Only the incredibly naïve, like Dominic Fisher and friends, could ever have thought David Davis resignation-cum-by-election stunt would work out. [UPDATE: read an excerpt from ‘We Are Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made Of’ by Dominic Fisher, aka Prague Tory, (deleted shortly after publication).]
There’s nothing wrong with a stunt if it effectively delivers the right message to right people. The problem for Davis is that his idea required Labour to play ball. He probably thought he was being clever by persuading the Lib Dems to stand aside, but that only makes it easier for Labour to walk away too. And with Cameron arguing this is personal, not party political, you might reasonably argue Labour really is playing ball by leaving the fight to an independent.
But what makes things hard is that Davis is right on the issue of 42 Days detention without charge. With the director of public prosecutions, former attorney general Lord Goldsmith, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights joining those against, the government clearly failed had to make the case.
Yet many of us have experience of the police abusing their power to limit legitimate political activity; intimidating those who drew attention to crimes of Saddam Hussein when he was the then Tory government’s friend, attempting to collect the identities of anti-hunting protestors.
Kelvin Mackenzie will be energetic, well organised, populist and vicious. David Davis and his team will be increasingly demoralised by the slow realisation that, even if they win the by-election, his political career is well and truly over.
But Mackenzie, as his early pitch reveals, is a nutter who pretends the state would never abuse its power and plans to expand the debate to Europe and poor service from call centres. Sure he’s whacky, but that didn’t hurt Boris Johnson…he could well win.