David Davis: a bounder and a braggart

by Stephen Tall on July 9, 2008

UPDATE: There is an update to this story, published the following day on Lib Dem Voice, in which The Guardian makes clear that the quote on which this posting was based was not uttered by David Davis.

David Davis has had many warm words written about him by Lib Dems – myself included – since he took his decision to quit Parliament to fight for his beliefs in civil liberties, and most notably Labour’s obscene push to detain without charge for up to 42 days.

True, there have also been some harsh words written about him – but the majority view has been that his decision to trigger a by-election was borne primarily of principle, and that the Lib Dems were right therefore not to put up a candidate and risk splitting the votes of those who are in agreement on 42 days. That, after all, is why David Davis (understandably) spoke with Nick Clegg before deciding to put his head above the parapet.

Which makes it all the more disappointing to see him stooping to indulge in petty partisan politics, at least according to this quote in today’s Guardian attributed to Mr Davis:

I’m sorry that Labour and the Liberal Democrats funked it, but we’re still having a good argument and getting the issue raised.” (Hat-tip Tony Greaves).

One can perhaps admire the effrontery of Mr Davis for seeking a behind-doors deal with the Lib Dems before calling a by-election, and then condemning the Lib Dems during the by-election for agreeing to that behind-doors deal. But, actually, it’s just a damned cheek.

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So from this by-election we have lost local support in what could have been a target seat and had virtually no press coverage following the original announcement.

Now Davis is getting away with putting us in the same camp as Labour and tomorrow morning the front pages will be occupied by his face (associated with the anti-42-day cause) and have no mention of us.

All because we considered it reasonable for an opposition MP to pretend that a comfortable by-election can somehow be a single-issue referendum.

Wonderful. Vive la revolution.

by Julian H on July 9, 2008 at 5:02 pm. Reply #

Yes, if he said it, it’s pretty poor. Did he really say it though? The Guardian journalist also has a downloadable audio report from H&H, which contains the first part of his quote (about not scoring another Crewe & Nantwich) but not the “funking it” bit.

by bishop Hill on July 9, 2008 at 5:06 pm. Reply #

Can we ask his campaign press office if he said it and if so, Clegg should demand an apology

by anonymous on July 9, 2008 at 5:09 pm. Reply #

Can’t say fairer than that.

by bishop Hill on July 9, 2008 at 5:12 pm. Reply #

And if Davis didn’t say that, maybe he should ask an apology from the Guardian?

by Anonymous on July 9, 2008 at 5:25 pm. Reply #

I DEFINITELY think an apology is needed. That is completely out of order.

by John on July 9, 2008 at 6:16 pm. Reply #

Agreed. Monumental act of bad faith.

by James Graham on July 9, 2008 at 6:36 pm. Reply #

More fool the Liberal Democrats for falling for David Davis’ plea for no opposition. A byelection in a particular seat is never a referendum on a single issue. It tells you a great deal about David Davis that he was willing to ‘put his career on the line’ by running for re-election, but made sure his closest opponents wouldn’t run before he did it.

by David Boothroyd on July 9, 2008 at 6:39 pm. Reply #

Well said.

by Julian H on July 9, 2008 at 6:44 pm. Reply #

Thanks to a series of clearly thought out strategic decisions, we are fighting to win in Glasgow East, but not Haltemprice and Howden.


by Martin Land on July 9, 2008 at 7:11 pm. Reply #

I am still an admirer & supporter of Davis, & it will take more than this to make me waver.

My views are straightforward. It is about time someone stood up to the relentless erosion of our liberties, on totally fatuopus grounds, by Labour.

It is, in fact, better for such an assault to come from the right. It is known that we support civil liberties, now Joe Average is aware that there is a coalition for freedom. He has partially undermined his own cause in such a way, but he should, & probably will, gather together liberal & left-wing libertarians. Initiatives such as “Liberal Conspiracy”, & the interface between various pro-freedom blogs, show how this can be done.

It goes without saying that I oppose Davis’ views on Section 28, the death penalty, & various elements of criminal law. But he is not proposing to bring those in, is he? He is striking a blow for freedom, & the likes of Johann Hari sneering at him is not going to hold back my feelings on the matter.

Let us all hammer the nails into the coffin of the Murdoch press forever.

by asquith on July 9, 2008 at 8:52 pm. Reply #

While Davis bangs on about the threat of 42 days’ executive detention for a handful of terrorist suspects, far more serious assaults on our liberties are perpetrated with barely a murmur of dissent.

One of our most precious liberties is surely freedom of movement – the right to go where we like when we like. Something we lacked under the feudal system, or in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union, but now taken for granted.

So why did Liberal Democrats sit back in silence while the state gave the Police the power to impose marshal law on under 16s at will?

Look at this story in today’s Grauniad and catch a glimpse of things to come:


Laurence Boyce may sneer and accuse me of “libertarian paranoia”, but the fact is we already do live in a police state and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Ah, young people don’t deserve rights, authoritarian conservatives will tell us; and even if they do, they don’t vote, and a lot of people who do vote hate them, so there is nothing to be gained by defending their liberties.

Well, I have news for those who cling to such complacency. Marshal law for under 16s presages marshal law for adults (or at least adults who don’t belong to the elite). And we have already had it – in the countryside, during the so-called foot and mouth “crisis”; and this was meekly acquiesced in by millions.

If the Lib Dem leadership was serious about civil liberties, it would be telling the young people of Redruth to get out into the streets and parks after 9.00pm and defy the fascists. It seems to me that mass civil disobedience is the only way to stop this madness.

by Sesenco on July 9, 2008 at 9:15 pm. Reply #

What did we expect? A Tory to give us good press? So much for the wonderfully ‘principled’ and ‘honourable’ stance we agreed to. How stupid we now look.

by rob on July 9, 2008 at 9:47 pm. Reply #

Davis has praised the Lib Dems for standing throughout, and criticised Labour for not standing. It is clear that this quote is inaccurate.

by Anon on July 9, 2008 at 10:13 pm. Reply #

I said previously on this forum that Nick Clegg should have wangled a joint press conference out of Davis on the subject of 42 days in return for not standing.

The bloke’s a Tory, they are still the “nasty” party and will never change.

by Cheltenham Robin on July 9, 2008 at 10:15 pm. Reply #

Now that the Guardian has admitted that David Davis never said anything of the sort, and has apologised, I trust all the people who posted rude comments about DD on this thread will follow Steven Tall’s honourable example and will also apologise.

by Chris Whiteside on July 11, 2008 at 9:16 am. Reply #

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