I don't often say this about a Conservative politician, but David Davis is to be applauded for his bold move in triggering a by-election on the 42 days detention issue. For a politician to put their own career on the line for a cause they believe in is admirable.
But I'm puzzled and annoyed by the announcement that the Lib Dems won't be fighting the by-election. OK, maybe Davis wouldn't have resigned if he'd thought we would be fighting the by-election, and I'm sure he'd have checked this in advance.
But despite his excellent record of opposing 42-day (and before that 90-day) detention without charge and also his opposition to the government's wretched ID cards scheme, Davis is no liberal. According to They Work For You, he has consistently voted against equal rights for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. He voted forthe Iraq war. And, according to his Wikipedia listing, he expressed support for the death penalty as recently as 2003. I would therefore have great difficulty in bringing myself to vote for Davis if I were in the seat.
Rather than not fighting the seat, the Lib Dems should be in there putting their case. We should be pointing out that with us, not only do we oppose the 42-day measure, but you get lots of other good things besides, such as lifting the poorest people out of taxation, shifting to greener taxation, investment in key public services, and a radical commitment to decentralising power.
Instead of being in there putting our case, Nick Clegg has made a strategic blunder by indicating we won't fight the seat. But if anyone does fancy fighting the seat as an independent Lib Dem, I will make a pledge to come down and work for that candidate. It is utterly unacceptable that the liberal case would not be made at any by-election.
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