Davis move 'good for democracy'

David Davis will fight a single-issue by-election
David Davis will fight a single-issue by-election

Former Conservative frontbencher David Davis' decision to fight a by-election on 42 days will help parliamentary democracy, Hansard Society chief executive Fiona Booth believes.

Mr Davis is seeking the backing of his Haltemprice and Howden constituents on his belief that pre-charge detention for terror suspects should not be extended to 42 days, as approved by parliament last week.

The move has prompted criticism from some quarters but Ms Booth, the head of political research and education charity the Hansard Society, believes his gambit will strengthen parliament.

"He is able to do it and he feels strongly enough to do it that he had made this decision. He can make a stand because the process allows him to," she told politics.co.uk.

"The fact that the process is there... is a strength and serves to get people talking about the issue of politics - it's not just the issue they're talking about, but the process by which they're doing it."

Ms Booth said it was interesting that the public are behind the extension of pre-charge detention, but - "if the blogs are to be believed" - they also back Mr Davis' stand.

"From my point of view it actually is good to remind the public that MPs are there to represent them. It gives them the opportunity to comment - the mandate to do so," she added.

Brian Walker, research fellow at University College London's constitution unit, agrees. He told politics.co.uk Mr Davis' stratagem is "intriguing and engaging people" in a way which "is actually turning out to be quite popular".

"It is worth watching this because people like that idea of MPs making a stand on principle. I think this will register will the public," he said.

Whether this will elevate civil liberties' importance in the political landscape remains to be seen, however.

"It is an interesting debate as to whether he can actually get much interest on these issues. My guess is he probably won't but he'll be re-elected and people can interpret it any way they like.

"If he gets a thumping great majority, people will say that's quite impressive. Whether that will actually change the whole tempo of politics remains to be seen."


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.