NEW POLL: should the Lib Dems stand in Haltemprice & Howden?

By popular demand… following David Davis’s shock decision today to quit both as Tory shadow home secretary and MP for Haltemprice & Howden – and force a by-election over Labour’s 42 days detention without trial policy – Nick Clegg has announced the Lib Dems will not stand against Mr Davis at the subsequent by-election.

Nick’s decision gained the personal backing both of the party president Simon Hughes, and the party’s chief executive and by-election supreme Chris Rennard. All three have made it very clear the Lib Dems will re-contest the seat at the next general election. They have apparently discussed it with the local and regional party, as well as the region’s MEP and the party’s prospective parliamentary candidate.

But Nick, Simon and Chris maintain that this by-election is different: it’s a single-issue contest about 42 days, an issue on which the Lib Dems and Mr Davis are united. There is recent precedent: most famously in Tatton, when the party bowed out for Martin Bell, and also in Kidderminster, where the party backed Health Concern’s Richard Taylor.

But the decision is undoubtedly controversial. In 2001, the Lib Dems came within 1,903 votes of defeating the Conservatives: though the party slipped back in 2005, it would take only a 6% swing to defeat the Tories.

More important is the principle: should not the party always give voters the chance to put their cross against a candidate who espouses Liberal Democrat principles and policies? However much we might admire David Davis’s stance on civil liberties, here is a Tory politician who voted for the invasion of Iraq, and is generally associated with the right-wing of his party. If you lived in Haltemprice & Howden, could you bring yourself to vote for him?

It’s a difficult, nuanced decision… but you still only get a Yes or No option in our poll asking:

Did the Lib Dem leadership make the right decision not to stand a candidate against David Davis in Haltemprice & Howden?

> Yes, it was the right decision – 42 days is an issue which unites Lib Dems and Mr Davis;
> No, it was the wrong decision – we should always offer voters the opportunity to vote for a Liberal Democrat.

(Oh, okay there’s a ‘Don’t Know’ option for those who find themselves just too conflicted).

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This entry was posted in Parliamentary by-elections and Voice polls.


  • Seems some people think we are a single issue party. I take these people think David Davis will only be voting on civil liberties issues when he returns to parliament, and not following the party line on everything else?

  • “They have apparently discussed it with the local and regional party, as well as the region’s MEP and the party’s prospective parliamentary candidate.”

    That doesn’t tell us what the local party thought, though. Shouldn’t it ultimately have been the local party’s decision?

  • Anyone disappointed at not having lots of leaflets to deliver in H&H will be welcome to vent their frustration here in Henley where we have plenty.

  • We did not differ with the Tories about IRA terrorism, but that did not stop us standing and winning the Eastbourne by-election, which was so vital to the future of the newly merged party.

  • Andrew Tennant 12th Jun '08 - 6:28pm

    I can understand the financial argument for not contesting this by-election; it would be costly and to the detriment of Henley if we contest, and even if we win it’s for a short term until the next election and doesn’t change the government’s majority. However, politically I think it’s a mistake: by not putting forward our own candidate we allow David Davis to look like the man leading the campaign on 42 days, we let the Tories steal our clothes, when we as Liberals are the natural and most long standing party for defending civil rights and British liberties; we fail to clearly differentiate ourselves from the Conservatives and to expose them as the unprincipled opportunists that they are, we miss the opportunity to restate what else we stand for and to make a clear case for Lib Dem policies and the benefits of electing Lib Dem MPs, and make it look more plausible that we may form a coalition with them; finally we are failing to take the opportunity to highlight the flaw in the First Past The Post system, which creates such massive majorities, thereby allowing such awful government and the railroading of legislation through parliament without the proper checks and balances, without the necessary level of scrutiny and debate. I hope there’s time to reconsider and mount a campaign, to challenge the government on its record and David Davis on this pantomime stunt.

  • As a semi-detached member of the party (the LibDems, that is) I do find all this party advantage stuff a bit tedious. A few years I would never have marked David Davis down as a liberal but I have been impressed by the way he has resisted Labour’s game – started by Tony Blair when he was Shadow Home Secretary in the early 1990s – of trying to outflank the Tories on crime/security. If David Davis acquires the mantle of civil libertarian it will be, in part, because the LibDems have spent too much time talkling about things that have only a tenuous connection with liberalism. To be honest, I am more tempted to campaign for Davis in Haltemprice & Howden than for the LibDem candidate in Henley.

  • Steve Griffiths 13th Jun '08 - 10:21pm

    The key thing will be David Davis’ description on the ballot paper. If he stood as a ‘Opposed to 42 Days Detention Candidate’, then I would send him a cheque for his campaign. I suspect however that he will stand as a Tory and all that means, and if so the Lib Dems should oppose him. We can campaign on all our civil liberties agenda as well at a by-election. I am happy that Lib Dem candidates withdraw for Independants on a specific cause, like Tatton or Kidderminster, but candidates standing for other political parties should be fought.

  • Steve Griffiths

    Well, I assume the calculation is that if we did stand we’d lose badly, so it’s best to say that we won’t stand – as a matter of principle.

    If the expectation was that we’d win, I’m sure Clegg’s instructions to the local party would have been to stand – also as a matter of principle, no doubt.

  • Frances Amrani 14th Jun '08 - 9:40am

    It’s rare for a politician to give up power and lay themselves open to defeat over a matter of principle, so I for one respect Davis on his stance. I’ll even go further and say although I live 4 hours away, I’m looking at whether I can campaign on his behalf (can anyone advise on how this would affect my party membership? I seem to remember in 1997 many Lib Dems had ‘Lib Dem voting Labour’ posters in Lab/Con marginals- Is there anything to stop our party doing ‘Lib Dems support Davis on the 42 day issue’ posters/ car stickers nationally?)- don’t get me wrong I hate the Tories, but this is a one issue by-election.
    42 days is wrong, counter-productive and dangerous. Thank God someone has the balls to say so in such high profile way.

  • “Is there anything to stop our party doing ‘Lib Dems support Davis on the 42 day issue’ posters/ car stickers nationally?)- don’t get me wrong I hate the Tories, but this is a one issue by-election.
    42 days is wrong, counter-productive and dangerous. Thank God someone has the balls to say so in such high profile way.”

    I wish somebody could tell me how 42 days detention without charge can be such a monumental issue of principle for someone who has already voted in favour of 28 days detention without charge.

    How can it be wrong in principle to lock somebody up for 6 weeks without charge. but fine to lock them up for 4 weeks without charge?

  • Grammar Police 14th Jun '08 - 10:46am

    Hello Anon. Still failing to understand? Still banging on about this?

    Most people can understand that we voted for 28 days as in order to stop the much worse 90 days proposal. Doesn’t mean we’re huge fans of 28 days, just that 28 days is *not as bad* as 90. Chris Huhne said himself at the second reading of this Bill when someone tried to make this point; we don’t control Parliament and are forced to rely on the Tories and Labour rebels – 28 days was the proposal on which a Parliamentary majority could be maintained.

    I know from previous experience you’re not so good at looking at what’s actually been written and said, but if you look at:
    then you will see we want to bring in changes – eg allowing post charge questioning and use of intercept evidence – that would mean that “the period of time that people need to be detained before a charge is brought could be reduced.”

  • Grammar Police

    “I know from previous experience you’re not so good at looking at what’s actually been written and said”

    It might help if you did a bit of reading yourself before sounding off.

    If you look above, you’ll see I was responding to a post praising Davis for his principle. So – strangely enough – it was Davis I was referring to.

    But thanks for reminding us about Chris Huhne’s statement in Parliament that he considered 28 days to be “justifiable”. Frankly, all the parties are coming out with 1% principle and 99% hypocrisy on this issue.

  • Actually, I see Chris Huhne reiterated in Parliament on Wednesday that “at the moment” he is “very happy” with 28 days.

    He added “We should stick with that period because that is what we voted for” (!). But thankfully we don’t have to keep sticking to it for all time – in fact we should keep it under “constant review”, given the lack of evidence that it’s necessary!

    Standing up for civil liberties, Lib-Dem style …

  • Frances Amrani 15th Jun '08 - 6:52am

    I actually think detention without charge is wrong full stop. However the difference between 28 days and longer in my mind is if you assume someone is innocent until proven guilty you should also assume they will continue with their normal lives unless proven guilty. Detention for 28 days allows for maintenance of a normal lifestyle once released – most employers will keep a job open for a month, many self-employed people can weather a month, most families will manage normality for a month- Longer and things break down. The muslim community already feels under siege and many feel the 42 day (and even 90 day)rule is a deliberate mechanism to undermine their normality in terms of social and economic stability- That’s why it is so dangerous to go beyond 28 days because it actually encorages feelings of alienation, marginalisation and mistrust, and that’s what we really need to be tackling if we want to prevent terrorism.

  • Dont think I could vote for Davis unless he supplied pegs (for nose).

  • Grammar Police 15th Jun '08 - 9:48am

    Yeah, whatever, Anon. Reading doesn’t seem to be your strong point.

  • Anonymous- I’ve looked at your post and it’s not clear if you’re referring to David Davis or the Lib Dem poster who said “42 days is wrong, counter-productive and dangerous.” You also spent a good deal of time trying to make out that Liberal Democrat policy was in favour of 28 days on other threads, so I don’t think it’s that wild an assumption that you were referring to the Liberal Democrats here.

    But that’s an aside. You have something of a point: where are the calls to scrap the 28 days? The Liberal Democrats were certainly not in favour of it in the first place, voting for it purely because that’s what the Tories and Labour rebels had formed some sort of consensus around.

    Reading the link referred to above, the changes the LDs want to see to intercept evidence and after charge questionning would give them a reason to argue that 28 days is unnecessary. Chris Huhne’s comments are a recognition that until other changes are made we’re not going to see a consensus around reducing 28 days detention (indeed, the couple of lines you quote are either weary resignation or a genunine belief that 28 days is acceptable until changes such as the above are made, which will undermine the justification for detention without charge). If Chris believes the latter (a big *if* as there is much in his speeches to parliament that indicates he is no fan of detention without charge) I disagree with him, but he’s entitled to hold that view. I’m confident that Liberal Democrat policy if enacted would see that 28 days detention reduced.

  • So is there anyone else here who is “very happy” with 28 days detention without charge?

    And if, as some people are arguing, official party policy is to reduce the period of detention, is it acceptable that our “Shadow Home Secretary” is saying the opposite in Parliament?

  • Hywel Morgan 15th Jun '08 - 11:16am

    “I’m confident that Liberal Democrat policy if enacted would see that 28 days detention reduced.”

    Why – as far as I know at no point in the passage of this bill has an amendment been proposed to do that.

    Chris comments at 3rd reading are just silly:
    “At the moment, I am very happy with a period of 28 days. We should stick with that period because that is what we voted for, but we need to regard it as an emergency measure and keep it under constant review—especially given the lack of evidence that even 28 days is necessary.”

    So we have to stick with something because we voted for it once (and then as a clear compromise) even thought there is no evidence that it is actually necessary

  • Indeed, for Huhne to say that he is “very happy” to support people being detained without charge for 28 days, and to say in the same breath that there is no evidence that it’s necessary, is quite appalling.

  • Grammar PCSO 15th Jun '08 - 1:17pm

    Hywel, a question of tactics perhaps? An amendment to reduce the 28 day period wouldn’t pass with the current parliament. (There is a part of me that thinks we should be proposing it anyway, so we can see who the real liberals are – let’s see what David Davis would do for example).

  • “Hywel, a question of tactics perhaps? An amendment to reduce the 28 day period wouldn’t pass with the current parliament.”

    So what?

    Since when did we decide our policies on the basis of the majority view in the current House of Commons?

  • coldcomfort 15th Jun '08 - 2:44pm

    When you read all these comments you can easily appreciate what a total minefield we would have got into if we had put up a candidate for this byelection. We have the interesting prospect of the hitherto unelected controller of the UK electorate, otherwise known as the Sun Newspaper, entering the electoral process. Two novelties in one go is as much as anyone can handle. We are right to stay out of it. The General Election is fought on all the issues & is another matter altogether.

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