There is also a snap Haltemprice and Howden constituency poll conducted by ICM for the Mail on Sunday on Friday. It shows 57% of Mr Davis’s constituens support his decision to force a by-election and 69% think it was a principled decision. At this stage, David Davis would annihilate any opposition in a by-election – in a straight fight Kelvin Mackenzie has the support of only 14% to Davis’s 67%, in a straight fight with Labour they would have only 11%.

Of course, it’s a hugely unusual by-election and whatever opposition to Davis does emerge – assuming that some does – has not even begun to oppose him, so things could change, but the starting point is that Davis is utterly dominant.

45 Responses to “David Davis miles ahead in H&H poll”

  1. Is Murdoch really going to – come hook or by crook [sic] – put a poodle up to save New-Labour’s face? Even if Clegg had not backed Davis, the Lib-Dem vote whould have split.

    Could a Davis-MacKenzie vote end up 90%-10%? Would the king-maker Murdoch accept such an humiliation…? :)

  2. I think there may be some doubt about the legality of Murdoch funding any opposition candidate, whether Kelvin Mackenzie or anyone else, to David Davis. Both he and News Corporation are US nationals and therefore cannot fund any UK election. Using a UK subsidiary would be open to obvious criticism. Is this a correct interpretation of the law?

  3. if labour put up a candidate in this by-election they will get almost wiped out, but i do hope they do put up someone to make it intresting, but a big win with labour second with 11% of the vote would be a nightmear for brown.

  4. What is fascinating is the way that MSM/Westminster Village called it so completely and utterly wrong.

    Had they missed the disgruntled undercurrent around at the moment? Yes, when people are asked, ‘do you want to lock up brown people with dodgy beards who are intent on blowing up buses for 42 days without charge?’ (to paraphrase the yougov question), the majority say yes.

    But when you start getting underneath, you notice a lot of people are starting to well, just get a bit fed up by the cameras everywhere, by the surveillance, by the snooping by local government, by the automatic assumption of guilt in a whole host of areas of life.

    Davis has pricked something here, it is possible the by election might go down as a damp squib, but it also could end up resulting in one of the most extraordinary realignments of political class in their attitudes to freedom and liberty.

  5. How strange that an MP should wish to initiate a debate about a political principle and about values.

    We have got used to the narrative being about internal power struggles, buying voter’s support with their own money, presentation over substance undemining the law for the sake of relations with foreign powers, etc.

    When we get over the novelty, we might learn from experiencing rare events that are contrary to the usual experience.

    Thousands of voters who were opposed to the policies of left winger Denis Canavan voted for him because he was a man of integrity. It’s not a direct comparison because there were other factors too (long serving effective constituency MP; an injustice etc.).

    He did get the largest personal vote and the largest majority.

    Do you think integrity might catch on?

  6. Almost without exception (actually, I can’t think of any, but I’m covering against any nit-pickers!) the MSM commentators were trying to interpret Davis’ actions in terms of calculations of political advantage, schisms in the Tory party etc.

    They just couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of someone making a stand on principle. Luckily the public generally can appreciate principle when they see it, however rarely!

  7. At the last election Davis got 47%+ of the vote with the LibDems on 37% and Labour on 12%.

    Given that profile you would expect Davis to pick up at least as much of the LibDem vote, if the LibDems didn’t stand, as Labour giving a score of 65% Davis to 30% Labour.

    However, given that in 2005 Labour won and the Tories were in the doldrums and that has now reversed, it isn’t to much of a jump to suggest that the bulk of the LibDem vote would go to Davis.

    Add to that the Mackenzie factor and Davis on 2/3rds and Labour static isn’t an odd result as all.

    Or put another way all this talk of the public rallying to a man of principle can’t really be justified from this poll as you would expect the Tories to pick up most of the freed up vote and with the polls where they are Labour to get very little.

    If I was Labour I’d let Davis argue with himself and if The Sun did the same the net effect would be to make the whole exercise in to an empty gesture.

    Indeed with luck the turnout might be so low as for Davis to be returned with less votes than the 22,700 he got on the 2005 70% turnout.

    See, I can do the Machiavelli bit if I need too.


  8. Pete B. – the exception seems to be Simon Heffer which worries me as he’s madder than DD! The latest line from the pompous punditry is that DD isn’t mad but vain!

    Peter, it’s not what might be unsurprising psephologically that is Labour’s worry. It’s what the outcome looks like to the media. I agree with you about the turn-out – if it’s very low the argument is very compromised. But for Labour that’s as risk.

    Just to give an illustration: we ran a parish poll about nine or ten years ago. The Council said it wouldn’t make any difference, wasn’t relevent and couldn’t be taken into consideration. The developer likewise. 50% turnout. (and the tip still hasn’t been developed)

  9. I’d vote for DD (and work for him), and no one else in the Tory party. The man now transcends party politics, so very few have managed that.

  10. Peter

    In a constituancy where Labour come a poor third, its likely some of Lib Dem vote is tactical and would go back to ‘Labour’.

    I agree it could be embarrassing if noone significant stands and at the moment it looks like MacKenzie is backing off – but its also a problem for Labour.

    MacKenzie/Murdoch have been seen to make a fuss. If they all back off now it might look like arrogance/fear.

    An unelected PM who didn’t face a leadership contest, who called off an election, who refused a referendum, who won’t stand in a by election etc…

    Starting to look like a man who thinks elections are beneath him.
    Fortunately for Gordon the public don’t tend to assume the worst :-)

  11. Sally,

    If Labour come out and call it a stunt and a waste of tax payers money to call a by-election in a seat that, without the Libdems standing, is probably the safest in the country they can get away with it.

    It has it’s risks, but it’s a lot safer than fighting on an issue where Davis could get five times their vote.


  12. I haven’t read it myself but there is apparently a story in one of the Scottish Sunday papers that Labour were looking to get John Smeaton to stand. This could turn out to be a circus.


  13. Tories did pretty well in Haltemprice and Howden in the May 2007 local elections, with a near 15 point lead over the Lib Dems, taking all the seats except 4 for the LDs, and decapitating the Lib Dem leader. (ironically).

  14. Peter – I read that too and it would indeed become a circus.

    Extremely risky too, as Mr Smeaton isn’t 100% guaranteed to hold to his opinion on 42 days per se. He might be persuaded half way through the campaign by the “post-charge questioning” alternative. Lots of presure on whoever does stand for that position.

    Also, Labour owes it to their voters in that seat (both of them!) to put some-one up. It would also prevent their “rebel” MPs from supporting Davies in any way.

  15. “I haven’t read it myself but there is apparently a story in one of the Scottish Sunday papers that Labour were looking to get John Smeaton to stand. ”

    The Herald I think, but the Sunday Mirror had a story that Smeaton had scotched the rumours, so who knows.

  16. In short if it’s illegal for Murdoch to fund Mackenzie, if Labour is going to lose massively if it stands and the scabbling around for some candidate is likely to produce ridicule maybe the best option for Brown is for Davis to have NO opposition and therefore accept that it’s going to be over without a by election. That would mean there’d be no risk of anyone campaigning on the post charge questionning alternative and also eliminate any fresh arguments about public opinion when the bill comes back from the Lords.

  17. It’s illegal for Murdoch to fund Mackenzie personally (unless he has quietly resumed Australian citizenship and is registered to vote somewhere here), it’s probably illegal for News Corporation to fund him (they do have a parallel listing on the FTSE, but that’s probably not enough to count). There is no legal bar at all to stop News International or Rebecca Wade funding him though.

  18. Looking in detail at the poll on the ICM website, it is striking to see how low down the order of questions the headline questions were, and how some of the questions that were before it seem to in effect be putting across David Davis’ arguments with little in the way of counterarguments.

    While it probably meets British Polling Council rules by publishing the previous questions, I would be suprised if this did not have an impact on the outcome of the poll. I would suggest that – even without taking into account the fact that the campaign has not started – this poll may sadly not be entirely reliable!

  19. Supposing there is a contest of sorts just how well does David Davis have to do to force his way back into the shadow cabinet? It is not enough for him to get 90% of the vote on a low turnout. Nor is the size of his majority however large really going to do it for him if he is only beating a fringe candidate or two.So in my view he has to get the kind of turnout that produces an actual and substantial increase in the total number of votes cast for him.That may be a tall task but not impossible. What say others?

  20. So people support 42 day detention in large numbers and they support, in even larger numbers, the man who has resigned to fight a campaign solely on (and against) that issue.

    Good to see people have thought their positions through on this.

    From a polling perspective I guess it shows why it’s so hard – people are inconsistent to the point of random so predicting what they’re going to say or do from one day to the next is almost always going to be a thankless task.

  21. Nick – Rather depends on whether what he’s doing is perceived to have worked.

    First, he needs to win with a reasonable turn-out and a large majority.

    Second, public opinion on the 42 days will need to shift substantially towards his position. If it stays where it is, that’ll be the end for him.

    Unless the idea is sustained that he’s some Thatcher-style (sorry Fluffy, she has more resonance than you!) hero, he could well have to wait until after the election for a front-bench position.

    Cameron isn’t going to re-instate him if the whole thing fizzles out.

    IMO Labour’s best option is to field a local candidate and ask him/her to broaden the debate into the more general tax/spending area, whilst maintaining that the resignation was in itself vain and self-serving.

  22. I am disturbed that it is being touted as ‘principle’ over 42 days.
    Where was the ‘principle’ when it was 28 days or 14 days?

    Either its principle in which case you should go with the Liberty line, no detention without charge.

    Or its about security and our liberty to live in freedom from fear and murder, in which case 42 days is no more unprincipled than 28 days its about what works and is necessary.

    I suspect a lot of those that really agree with Liberty are vocal and seen as the ‘moral’ side, so thay are talking up Davis.

    Whereas a lot of ordinary people actually really think that the increase in security makes the sacrifice of a few individual possible terrorist’s rights worthwhile. This is not the ‘moral’ high ground so they are less vocal.
    But they are in the majority.

    Davis will likely end up being a highly regarded maverick that not everyone agrees with, that will not be seen as ‘safe’ enough for government office.

    The Conservatives may find this hits them electorally, there are no votes to be gained for them (other than for Davis himself in his constituency) but plenty to be lost, if they hit Davis hard they will be viewed as divided and immoral, if they do not they will be seen as soft on terror and and not to be trusted on security.
    Either way it wil be Davis popularity that might rise or fall, not the Conservatives.
    Undoubtedly this is the real reason Cameron counselled strongly against such precipitous action by Davis, rather than any slight worry he might actually lose the by-election.
    Also there is the real possibility that the precedent set other opposition politicians will do the same over whatever their favourite hobby hore is, particularly the EU, a worrying prospect for Cameron over his party unity.
    This is the case however ‘general’ those perceptions are.
    Though the changes in voting may be small, the shift in momentum may be much more significant.
    I fully expect the polls should reflect this in the next few weeks.

  23. “Also there is the real possibility that the precedent set other opposition politicians will do the same over whatever”

    Can this be constitutionally OK? It seems unlikely to me. Resigning might then be attractive to an MP in a “marginal” whose party is raging ahead in the polls.

    Is there some sort of limit to the number of MPs that can resign? Isn’t there some sort of arcane procedure they have to follow that makes the concept rare?

  24. If there isn’t an arcane procedure for this at Westminster it must be the only thing there isn’t an arcane procedure for.


  25. Anthony,

    Thanks for the clarification. However if as I believe News International is either a wholly or majority owned subsidiary of News Corporation then wouldn’t using that route, if legal, effectively drive perhaps not a coach and horses through the legislation banning funding from Oversas sources but at least cause some serious concern? I agree Rebecca Wade could fund him but surely only if that came from her own, but not for similar reasons, from News International sources?

  26. The arcane procedure is applying for the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds. As this is a (sinecure) office of profit under the Crown, an MP cannot remain as an MP if he holds this office. Blair had to vacate the Chiltern Hundreds for Davis to be able to apply.
    There is another office that’s used occasionally in a similar way.

    I don’t think there’s necessarily a contradiction in the public being in favour of 42 days, and still admire a stand on principle opposing it. It’s such a rare thing in politics that most fair-minded people will admire it (if they think it’s not a stunt).

  27. Oh – nearly forgot. Davis is undoubtedly vain, but aren’t most politicians? Can a vain man can still have principles? Discuss.

  28. “Can this be constitutionally OK? It seems unlikely to me. Resigning might then be attractive to an MP in a “marginal” whose party is raging ahead in the polls.”

    I don’t see how that would really help them much. They would still need to face the voters again at the next GE. The only possible benefit would be that if they increased their majority at the by election then their opponents may not target the seat, but I’d have thought that negative opinion if this became a common thing would negate that.

  29. Pete B
    Thanks very much! His opposition will assert that a vain man cannot possibly have principles, and hope that the mud sticks without the voters engaging in a moment of reflection.

    Keith – You’re right – they’d have to choose their issue carefully and the best they could hope for would be a drop down the target list, but it looks like the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds would become a bit of a revolving door anyway and bring the whole thing into (more) disrepute.

  30. Apparently he’s had to apply for the post to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

    What would happen if Darling refused to appoint him as the Steward, or delayed the appointment (because he had better things to do, like approve the money for all those cctv cameras)?

  31. Given the draconian limits on spending in by-elections the election spending argument is a non starter, no doubt Mackenzie can raise the monies himself (and be ‘paid’ for freelance work no doubt at a later point by Murdoch).

    I’m not certain what the rules are for the deposit, as it is not actually ‘spending’ is it?

    It does however show up Mackenzie’s surprising lack of knowledge of UK electoral law.

  32. Do we have a list of prospective candidates yet or do we need to wait until the writ is called for that.

    I’ve a growing feeling that when they announce the result the podium is going to look like an episode of “It’s a knockout”.


  33. It seems to me that Mackenzie just got carried away last week. He’d seen Murdoch earlier in the evening and they had (quite possibly light-heartedly) discussed the possibility that he would stand. hen when it was also suggested on This Week I think he let the excitement get the better of him and said that he may stand, with Murdoch’s backing.

    After a couple of other comments fairly early the next day, he seems to have gone quiet. His disappearance was probably pretty soon after the “what the hell are you doing” call from Murdoch.

    All just speculation, but that seems the most likely way things happened to me.

  34. Being a Europhile, I always preferred “Jeux sans Frontieres”.

    It would be lovely to see Kelvin roll over on his polystyrene padding at the count.

  35. I did here another story that said Miss UK might be standing on the make politics “sexy not sleazy” ticket.

    Then again given Davis’s stance on homosexuality maybe Peter Tatchell might have a go.

    Then again there’s fathers for justice who seem to have taken over from Screaming Lord Sutch, and what about Brian Ferry’s son and the Pro hunting brigade.

    After all a summer by election with none of the main parties is the kind of publicity that money can’t buy.

    Come to think of it what with retail sales falling maybe M&S should get Twiggy to stand and use it to show off a different outfit from their summer range every day.

    To hell with politics I should be in advertising.


  36. It’s might be worth reminding bloggers that Gordon Brown, he of the clunking fist, has never voted positively for gay rights legislation.

    You wouldn’t believe the excuses Brighton Labour Party conjurs up to explain this.

  37. The really interesting thing would be if a Labour MP who had opposed 42 days was to resign and fight a bye-election like Davis. Things have reached such a pass that there are one or two who I guess have no chance of winning again under the Labour banner, but who might survive a bye-election and 2010 as radical Independents.

    In relation to multiple resignations from Parliament, I recollect that all the Ulster Unionists resigned and fought bye-elections some years ago (all bar one being re-elected). So perhaps David Davis is not so unique. Perhaps somebody with a better memory than me can remind us of this history. It would be interesting to know by what means the Ulster MPs resigned, given that there are only two offices – the Chiltern Hundreds and the Manor of Northstead – provided for MPs to do so.

    There ought to be a modern procedure for MPs to resign by giving written notice to the Speaker, with a short (e.g. seven day) cooling off period to cater for cases of impetuosity. After all, local councils can manage this.

  38. Peter:

    I’d guess John Smeaton is one of yours, though his father was a colleague whom I suspected of being a pre-Thatcher Tory.

    Why isn’t the SNP standing?

  39. John B,

    Eh, because it’s not in Scotland.


  40. Peter:

    No, it can’t be,

    “because it’s not in Scotland.”

    “After all a summer by election with none of the main parties is the kind of publicity that money can’t buy.”

    It must be because that would be creating mischief with Westminster and you don’t do that, do you?

    If he stands, it would be a pity to miss an opportunity to bring to the attention of Scottish voters what Mackenzie says in the English press.

  41. DD appears to be striking a common cord accross party lines (with thanks to ChrisD/

    Angus MacNeill’s support for David Davis

    Angus MacNeil — the Scottish Nationalist MP whose complaint prompted the cash-for-honours enquiry — tells me that he would be delighted to offer Davis a helping hand in the contest, which is expected to take place on July 10.

    “As a Scottish Nationalist I try to avoid English politics, but I’d go and campaign for David Davis if he wanted me to,” says MacNeil. “I admire his principles and from what I know of him, he is a straightforward and honest man. Gordon Brown’s argument for 42-day detention is all about keeping him in Downing Street for another two years: no wonder he’s bottling the fight with David Davis.”

    I can only guess that some of the hubris from members of Mr MacNeil’s party on this blog is only understandable. After months of Boris, ‘Tory Toffs’, and now David Davis the going-ons in Scotland are treated as mere footnotes. In a strange way, I sympathise…!

  42. Fluffy,

    It cuts both ways the travails of DD are just footnotes up here and to be honest that suits us just fine.

    John B,

    It might bring publicity but not respect and in the long term I know which matters, and we’re good at playing the long game.


  43. People consistently underestimate the British public. My guess is that the turnout in H and H will hit an all time high.

  44. I hope you’re right Susan, but please expand more why you think that.
    I suppose it’s possible as DD is popular in his constituency (certainly post 2001), and people may think his stand deserves respect even if people are not necessarily anti 42 days.
    Please tell us more…

  45. I said elsewhere that this could turn in to a circus and here’s the confirmation, the list of all twenty five candidates, including Miss Great Britain and David Icke.

    Grace Christine Astley – Independent
    David Laurence Bishop – Church of the Militant Elvis Party
    Ronnie Carroll – Make Politicians History
    Mad Cow-Girl – The Official Monster Raving Loony Party
    David Craig – Independent
    Herbert Winford Crossman – Independent
    Tess Culnane – National Front Britain for the British
    Thomas Faithful Darwood – Independent
    David Michael Davis – Conservative
    Tony Farnon – Independent
    Eamonn “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick – Independent
    Christopher Mark Foren – Independent
    Gemma Dawn Garrett – Miss Great Britain Party
    George Hargreaves – Christian Party
    Hamish Howitt – Freedom 4 Choice
    David Icke – No party listed
    John Nicholson – Independent
    Shan Oakes – Green Party
    David Pinder – The New Party
    Joanne Robinson – English Democrats: Putting England First
    Jill Saward – Independent
    Norman Scarth – Independent
    Walter Edward Sweeney – Independent
    Christopher John Talbot – Socialist Equality Party
    John Randle Upex – Independent
    Greg Wood – Independent

    I think it would be Militant Elvis for me.