A few years ago David Davis looked a shoe-in to be chosen as leader of the British Conservative Party following the Tories third successive General Election defeat in 2005. Davis is about as far from the archetypal Tory that you can get. He grew up on a council estate the child of an unmarried mother, he left school at 16 and had no secondary education to speak of – he would have been the first every working class boy to lead the Conservative Party. But when it came to the crunch the Tories preferred the glib and privileged toff David Cameron to the perhaps less persuasive charms of the sincere and honourable Davis.Â
But whilst Cameron has been stealing the limelight with some of his Old Etonian friends Davis, it seems, has been quietly fuming on the front bench. And now his distress has boiled over into an eccentric and rather uncharacteristically barmy gesture. Davis has resigned his seat in ParliamentÂ and plans to stand again in a bye-election – ostensibly on the issue of the Government’s 42 Day detention proposal which, having passed narrowly through the Commons, should reasonably soon become law. In taking this bizarre stand Davis is actually in denial about democracy. He might not like the new law – he’s far from alone in that. And he is quite right as well that there are some threats to our freedoms in this and other actions of the Labour government. But in a parliamentary democracy we have freedom of speech and a forum, in Parliament, for debate. Then there is a vote. And that decides what will happen. To try and fight this new law in the way that he has Davis is actually bringing parliamentary democracy into disrepute.
By rather arrogantly saying that it will be the electors of his constituency who will send a message on this issue Davis makes himself look rather absurd. Quite why the good burgers of Haltemprice and Howden should be seen as representatives of public opinion on this matter I have no idea. The daft idea is unlikely to run anyway because the other major parties, understandably, look as if they won’t play ball.
I met David Davis around the time of the 2005 Election and although his politics are not my politics I liked him as a man and I respect his integrity. It is rather sad that he now seems to have lost his marbles and I trust that the men in white coats are not waiting around the corner for him.