will not be putting forward a candidate to take part in this pantomime called “David and Goliath” Now who of the two would Goliath be? Good night Nick.

  • Comment number 27.

    "He is actually taking a stand for what he believes to be right rather than what may be good for his political career. Something that is sorely lacking in MP's of the other parties"


    I'd like to remind people that not every Labour MP slavishly obeyed the party whips, and nor did Anne Widdecombe for that matter - all voted according to their various consciences.

    Also, I rather disagree with the implication that this isn't good for his political career. He is almost certain to win re-election, the Lib Dems having been his only meaningful opposition in 2005, since which Labour has gone down in the polls even further, and perhaps (dependent on turnout) with an increased majority.

    Not to mention the kudos from the additional name recognition and the challenge to David Cameron's authority that he poses (this isn't to say I perhaps agree with Nick in his assessment they have been unable to work together, although I wouldn't be surprised - senior MPs are always clambering over each other, working together when it suits them but with one eye on the top job).

    In any event, I'm sure in a few years time when (sadly) the next Tory government is returned, he may well come back as an influential minister with one of the more relished departments.

    Before anyone attacks this (although no doubt they will anyway), I honestly do believe him that he disagrees with 42-day detention in principle - hell, I'm of the same opinion (although I question the actual value of the Magna Carta in protecting the ordinary subject's rights, in balance against other, less well-known acts of legislation).

    But he is most certainly not resigning merely out of principled opposition to a measure... there is absolutely political calculation and self-interest behind this.

    Finally, I don't reckon Cameron will lose a great deal of sleep over this - Davis will have his moment in the limelight, will give another perceived kicking to the government and no doubt win over the elements of the Mail and Sun-reading population who previously supported 42-days (according to the leading questions asked in polls) towards understanding that Human Rights (aka Civil Liberties) are not the EU/Socialist/Muslim plot they're largely made out to be.

    Or so we can hope.

    It's not worth getting ourselves too excited about though, I suppose - this will be ancient history within three months, and Davis will return to his relative obscurity amongst the general population.

  • Comment number 28.

    do us all a favour and disconnect this blog from your RSS feed a day early. It would make it that much quicker to cut through the chaff.

  • Comment number 29.

    At last a politician standing up for his beliefs. In these days of unprincipalled and career opportunists this is a breath of fresh air. I only wish I could cast a vote in any election.

    My guess is Labour will be too chicken to stand against him.

  • Comment number 30.

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

  • Comment number 31.

    The law should be changed so that an MP who resigns cannot stand again in the same Parliament. We worry about MPs' expenses - what about the totally avoidable expense this MP has caused? As a taxpayer I have already paid for an election to put him in Westminester for a whole Parliament.There is no suggestion that he is benefitting personally financially, but if DD wants to show his principles, he should do so at his own expense (or the expense of those who think standing in a no real contest safe seat show courage) and not mine!

  • Comment number 32.

    Whilst i applaud anyone having the courage of their convictions to resign their seat.

    I find it a waste of time and money for the same candidate to be allowed to stand,especially as this has not yet become Law.

    I would rather have seen people take a stand on the No referendum "promise" which has far more constitutional concerns than this matter at the moment.

    Having said that i am against the 42 days not so much the length of time its the involvement of MP's in a judicial role that i am against.

  • Comment number 33.

    What a wicked waste of taxpayers' money!

  • Comment number 34.

    Arguably Tony Benn fought a bye-election on the issue of being able to renounce his peerage, although he was compelled to resign on the death of his father.

  • Comment number 35.

    Lets get this straight, if Clegg had decided to run against Davies, Davies wouldn't have run and not been so 'courageous', because he might have lost his seat. Hmmm. In other words he will run only if he is sure to win. So Liberals dictate Tory policy. When 'Magna Carta ' was dragged into he mix, I remembered Tony Hancock saying, 'Magna Carta, did she die for nothing?' A bit like the career of Davies.

  • Comment number 36.

    You can sway either of two ways here. Okay he's in a relatively safe Tory seat so you might thing the gesture is an empty one and calculated to try and cause the Government embarrassment. They in turn have only to neglect to field a candidate to make the whole operation meaningless. On the other hand the move will not have endeared him to the party leadership and the chance of a Ministerial post has seriously receded. He must also be aware that the majority of The General Public including myself disagree with him. I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt believing that he feels very strongly about the issue. I think he's going about it the wrong way but he doesn't deserve the flak he's getting from his opponents. Too often politicians disregard their inner held beliefs in order to preserve the status quo.

  • Comment number 37.

    I question the actual value of the Magna Carta

    I wonder how many people using the emotive and, largely, mythical cry of Magna Carta have actually read the thing (or one of its many versions and revisions). It sounds a bit like all those hardcore Trots who'd never actually read any Karl Marx.
  • Comment number 38.

    Why is everyone apluading this man for his convictions? The outcome of this byelection is certain as it is a safe tory seat and whatever the result is it will be no indication of what the British public think about 42 days. Why dosent he contest a marginal seat on the 42 days platform? When he does that I will aplaud his convictions. Until then no other conclusion can be made other than all this is a stunt designed to boost his ego and damage labour by producing the illusion that the tories have achieved another victory. All quite bizarre really.

  • Comment number 39.


    what will this really achieve and who is going to pay for it.

    If Davis wanted to draw attention to this issue why not just resign and use his influence to support the Liberty campaign, that would have been real courage.

    Instead he has decided to stand in a by-election of his own creation in a seat he will certainly win..I fail to see the bravery there.

    This is another example of Cameron being sat on by the members of his party who carry the real weight. I'm sure that Cameron must have tried to talk Davis out of this but Davis simply didn't respect his leader enough to listen.

    This makes Cameron look seriously week.

  • Comment number 40.

    I keep seeing comments to the effect that Davis's resignation is on a point of principle. I would be very grateful if someone who supports that line would take the trouble to explain to a poor idiot like me what the point of principle might be. It can't be the issue of detention without charge, because Davis voted for (I think sponsored) the proposal to allow 28 days before charge. Is there some mystical point in time between 4 weeks and 6 weeks where a principle suddenly appears? Or is the argument about practicality rather than principle?

    BTW, I saw on the BBC site that if nobody stands against him, he will simply be returned without a vote. Much Ado About Nothing?

  • Comment number 41.

    Talk about spin. People worrying about the tiny expense of a by-election (hey, it's the price of democracy) yet don't seem to be bothered by this legislation being bought with £1,200,000,000 of our money.

    And Labour are crowing that they have split the Tories?

    So this is what the legislation was all about? Urinate on our coveted rights just to do a bit of damage to a rampant opposition? Is this how contemptuous Labour are of us?

    It is noteworthy that Margaret Thatcher never sought to pass such legislation. Even though she was directly targetted by terrorists. And many of those close to her killed by them. But the chance to split Cameron and Davis...great, let's steal twenty quid off every man, woman and child in the country and pass the most oppressive legislation in the world to achieve this.

    These are the people running our country.

  • Comment number 42.


    Your piece on the British Six was one of the most biased, smug and self-satisfied editorials I've seen for a long time.

    David Davis has started a public debate that should have been properly conducted in the weeks and days before yesterday's diabolical hijacking of the democratic process. Brown bribed his way to win the vote by the narrowest of margins.

    All of the media have concentrated on the angle of Brown's authority within his own party rather than the fundamental issue of liberty. The principle of habeas corpus is 800 years old. New Labour is hell-bent on destroying that principle in a single Parliamentary term.

    The terrorists are winning without lifting a finger.

  • Comment number 43.

    Yes well, two words, tory - miners.
    That was then and this is now, and all that, but it seems a bit rich a tory talking about our freedoms at this late a stage, honestly, our freedom horse bolted a while back now and makes Davids actions look a tad silly.
    His speech was good and very much needed, especially half way in, make no mistake I do support what he said it just feels too little too late.

  • Comment number 44.

    I would guess that Cameron is really stir-fry crazy mad at Davis (correct spelling at last) for doing this.

    Because Cameron thinks, in the conventional way that a party machine leader would think, that he has to run a tight orderly highly disciplined ship.

    In fact, I think that the opposite would be much better, near chaos with all of these politicians fighting like rats-in-a-sack.

    It has been demonstrated time and time again (thanks Danny Finklestein, Times) that that, more diversity of input, would actually produce better outcomes.

    More mavericks are needed not less.

    PS. #41

    'These are the people running our country'.

    I have found that the only way to keep some sanity about this is to think of a 'zombie political entity, namely Britain' as a sort of political aberration, which has only got a couple of years or so left to live before we English get our country back.

    If you can think of it like that, it is not so bad because then there is a lot to look forward to.

  • Comment number 45.

    If Davis wanted to draw attention to this issue why not just resign and use his influence to support the Liberty campaign, that would have been real courage.

    Liberty have their uses but are just another campaign group who want attention, like the environmentalists who are now opposing the Severn barrage. Amnesty International and Greenpeace jumped the shark in similar ways. Their "authority" has since diminished accordingly.

    From an old blogging buddy of mine:

    Think a little harder. It won't hurt. Much.
  • Comment number 46.

    Labour excusing the Tories of wasting public money after 2.7bn was wasted trying to make up for the 10p tax band cockup?

    those in glass houses and throwing of stones etc etc etc.

  • Comment number 47.

    Amusing that when Nick Robinson reports events pretty much straight his fans object that he is being pro Labour.

    When I object to his usual drip drip drip of what appears to me to be tory propaganda my post was removed.

  • Comment number 48.

    Why does it say on the main page

    "BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson said it was an extraordinary move which was almost without precedent in British politics."

    You didn't qualify your original suggestion. You said what you said - even though you have nowadmitted the error.

  • Comment number 49.

    Well done D.D. His principled stance contrasts beautifully with how Brown and Labour behaved to get this ill judged and unnecessary legislation through.

    It was laughable to hear the BBC scrambling around to try and make this into a problem for the Conservatives. The slant they were trying to put on the story on R5 was so out of touch with their listeners comments.

    Simon Mayo kept presenting it as a Tory split, presumably at his producers behest, and even the Labour guests were contradicting him.

    The BBC need to wise up quick to the public mood on this one. We're sick of career politicians worried more about keeping their nose in the trough than standing up for what they believe in. And we're fast losing patience with a Public Service Brodcaster, funded from the public purse, that is becoming more and more overtly biased in its reporting.

  • Comment number 50.


    If you decide to leave the site, I hope you take with you your disreputable comment..

    "This is just more Mugabe style politics"

    Even Blair waited until he was almost out of office before building castles in the air for his wife. Mugabe didn't. His wife (a secretary) and he claimed that the multi-million dollar mansion was built from her savings. (I admit that Cherie could make more than Tony, but the sudden surge in property has nothing to do with getting the security forces to run around and "take out" people who didn't agree with them.) Are you saying that any opposition to some pretty odd government comments must be wrong, just because they are different?

    The international economic situation has not been the cause of Brown's current problems - it just brought into focus the waste of tax-payers' money over the last 8 or 9 years.

    Scrap a few unnecesary things - like an ID card that will bring no benefits - and the current expenditure could come back under a little control.

    Keep talking about a "Blessed Leader", as if we need a North Korean dictatorship, and, what ever blog you choose to inhabit will suffer.

    Does Brown have a moral compass - I have no doubt. Can he moderate that, so that pensioners, carers, the low paid can survive without begging the "State" for support?
    That's a pretty big ask.

    The State should not be intrusive.

    This adminsitration (meaning the Blair / Brown combo) has become just too much for most people to suffer.

  • Comment number 51.

    It is a principled stand
    He is asking any supporter of the Governments position to stand against him in the by - election and to see who wins.
    If 69% of the people support 42 days then he should lose.
    As for a waste of taxpayers money. Give me a break. £2.7bn to try to win the Crewe by-election. £1.2 bn to buy the DUP vote.
    Seems to me far to many people (Nick) just can't stand to see a principled politician fight his corner.
    The BBC (Nick) need to stop acting as a the main cheerleader for the Government and to start taking an objective view.
    Fat Chance there I think

  • Comment number 52.

    We've had lots of criticsm of Nick, some of it from me, this afternoon. Having looked at the news on several channels, the same seems to be happening. And many of us cannot see why a man, whether right or wrong, sticking to his principles is being pilloried.

    I have a theory (marketing and PR is part of my business).

    Lobby correspondents all have their sources, and it is obvious as they broadcast to us that they take pride in knowing things we don't.

    I firmly believe that part of today's poking fun at David Davis is because they didn't know and are almost embarrassed by the fact.

    The coverage has been very un-balanced across the media. In the cold light of day I hope coverage will be more balanced. This is a very interesting development, and I for one admire David Davis greatly for the stand he is making.

  • Comment number 53.

    It does seem that hardly anyone appreciates the Islamo-fascist menace or the tools which are being put into place to address it.

    The UK has a unique position owing to its former empire, of both vulnerability and leadership.

    None of these is a silver bullet; none is useless as the Tory Gizzajob set make out.

    Davies is going to find himself being treated unduly kindly for a time, Tory media, BBC etc.

    The companies involved in the ID cards, and the CCTV camera manufacturers for examples will be producing facts which Davies will have to try and refute. He will have no chance.

    This campaign will most likely make more of the British public more aware of the threats we face together, and also the means we need to counter these.

  • Comment number 54.

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

  • Comment number 55.

    Actually, this is very very clever.

    Provided the LibDems stay out of it and the tories leave it to Davis to stand as an 'Anti-42 Day independent' then this will be a straight fight between Davis and a Labour stooge who has no option other than to support the 42 day law and fight a by-election on that one single issue.

    The UK national press coverage will be immense and if Davis actually increases his vote - which he will - and the Labour candidates vote goes down - which it will - then basically you've held a referendum on the 42 day law and Brown will have convincingly lost.

    Before any pro-42'ers jump on the bandwagon, you should remember that Davis is former Special Forces and I did G2 (Int) in NI during the 'Troubles'. Any of you think Davis knows nothing about terrorism (or me), then tell us your credentials or go away.

  • Comment number 56.

    9:31 pm on 12 Jun 2008, mikepko

    Cameron D was a PR man too, albeit only in a TV company which went tits up.

    He doesn't appear to agree with you.

    Interesting that Sir David Steel (?) was also an advertising man - much the same trade imho - and that only labour hasn't elected as Leader anyone from these dark arts.

  • Comment number 57.

    So, Davis has resigned. He’s called a hissy-fit by-election – the first in history apparently. Yes – this is an unprecedentedly vain and hollow piece of political bravado. It is historic. No one wants to fight him (who can blame them? he’s former SAS), no one understands why he has to fight a by-election to demonstrate his fondness for civil liberties; but he’s going to damn well do it anyway. No one – not Gordon Brown, not the Murdoch press, not hundreds of years of accepted Parliamentary practice, not common sense, not even David Cameron – is going to stop him.

    Just think, though: what if they all start doing it? What if he’s just the first Tory MP to have this particular eureka moment? We’re all vulnerable to crazes, fads and bubbles. Imagine a Parliament in which the Conservative Party has done the decent thing and resolved to act as the kamikaze party… The remaining Parliamentarians appreciate the increased elbow space at the bars; there is a fire sale of Tory offices; Labour MPs stretch out in the Chamber, taking to sitting on both sides of the Speaker’s Chair; a wonderful spirit of bonhomie and harmony descends on the House of Commons. Without the Conservatives, MPs finally get round to doing all of the things that they had always been meaning to do, but had never been able to find the time for. A fair tax system is introduced. Child poverty is abolished. Comprehensive environmental legislation is passed. Nuclear disarmament begins. All of a sudden no one can remember why they used to think governing Britain was such a tricky business…

    It could happen. If we want it bad enough it just might happen.

    Read about Davis at greater length by searching for my blog, just who the hell are we?, on

  • Comment number 58.

    Nick, take some time off talking to the same people (politicos, journos, and think-tank policy wonks) and pay attention to what the public are saying about David Davis.

    You're sure to be surprised at the strength and popularity of his stand against this governments authoritarian tendencies as expressed by the great majority of individuals (not 'commentators') on the internet and elsewhere.

  • Comment number 59.

    56 QA

    Don't understand you point at all. What are you TRYING to say.

    I have no idea about DC and whether he agrees with my point or not.

    Totally confused.

  • Comment number 60.

    Davis is concerned about the 'creeping surveillance society'.

    The prime justification for ID cards is moooted as 'security' but the Government can never say that it would prevent terrorist outrages.

    I do not believe that security is the primary driver for ID cards and I wish the Government could be more honest about why they are so keen on it.

    In my opinion, it is much, much more likely to be mianly deployed for combatting fraud, especially fraud against Government facilities such as the 'benefits system'.

    Di you know for example, that there are roughly 65 million people in the country but around 80 million NI numbers in circulation.

    That is a lot of ghosts.

    I strongly believe that ID cards should be optional but Government could make it more-or-less mandatory in certain circumstances e.g. for people claiming benefits.

  • Comment number 61.

    Does Brown have a moral compass - I have no doubt. Can he moderate that, so that pensioners, carers, the low paid can survive without begging the "State" for support? That's a pretty big ask.

    If you're suggesting that Gordon Brown develop the confidence and build support for taking on the arrogance of big companies and levelling up the low paid, and forcing a more investment led approach and fairer society, I agree.

    The Tories could rehabilitate themselves and be part of that vision but not if they cringe from opposing the CBI and allow the leafy subhurbs to be subsidised by the poor. Their historical lack of reason and consensus is holding them back.

    Some people may think I'm an apologist for Labour and framing the Tories but other minds might think I'm framing Gordon Brown and giving the Tories a clue. This is all a matter of perspective. I'm just a simple idiot so couldn't comment.

    All hail Blessed Leader!
  • Comment number 62.

    We're told the majority of people support the government on 42 days. Well, this is their opportunity to show how strongly they do support it. Will they put up a candidate?

    Doesn't have to be a Labour candidate, an independent might be more appropriate. Just a candidate to oppose David Davis, to stand in support of such things as 42 days.

    I wonder if the BNP intend to put forward a candidate? Do Labour want to run the risk of having the BNP stand in support of the government's policies?

    Perhaps Quietzapple could stand.

  • Comment number 63.



    I hope Davis has a plan B - for the situation whereby Labour do not put up a candidate.

    Seeing as Labour are virtually broke anyhow (witness Brown's terse one word response on that at this mornings PM questions) that could well be what happens.

  • Comment number 64.

    #15. The Lib Dems I think ARE making a principled stand but in doing so Nick Clegg seems to be letting go of their raison d'etre. The Lib Dems could still run a candidate arguing that the Conservatives are not the true champion of civil liberties because of x,y,z. They aren't acting like a serious party.

    That said, it's looking likely that the Labour party are going to be the real losers: it's inevitable that they'll wuss out of the by-election and will be seen as cowards.

    So I think it was a clever move by Davis.

  • Comment number 65.

    Quietzapple @53 says:

    "It does seem that hardly anyone appreciates the Islamo-fascist menace or the tools which are being put into place to address it."

    I do not dispute the seriousness of the (aptly named) Islamo-fascist menace. I do, however, dispute the efficacy of the "tools being put into place".

    I find it strange to be in agreement with you, Quietzapple, (as I enjoy baiting you from time to time), but you are right that the vested interests of IT companies will be brought to bear against DD. These are, of course, the same companies whose projects either never work properly to spec, or massively exceed their budgets. And then the DVDs get lost in the post.....

    The BBC, of course loves all this IT because it increases their sense of 'empire'. Hence the notorious stasi-like TV spots about their TV licence infamous 'database'.

    This erosion of personal freedom and privacy must be stopped - and reversed. David Davis has made a stand - and is probably as surprised as anyone at the popular chord it has struck.

  • Comment number 66.

    Hi CEH

    The truest thing you have ever posted - "I'm just a simple idiot."

    Join the club.

  • Comment number 67.


    Cameron D advised Davies that his proposed course of action was risky, Davies says.

    Under a little pressure from Nick Robinson he went a little fey and made out that Cameron D hadn't tried to dissuade him, but . . .

    You reckon you know PR, Cameron did it for a living, sorry I back Cameron and my own judgement against you and Davies.

    Up with the play NOW?

  • Comment number 68.

    Nick still doesn't get it, bless him. It's not a split in Tory ranks, it's one of the most tactically brilliant shaftings of a government seen in years.

    Have a look at Have Your Say, Nick, and see if you can work out how this is playing with the electorate.

    If you still haven't caught up, at least look at the leaders in tomorrow's papers.

  • Comment number 69.

    #23 ... I, for one, would be quite willing in an election, to vote for anyone if they offered me £1,000,000. However, to get back to reality, it's been said on other postings, Davis' resignation speech sounded like it came from a man on the edge ... he's a brilliant politician and I sincerely hope I'm wrong, but, I'm worried about him.

  • Comment number 70.


    Thanks for this post. It seems to reflect what you said on piece you did for the TV, and is much more balanced than your earlier post, which (probably went meant) didn't read very well.


  • Comment number 71.

    Red Lenin

    Why do you imagine that an SAS man 20 years in business etc knows much about Islamo-fascism?

    The absence of a Lib-Dem candidate in this by-election (unless the Liberal party fields one) makes it likely that Labour would gain votes, all other things being equal.

    When Cameron says Davies has made a "very courageous" decision, he signals that he is a loose cannon with a mad streak.

    Labour will benefit long term too from the Lib-Dems' complicity which will rightly be portrayed as showing that there is only one sane capable party, and two right wing opposition ones.

  • Comment number 72.

    @ 57 adammcnestrie, Labour have had a large majority for 11 years, and yet you seem to believe that "A fair tax system is introduced. Child poverty is abolished. Comprehensive environmental legislation is passed. Nuclear disarmament begins." has been prevented by the tories??? you cannot be serious.

    Under labour, the rich have got richer and the poor poorer. Social justice has reversed further since 1997. We are less free as a nation.

    Thank goodness for David Davis. Now we shall see if labour have the guts to defend their police state policies.

    I suspect that they are terrified of actually going toe to toe with Davis over a matter of principle and will not field a candidate. At which point we will know that labour are rank cowards that would rather sell out our hard fought for freedoms by appeasing terrorists than face a public debate in an arena where they do not have a built in bribable majority over the rights of the issue.

  • Comment number 73.

    Not sure whether you are kind 9:55 pm on 12 Jun 2008, Active_Citizen but I reckon a yorkshireman/woman would be best there.

    I have lived in N Yorks and parachuting someone in looks like a mistake, just as the prancing toff spoof Labour used in Crewe did.

  • Comment number 74.

    Why has my post that accused Nick of the worst form of yellow journalism for writing a hit piece on Davis instead of reporting on the real and growing anger amongst the public at the growing police state?

    Nick has been on the wrong side of the public mood on this.

    How does that break house rules? Is truth to be censored?

  • Comment number 75.

    I suspect that labour will treat this as another By-election, for the most part.

    Davies has his agenda, Labour and its candidate have theirs.

    Gordon Brown will not want to refight the 42 day vote again, why should he when he has won it, will likely lose it in the Lords and then push it through whatever Davies does?

    HMG has a superb economic record, there will be local issues, Labour needs someone who knows about North Ferriby (if in the constituency - unsure) to fight this by-election, I wonder if anyone can be found?

    Davies' agenda cannot be sustained in the face of a god solid campaign imho.

  • Comment number 76.

    10:10 pm on 12 Jun 2008, purpleDogzzz

    "real and growing anger amongst the public at the growing police state"

    A reference to the police on London's busses, and the riot against the ban on alcoholic refreshment on LT?

    Or just another attempt at another unlikely bandwagon?

    As you are a toryboy/worse have you got round to pointing out Nick Robinson's former affiliation? and High position?

  • Comment number 77.

    "David Davis's dramatic resignation threatened to backfire tonight as rival parties pulled out of contesting a by-election."

    "... the bombshell appeared to be turning into an embarrassment."

    "Mr Davis's position was made worse ..."

    "Mr Davis's announcement earlier today plunged the Tories into chaos."

    Not my words but a Tory daily - rhymes with fail.

    This is a blatant stunt pulled by DD as a non too subtle first step to become Tory party leader.

    Chichester, Dover, Spelman and now Davis - this is the reality of the Tory party.

  • Comment number 78.

    The questions have been asked many times: "Why did he do this? What point did this action serve?"

    I would ask: "What *could* he do?"

    I think he needed to do something and all he can realistically do is make a statement. His action does that and I respect him greatly for it.

  • Comment number 79.

    Why are the BBC making negative and despairing comments about a new and exciting development in politics. As a commentator on Politics there should be an unbais reportage and debate. We hear the comments about how Mr Davis sanity is being called into question. I am now questioning the BBC's sanity. The BBC should be reporting the information and the facts in a truthful and accurate way. The goverment are spinning and twisting the facts, this makes it harder for the British people to trust the truthfullness of what we hear. We expect the BBC to present the information in a direct and unbaised way.
    We find that the BBC are now spinning and twisting for the goverment about what the Conservative leader is thinking, but we didnot hear any comments about the Labour leaders re-action. Now will the BBC give any information if the Labour will put a candidate against Mr Davis or will they run scared about the 42 day policy.

  • Comment number 80.

    From the FT:

    "Mr Cameron will be forced to lend a supportive presence to a by-election he does not want, fought on an issue where most voters disagree with Tory policy, most likely held during the agenda-setting past few days before parliament breaks up for the long summer holidays.

    “Brown was on the back foot and we’ve lent him a helping hand,” said one disgruntled Tory MP. Another shadow cabinet member could barely disguise his anger: “David Davis is tilting at a non-existent enemy, for genuinely felt but entirely egotistical reasons?.?.?.?he’s fighting on a point of principle that is already official party policy, in a by-election head-to-head with the Monster Raving Loony Party.”

    I am shocked to be commenting among so many tory blaggers of such appallingly bad judgement.

    I am able to make my advice available at very reasonable rates, no cheques.

  • Comment number 81.

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

  • Comment number 82.

    Notable that Nick Robinson now looks shocked, usually when he is castigating Gordon Brown he seems agitated and angry.

  • Comment number 83.


    "If you're suggesting that Gordon Brown develop the confidence and build support for taking on the arrogance of big companies and levelling up the low paid, and forcing a more investment led approach and fairer society, I agree...

    All hail Blessed Leader!""

    Me too. But when has he done that, over a decade?

    Many companies have done stupid things. Where was Brown with a big stick to stop them?

    Who was in charge when QinetiC was privatised? Big GB. So why did he fail to spot that civil servants invested a little, but got enormous returns from money they probably borrowed on a short-term basis?
    Good old GB.

    Who set up the FSA but didn't bother to check whether they were doing a proper job? GB. So Northern Rock was allowed to be "rescued" with whose money? Not his.. tax-payers. Were we consulted? Not.

    Unemployment at 1.6million.

    Balance of trade the worst ever.

    More pensioners below the poverty line.

    EU investigation into why the UK's finances are in such a mess.

    Money majiced out of thin air to try and offset the disaster of doubling the tax on the lowest paid.

    "All hail the Blessed Leader".

    Yes. And I'm sure your children - if you have some - will be pleased to pay for his "investments".

  • Comment number 84.

    My Comment at number 79 has not been allowed to be displayed due to freespeech being not allow on this blog.

  • Comment number 85.

    Caroline Spelman to you hasn't been convicted of any offence as it stands right now. Are you familiar with the laws of libel?

  • Comment number 86.

    Quietzapple wrote:
    ,HMG has a superb economic record,,

    Now this where in my opinion you and reality part company.

  • Comment number 87.

    Why is my comment (number 2) still not reviewed?! Are we not allowed to be too openly critical of BBC journalism?

  • Comment number 88.

    Although George Lansbury lost the by-election, he did go on to become leader of the Labour Party ...

  • Comment number 89.

    Although George Lansbury lost the by-election, he did go on to become leader of the Labour Party . . . . .

    . . . . . who were out of power for 30 years after his gesture.

  • Comment number 90.

    What David Davis has done is definitely brave. Yes, he will have made a calculation (all politicians do) but he will have felt that the 'principle' is worth the risk.

    Many on this blog have said that the gamble is not risky at all and they also say that the local electorate within his constituency will be subject to an unnecessary byelection. Surely if the electorate think it unnecessary and that their time is being wasted then they will bomb him out. Is that not risky for DD?

    Also if the 70% poll support figure is true (for 42 days) then he should fully expect to lose on that point too. Or could it be that the poll figure was stretching the truth a bit.

    Others argue on the hypocrisy of not making a stand on 14 or 28 days. This can easily be explained. Perhaps he thought that 28 days was plenty enough, much like most of the rest of the commons did at the time. Or maybe he thought that there wouldnt be anything to stop it being increased again in the future to 60, 90 or even 365 days.

    Labour will have to field a candidate for the byelection imho. If they dont then Davis will get a lot of good publicity which I dont think GB can afford. Labour will look cowardly and weak if they dont. DD will be fighting on a single issue platform and not fielding a candidate could suggest that Labour aren't prepared to argue the case for 42 days.

  • Comment number 91.

    I'm rather impressed with David Davis, less so with the media at the moment.

    The tone of the debate on internment without charge, and indeed the tone of the debates about ID cards, the expansion of the DNA database to include non-criminals and other related issues has been unbelievably facile.

    It's generally presented as "these measures are to stop terrorists, if you don't agree with them you must love terrorists" which is to oversimplify things to put it mildly.

    I suspect that the recent polls cited about the 42 days detention show broad support that is very shallow. People see "terrorist" and automatically condemn, missing out the rather crucial "suspected" part. When it's pointed out that it could be entirely innocent people, including possibly YOU getting the sharp end of the stick people tend to think about it in a bit more of a nuanced fashion.

    I do hope that the press and the BBC in particular actually engage properly with the issues and don't merely treat this as some kind of pantomime.

  • Comment number 92.

    What evidence does Nick Robinson (and others) have that "the electors do not like unneccessary
    byelections"? Perhaps "the electors", outside the Westminster media village, have had enough of the relentless encroachment of New Labour's 1984 Big Brother and perhaps "the electors" are even more worried about this that about terrorism.

  • Comment number 93.

    11:53 pm on 12 Jun 2008, urban_guerilla

    No Labour candidate, no debate.

    Best imho is to run a normal campaign with a good local candidate, and fight on issues where the tories are pathetic eg economy.

    Any good socialist candidate will make points against the Government too, tykes are like that.

    Davies' rep as a man of principle will be overtaken as an opportunist who is taking advantage if the Labour candidate handles it right.

  • Comment number 94.

    I always thought the unwritten rule was that once an issue has been voted on the Government won't bring it back before a vote until after the next General Election?

    Quite frankly it is the motives of the Labour Party I find most sinister - I still remember the newspaper headlines after 7/7 with the Government claiming that the victims had given their support to the then counter-terror proposals, only for the Government to be discovered as liars, and that not one of the victims had even been asked, and the majority were against.

    And I believe that Public support for this issue largly depends upon the question asked:

    "Do you support an innocent man being locked in a room for 42 days without having commited a single crime? His name being dragged through the mud, his family shamed, the loss of his job and friend?"


    "Do you support terrorists being locked up for 42 days for your protection?"

    Spinning with the safety of the British public is a disgusting indication of this Labour Governments contempt for both voters and the duty with which they have been entrusted.

  • Comment number 95.

    People see "terrorist" and automatically condemn, missing out the rather crucial "suspected" part.

    It's just a period of detention where a suspect can be held while evidence is gathered. Given the increased difficulties involved with a serious outrage it looks fair enough. It's proportionate and humane under the circumstances.

    The other thing people keep missing is the support the government has given to respectable muslim scholars and communities. This is important in helping people live good lives and feel welcomed. None of the critics ever mention that.

    In that respect, the critics of 42 days look alarmist and out of touch. Their own fear and ignorance has just run away with itself. If they calmed down instead of acting like nutters the law would probably be better crafted and people would be happier.
  • Comment number 96.

    Nick, I am still gravely disappointed in you. You're still portraying this as a partisan split between the two leading lights of the Tory party. What will it take for you to see it as what it is, a principled man taking a stand for what he believes is right?

    I would bet a pound to a penny that David Cameron wasn't asked or consulted about this for one reason only. It's nothing to do with him. This is a matter beyond party politics. It's about the basic freedoms we hold dear as a nation. Davis isn't doing this to score points against Cameron, or to raise his profile in the Conservative Party, or to "get back" at the leader of his party for any reason at all.

    He's doing this because he honestly believes that this is important, and I am appalled at the negative light you have portrayed this courageous stance in, all the way down to suggesting this is a "late-life crisis". If nothing else, a man still in his 50s hardly counts as being in "late life". I expected better from you.

    P.S. And all this on the same day that the US detainees at Guantanamo Bay have had their right to habeas corpus reaffirmed by the Supreme Court. Today truly is the day where freedom takes a stand.

  • Comment number 97.

    Nick, I am getting tired of your own personal views and suppositions colouring your news reports, and today is as bad an example as any I've seen yet. When I watch the news, I want to hear facts reported, not what you think David Cameron might have been thinking, or that you think this signals a split in the Tory ranks, which frankly going by every other interview and report I've seen today, it simply doesn't. If you want to spout your opinions more and more, do it here by all means, or ask for your own chat show, but stop doing it in the middle of what are supposed to be (and look like) factual news reports. Your slot on the BBC news this evening was just a recital of this piece.

  • Comment number 98.

    11:56 pm on 12 Jun 2008, belmorama

    It is a sort of panto, Davies is acting out his fantasies, dreaming of becoming PM.

    This doesn't even have the seriousness of being political theatre, it is loud, solo mime. He will be demonstrating how to pretend a pane of glass is where it isn't as it were. No one will watch much . . .

  • Comment number 99.

    11:59 pm on 12 Jun 2008, formertorymp

    Nick R is correct, they do not.

    I stood in a local one, and won in a tory area against a tory, largely because the election was caused by the tory's resignation.

    Once they have spoken the rep is supposed to get on with it, take the knocks etc.

    Davies hasn't done that.

  • Comment number 100.

    No other civilised democracy gives the state such powers of detention without charge.

    If David Davis takes the view that by forcing a by-election he is drawing attention to this scandal, then good luck to him.

    But the person who really should be going to the polls is Gordon Brown.

    Nearly 800 years after Magna Carta, 'habius corpus' is effectively repealed by New Labour. Perhaps they think that's progress.


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