Open (speculation) thread: What do you think will happen in Haltemprice and Howden?

It’s the day of the most bizarre by-election of the year. Exactly one month after David Davis shocked the political world by quitting the Tory front bench and Parliament in protest at Labour’s attempts to push through 42 days detention without trial, the voters of Haltemprice and Howden today deliver their verdict.

Will they judge Mr Davis’s move a brave, principled stance by turning out in force and giving him a whopping mandate? Or will they judge it all a vanity-exercise, a waste of taxpayers’ time and money, and simply stay away or register a protest vote with a fringe candidate?

With neither the Lib Dems – the main challengers to Mr Davis in Haltemprice and Howden – nor Labour standing this time, it’s clear Mr Davis will win. The question is how well will he win? The result will likely be judged by the following three criteria:

The turnout

Mr Davis will be hoping that at least half the electorate will go to the polls. In Crewe and Nantwich, in May, 58% of voters showed up; in Henley the figure was 50%. Given the lack of credible opposition to Mr Davis, he can probably argue that anything over 40% is respectable. The further it falls below that threshold, the less plausible that will seem.

His margin of victory

Here’s what happened in the 2005 general election:

David Davis, Conservative – 22,792, 47.5%
Jon Neal, Liberal Democrat – 17,676, 36.8%
Edward Hart, Labour – 6,104, 12.7%
Jonathan Mainprize, British National Party – 798, 1.7%
Philip Lane, UK Independence Party – 659, 1.4%

Mr Davis is the only candidate from that line-up still standing, so he will hope and expect to get at least 70% of the vote at this by-election. Anything below that will be embarrassing; the further it rises above that threshold the more convincing will be his mandate.

The runner-up

With the BNP and UKIP both sitting out this by-election, the contest has been left to the Greens as the only nationally recognised party to stand against Mr Davis. Though they have no track record in the constituency, it will nonetheless be a significant embarrassment if the Greens find themselves in anything other than the runner-up spot. However, as they are seeking to outflank Mr Davis on the liberal-left, they do face some stiff competition from two independents fighting on traditional right-wing, lock ‘em up tickets: Jill Saward, self-proclaimed champion of victims of crime; and former Tory MP Walter Sweeney.

What do you think will happen in the by-election? Feel free to post your predictions in the comments thread.

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This entry was posted in Parliamentary by-elections.


  • Hywel Morgan 10th Jul '08 - 2:37pm

    The candidates won’t be allowed on stage for fears it may collapse!

  • What will happen is that David Davis will win by a wide margin, everybody will yawn, life will continue as usual, and there’ll be surprisingly little fuss about one man’s ego trip costing the country a small fortune that might have been better invested elsewhere. The man in question being pro-capital punishment and anti Human Rights Act.

    I think you are being more than a tad harsh on Jill Saward, dismissing her as a “right-wing, lock ’em up” candidate. It’s possible that the bright young things who run the Lib Dems these days won’t remember what brought Jill into the limelight but let me jog your memory. Jill was the victim of a particularly nasty rape, perpetrated in the course of a burglary in which her father and boyfriend were assaulted and seriously injured. She was one of the lucky ones in one sense – her rapists were convicted. But in the process the (male, natch) judge gave the game away by imposing a more severe sentence for the burglary than for the rape.

    Call me right-wing if you like, but this Lib Dem woman is entirely in favour, not only of locking up rapists for the protection of all women, but of rederessing the imbalance in the law that makes rape convictions so rare and rape trials so traumatising for the raped woman. But then, I’m over fifty and didn’t go to a public school so who cares what I think?

  • “… he can probably argue that anything over 40% [turnout] is respectable … he will hope and expect to get at least 70% of the vote at this by-election …”

    By my reckoning that would place his vote around 20,000 – a little smaller than his vote in 2005. Scarcely a ringing endorsement, but I’ve always found it hard to work out exactly what he was hoping to achieve.

  • Enitharmon,

    I agree with some of what you are saying, but it is about balance in my view.

    Having seen Jill on TV, I found much of what she was saying very compelling, but difficult to square with some elements of liberalism.

    I think our job as LDs is to square, liberal values with rebalancing criminal justice in a more victim-centred way. There are many things that can be done for wider crime, but rape is a special case which will be far more difficult. Have we got a policy on it? If not, you should write a motion.

    And by the way, although I am not over fifty, I didn’t go to public school either and I’m definately interested in what you have to say.

    On a more lighthearted note, I would like to see David Icke come second.

  • Maybe it’s just as well we didn’t stand a candidate against Davis, because if we had done, our opponents could have pointed to the holes in our libertarian credentials.

    We are against the Orwellian state, yet our working group on transport is advocating satellite surveillance of motor vehicles.

    We believe in freedom of movement, yet Goldsworthy is promoting marshal law for under 16s.

    It’s time we got our act together.

    Any chance of David Icke coming first?

  • Turnout around 30%; David Davis on 80% of that; a surprise second place (the Greens seem to have made no impression); and 11,500 pounds in the public coffers (from 23 lost deposits) to offset election costs.

  • Hywel Morgan 10th Jul '08 - 6:54pm

    “The problem with the issue of rape (like knife crime) is that people say “something must be done””

    One of the problems with rape contrasted with knife crime is that with a stabbing there is clear prima facie evidence that a crime has been committed (ie a stab wound). It’s often less clear that a rape has been committed as the evidence will often be one person’s word against the others.

    Jill Saward AIUI is campaigning for a universal DNA database. That would have uses in clearing up historic cases and cases of “stranger” rape. However it wouldn’t do much in cases where the rapist is known to the victim unless intercourse is denied (which AIUI is rare).

    Tackling the issue of rape conviction rates isn’t something that there are any easy solutions to.

    The most radical solutions – lowering the standard of proof with regard to certain aspects or doing away with juries might have an effect on convictions. You could also do away completely with the idea of an adversarial trial. However that But they would be a huge and historic change to the way we do criminal justice.

    The effect on victims could be mitigated by allowing examination in chief and cross-exam to be video-taped prior to trial (the power for which exists in statute but hasn’t been brought into effect). However I’m not convinced that would do much to improve conviction rates.

    Ultimately if you have a jury trial the jury will have to decide not just do they believe the victim rather than the accused – but do they do so beyond reasonable doubt. If you take two people’s stories of a series of events it will be pretty difficult to satisfy that standard.

    Whether rape sentences are harsh enough is open to debate. Personally I think so. The starting point for a first time offender pleading not guilty (ie after trial requiring the victim to give evidence) is 5 years and that would be subject to reduction of up to a third if there was an early guilty plea.

    What I think has been staggerinly missing in any recent debates is the issue of support for rape victims. Rape crisis centres have been shut and face serious funding cuts.

    Whilst the government has introduced Sexual Assault Referral Centres, AIUI they only operate where someone has made a complaint to the police – and Rape Crisis say that 10% of the cases they deal with are referred to the police.

    Lynne’s EDM on Rape Crisis has 79 signatures. The EDM calling for Nick Robinson’s expenses to be published has 80 – so I’m not convinced that MPs are covering themselves with glory on that issue!

    Apparently the government anounced £1 million for closure threatened rape crisis centres in March. As of a few days ago it appears that none of that had made it to the centres.

  • Hywel Morgan 10th Jul '08 - 7:03pm

    As a follow on to the above – I was told by a judge that the conviction rate for child sex offences is substantially higher than adult ones which suggests that any problems are at least partly to do with the particular offence rather than problems with the system.

  • By-election crusader 10th Jul '08 - 9:22pm

    Turnout 30%
    Davis 50% of that
    Greens 20%
    Saward 15%
    National Front 5%
    Rest 10% between them.

    Davis to claim overwhelming endorsement, while being ridiculed by Labour backbencher for bringing out only 15% of the electorate to vote for him.

  • The Hull Daily Mail website is reporting a turnout of around 35%.

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