So is it a courageous decision or a reckless political gamble? A noble cause or a cynical stunt?
Ex-SAS reserve David Davis has used the benefit of surprise to lob a grenade right into the very heart of the 42 days detention debate. (Though it’s interesting that he also came out against CCTV and a DNA database – no wonder Cameron said it was a ‘brave and courageous decision’ i.e. you’re on your own mate!)
But the news that the Lib Dems have decided to stand aside from contesting the by-election shows exposes the fact that Davis is not taking any risk at all.
It’s a stitch-up and by narrowly defining the terms of engagement to 42 days, other candidates are going to find it hard to break out of that debate.
So it’s going to be difficult wicket for us to play on. My friend Danny Marten – a really talented local young man – was selected as the Labour candidate for Haltemprice and Howden last year. He’s chair of East Yorkshire Young Labour and a thoroughly likeable and committed activist.
I really hope Danny gets the chance to stand in the by-election. Quite frankly, I think the leadership would be mad to parachute someone else in. Even the most optimistic supporter would concede that we’re not going to win it so let’s have a decent guy.
But we MUST put up a candidate. Denis McShane has just floated the idea that we should stand aside. If we do, we would be complicit in turning this stunt into a greater farce and show that we’re too scared or embarrassed to stand. That’ll allow parties like the BNP to have the oxygen of publicity. Would we really want that?
I don’t know what Danny’s stance is on 42 days but if he is not in favour of it, this shouldn’t preclude him from standing, In fact having a sceptical 42 days candidate would show that we’re a broad church, willing to encompass the wider Labour movement and, of course, it would help shoot the Davis fox.
The challenge would be then to expose this by-election for what it really is – a cool and calculated decision, guided more by risk assessment than passionate principle.
It’s a vainglorious folly – nothing more, nothing less.