Friday, March 06, 2009

House Points: David Davis should have stayed in the shadow cabinet

My House Points column from today's Liberal Democrat News.

In the shadows

David Davis is everywhere. He was at the Convention on Modern Liberty last Saturday. He was at the celebration of 20 years of Charter 88 I reported a few weeks ago. The only place he is not to be found is the one where his presence would be most valuable. He is no longer in the Conservative shadow cabinet.

Some saw Davis’s resignation to fight a by-election last year as a magnificent gesture. But Labour and (more questionably) the Liberal Democrats declined to put up against him, so he found himself facing 25 assorted eccentrics – up to and including David Icke. And Davis looked less brave when the Green candidate, the nearest thing he had to a serious challenger, complained he would not debate with her.

That by-election was been swiftly forgotten. Call it a political suicide bombing. Blame it on frustrated ambition or the male menopause. But we are all living with the consequences of Davis’s folly. For we must now suffer a shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, who stands for everything Davis opposes.

Grayling made his inaugural speech to the Local Government Association, repeating it almost word for word in the Commons the next day:
“Police should have powers to go straight to a magistrate and get an order against that troublemaker confining them to their homes for up to a month – except for during school hours. And if they break that curfew order they should expect to find themselves in the cells.”
It was all summed up in the bizarre sound bite “fewer rights, more wrongs”.

The Tory faithful will lap this up. But David Cameron has based his strategy on appealing to the sort of liberal-minded people who have not voted Conservative since 1992. Quite how Grayling’s appointment will further this is not clear.

Yet in one way he is admirably suited to shadow Jacqui Smith. She was in the papers after they discovered she had named her sister’s spare bedroom as her main residence and was claiming a second home allowance on the house in her constituency where her husband and children live.

Similarly, despite being MP for a Surrey constituency, Grayling claims that allowance for a Westminster flat. Those same papers quoted neighbours who said they seldom see him there.

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