David Davis and his Labour friends

It wouldn’t do for me to post early; so it is that, eight days after David Davis resigns, I get round to posting on the subject.

Now that it’s clear that Labour wil not stand an opponent against Davis, and Gordon Brown dismisses his re-election campaign as a “stunt”, the question arises of whether the Tory will receive widespread support for his cause. Early signs look to me to spell trouble for the Government.

Is it really a cause he’s fighting for? Tonight an alternative and alluring argument was put to me. It runs like this: Davis wins his seat, proves he takes a moral hard line on important issues unlike wishy-washy David Cameron, waits a few years for Cameron’s political stock to decline and then becomes Tory leader. Interesting, but pure speculation, and contradicted by all the commentators (not that that means it’s wrong).

At any rate, it’s not a view taken by many on the Labour left. The New Statesman – a magazine not quite as inextricably bound to the Labour Party as mine, but still pretty close – has this week criticised the Government in its leader column for being “disrespectful” to the voters of Davis’ Haltemprice and Howden constituency for not putting up a Labour candidate to argue the Government’s case. If a liberal – without Davis’ right-wing record – were put up to argue against the Government, the Statesman says, they would happily support them.

But some Labour MPs are minded to further and straightforwardly support Davis – who insisted in an interview with Labourhome this week that he was campaigning on the sole issue of 42 days. Bob Marshall-Andrews and Ian Gibson – both well-known rebels – have already said so.

This week I spoke to one such MP. Granted, he was one of the awkward squad and you wouldn’t expect him to say anything else, but he said that he predicted many other MPs would come out in support of Davis if Labour didn’t field a candidate, which they’ve now confirmed.

I might be inclined to take that with a pinch of salt – had I not heard another, less rebellious Labour MP, say a similar thing last week. They also praised Davis for his stance.

Finally, consider that Jon Trickett, left-wing Labour MP and chairman of the Tribune board, was forced to resign as parliamentary spokesperson of the moderate left-wing Labour pressure group Compass last week, because he supported the government on 42 days. Jon Cruddas, who is close to Trickett and equally lefty, did the same – but he wasn’t the parliamentary spokesperson of Compass and hasn’t made quite as much noise as Trickett about supporting the government’s line.

So all in all, I believe – and I could be wrong – that a good few Labour MPs will come out in support of Davis. But apart from Gibson and Marshall-Andrews, they haven’t admitted so to the public yet.

Update, 21 June: Forgot to say, my editor has written on this very subject for his lead article in this week’s Tribune.

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2 Responses to “David Davis and his Labour friends”

  1. Enoch Was Right Says:

    Q: Is this some kind of smokescreen? Is your real motive to undermine David Cameron and then in time mount a leadership bid?

    A: I have ruled out ever running for the leadership again

    From the Spectator’s Coffee House.

    No quite shades of Sherman though….

  2. lastreporter Says:

    Thanks for that – I hadn’t picked up on it. It was a short reply, and his response to the question about what he will do after the by-election – “One step at a time” – is intriguing.

    However, he may well not know what he will do next. Commentators have said that Davis’ resignation shows how he acts on emotional impulse. And not all MPs spend their time plotting in backrooms.

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