Will the Labour Party run against David Davis?
Guido is running with a story that the Labour PPC for Haltemprice & Howden is (according to Guido’s sources) opposed to 42-days detention without trial.
If true, this puts Labour in a difficult position. They are already talking about not running a candidate on the grounds that it dignifies what they see as a stunt. The party’s financial worries mean that a third by-election in a matter of weeks puts unwelcome pressure on the party for a campaign that is extremely unlikely to succeed.
Their only hope is to make this a referendum on 42 days, and hope that the vote (on a potentially low turn-out) matches some of the polls recently conducted on the issue, which imply that the gvernment’s bill had the support of 69% of the population nationally. If their PPC does not support that policy, I cannot see him running in this by-election, meaning they would need to find a new, vetted, local candidate at short notice (a challenge that the Lib Dems have codified, as can be seen by their candidates in both Crewe & Nantwich and Henley).
John Prescott’s son, David Prescott, has written a post urging his friend Danny Marten to run, conceding that the party cannot win, so it must put its best foot forward. He also says that to not run would afford the BNP the oxygen of publicity that he would like to see them denied.
If not Danny Marten, the suggestion seems to be that Labour would need a senior Police officer to stand on the platform of anti-terror legislation. That could make for a fascinating contest, though no candidates come immediately to mind.
Either way, the difficult political decision is now in Labour’s court. If they field a candidate and lose heavily, it will be taken as a referendum on 42 days pre-charge detention. If they do not field a candidate, the ‘Bottler Brown’ epithet will return in force to the politica lexicon. They need to put in a respectable performance, but if their PPC does not agree with the party on the central (if not sole) issue of this by-election, they really are in a tricky position.
The Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, has already committed to not running a candidate at the by-election. Although Lib Dem rules force an open selection for by-election campaigns, their PPC David Nolan and the H&H party must surely be a little disappointed at having to sit this one out.
As it stands, David Davis could have an easier time of getting re-elected than the Speaker of the House of Commons, who (although stands unopposed by convention) has had to endure the challenge of the SNP in recent elections. Unless Labour field a candidate, this is going to be the strangest by-election in living memory.
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