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Ex-Sun chief to fight Davis in '42 days' by-election

Gordon Brown ate my civil liberties

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Errant Tory MP David Davis’ campaign to force a debate on civil liberties in the UK looked in danger of descending into a tabloid farce this morning as it emerged that his only serious opposition was the former editor of The Sun.

The LibDems have already said they will not fight the by election in Haltemprice and Howden, while Labour seems to be weighing up whether it would be more pathetic for the party to fight the election and lose or just not fight at all.

So it fell to Kelvin MacKenzie to do the rounds of the morning news shows today pointing out that Davis was actually swimming against the national tide on the issue, as a majority of voters apparently support the 42 day legislation.

MacKenzie told Radio 4 that he would stand against Davis, assuming Rupert Murdoch backs him up.

"The Sun is very, very hostile to David Davis because of his 28-day stand,” MacKenzie said. “And The Sun has always been up for 42 days, or perhaps even 420 days, frankly ... secondly this is a bizarre cost to the taxpayer."

'Slow strangulation' leads to tabloid fisticuffs

Davis surprised Westminster by resigning his seat yesterday, forcing a by-election which he hopes will turn into a debate on the Labour government’s “slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms”.

As shadow home secretary Davis has consistently opposed Labour initiatives such as ID cards, the National ID database and detention for 42 days. His departure – which presumably he hopes will be temporary – came the day after the Labour government barely won the vote on its bill increasing the time terrorist suspects can be held without charge to 42 days.

However, as of this morning, it seemed Davis might not get quite the high-flown debate he obviously craves.

Assuming Murdoch does stump up, Kelvin MacKenzie should have a pretty clear run at Davis – the usual monster raving loons and UKIPs are unlikely to provide much of a challenge to the man behind headlines like “Gotcha”, “Up Yours Delors” and “Freddie Starr ate my Hamster”.

The LibDems have already said they will not fight the election.

Labour too may well demur. It has already condemned Davis' move as a vanity project – something which some Tories are also doing on the quiet apparently.

Officially, Harriet Harman, Labour's Deputy Leader and Party Chair, condemned the by-election saying it “is irresponsible to be calling a by-election when it is unnecessary. What this is really about is the conflicts and divisions within the Conservative Party on the important issues of terrorism and national security.”

Of course, Labour is also wary of turning in another embarrassing by-election performance after its shoddy showing at Crewe and Nantwich. Davis' constituency is a relatively safe Tory seat, making the prospect of the election becoming a real debate at best debatable.

By spinning Davis’ move as being more about “divisions within the Conservative Party on ... terrorism” Downing St gets to slither away from the highlighting of its own principles or its own dismal standing. ®

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