Look. Come on, guys. The result of the Haltemprice & Howden by-election was effectively announced at the moment when David Davis resigned today. Once he had pulled that stunt, he was made for the by-election. It doesn’t even matter if the majority of his constituents are pro-42 days. He’s the “guy who resigned on principle”. Some narratives are irresistable.

I’ve read a lot of tirades this evening about what a cynical stunt this is and how it’s appalling we are letting this character stand for British liberties and how these two things mean we must stand against him. I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. Yes, it is a cynical stunt, and yes his civil liberties record is far from perfect, but this does not make one whit of difference to the positioning he has created for himself. It’s a done deal.

At best, we could have stood wimpily. Yes, we agree with him on the one issue he is campaigning on. And yes, well, admittedly we have far less chance of being in the governing party than he does come the election. But, look, we have all these other nice things as well! Green taxes and… where are you going! Come back!

At worst, we could have stood aggressively, negatively, petulantly. Ner, well, you don’t want to believe anything Tories say. Our civil liberties are the real civil liberties.

What these twin poles translate into is at best a worthy-but-dull second, and at worst being the meanie, jealous nasty kid who pulled the popular girl’s hair. If we wanted to be in the position Davis is now in, we should have thought of it first (easier said than done mind, given that we don’t have MPs in quantities to give away free with breakfast cereal, and our own Shadow Home Secy is balancing on a knife-edge of a majority in Eastleigh).

Please, rather than self-harming, let’s try and look at this from the outside. Go onto any news website tonight, from the Hate Mail to the Groan, and I guarantee you’ll find dozens of self-proclaimed normal people wetting themselves with admiration at David Davis – and not a few of them will be extending their generous incontinence to Nick Clegg for giving him a free run. I actually saw someone suggest on CiF earlier today that the incident proved that Clegg “has backbone after all” which just goes to show how unbelievably convoluted most people’s brains are. Further, go onto ConHome, where the fall-out from this is as complex and multi-faceted as ours – it’s a disaster! It’s a triumph!

Believe it or not, the electorate as a whole is neither as concerned with Liberal Democrat triangulation as we are, nor as concerned with the “Cameron project” (as I learn it is disturbingly called) as the Tories are. They just love a good story with a nice, neat tied up ending. Please let’s, all of us, keep a little perspective, and concentrate. Nick Robinson’s personal weathervane happens to be point in our direction at the moment and we must use the momentum, as I hope Clegg is doing.

Splits in the Tory party are of course hotly cooly denied by all one of the sides. Rumours abound to the contrary, many of them started by me, but one alternative dimensional scenario doing the rounds is giving me genuine pause for thought. If DD had stayed in post, ground his teeth, bided his time and waited to get into the home office in 2010, he could repeal the 42 days legislation before he’d got his feet under the table.

So, er, why didn’t he?

Why stand down, not just from his seat as a somewhat clumsy and melodramatic way of “taking the issue to the country”, but from the one post in which he could actually get his heart’s desire? I don’t really buy all this toss about him being an unprincipled weathercock out for glory and seeking to embarrass his party leader. He has had ample opportunities to move against Cameron since the leadership election and hasn’t taken them – why pursue his cunning plan now that the Tories are looking stronger? He has never come across as much of a showman either.

And there’s another important strand to this - Tory HQ will not be funding his campaign. Why the hell not? He’s still a Tory (rumours of his independent status and invitations from the Libertarian Party notwithstanding). He looks like becoming a very popular Tory very quickly. All Cameron has to do to ride the surf here is back him delightedly, fund him amply and promise him his portfolio back on the achievement of said glorious victory. I see a number of people on both Lib Dem Voice and Liberal Conspiracy are convincing themselves that the whole thing must be some preternaturally devious evil Tory plot but they don’t appear to consider this. If it is a Cameroon plot, it’s backfiring on them bigtime.

The only alternative explanation for DD giving up his front bench post is because he has learned, or it has become clear to him, that some of his more neocon fellow front-benchers (neocon sounds daft in a British context, somehow, and particularly a Tory context; neodweeb would be nearer the mark) hold beliefs about civil liberties that are inimical to him. If he stayed where he was, come 2010 he would be a lone wolf home secretary in his own government. We’ll see how things look in the light of morning, but currently my feeling is that this is way too ridiculous and overcomplicated to be a plot. There are far easier ways for the Tories to win the next GE, not the least of which would have been “Carry on as you are”. I don’t for one moment believe they would go to this trouble and raise all these questions. This is a split, pure and simple.

As a sidelight on the whole business, I must say that Iain Dale’s Diary has been nothing if not helpful and it has not been helpful. Sweetie though he is, I don’t read the dear man much. He’s a news conduit rather than a writer to turn to for interest and enlightenment, so I tend to enter the blue and white portal only when some pressing event is occurring. And what do I find? A soapy tribute to the great man so soft you could wash babies’ bottoms with it. If he knows the back story (and given his links with DD, he should) he ain’t telling.

Meanwhile one of his commenters is gravely concerned for the Dalester’s integrity:

The MSM have a narrow view of the world that is adrift from the reality faced by the people.

That is why blogging, at its best, is important. It derives its vitality from a direct connection with that reality.

It is also, at its best, immediate. Guido had the news before the BBC and well before Reuters and comments flowed, unmoderated, from the moment he posted.

Your appearances on TV showed you think BBC and Sky News are more important than the two most important blogs in the UK: this one and Guido’s.

They are not. Far from it when you hear Nick Robinson yet again telling us all what we think and getting it horribly wrong.

You had an opportunity today to show what blogging can do.

But instead of thinking “today is the day my blog goes bigtime” you headed for the TV studios.

Bad decision. Very bad.

We in the People’s Republic assure Mr “Johnny Frontpage” that we would sooner be hiding under a blanket with a cup of tea and a slightly tea-stained keyboard than go and be all urbane and knowing and wear exciting ties on Sky News any day.

Well, there’s got to be some explanation for her shocking blitheness on the subject of seizing the property of innocent people on the Today programme this morning.

The context is a “crack-down” on drug dealers (no pun intended, presumably) but it goes beyond Jacqui’s other recent “crack-downs”, which normally just give the authorities responsible for cracking down the power to mutter “That’s disgusting” as they do so. No, this time, she wants the property of people being arrested on suspicion of dealing drugs to be seized at the point of arrest, before they’ve even been charged, much less tried. Here is the moment at which Thickie Smith reveals her mastery of the primacy of law and exposes the whole Labour agenda (once again) as the dangerous mumsy juggernaut it is.

Edward Stourton: You mention assets. Is it really true that you’re going to sieze the assets of people before they’ve been charged of any crime? Isn’t that contrary to a basic principle of British law?

Jacqui Smith: Well yes, so we’d get the law changed so that it’s possible.

And, er, if they’re innocent after all?

Oh, well, then they get them back of course! But people must see that drug crime doesn’t pay!

Hm, no, I see. Obviously doesn’t pay to be an innocent civilian either.

Can she be for real? Some day soon will we turn on C4 on a Monday night and encounter the following portentous voiceover:

Despite the new system of checks on cabinet members, our reporter was able to pose as a front bench minister for months on end and implement a series of attacks on the most basic liberties of the British public. As the bank accounts of the entire population of the UK are frozen by the government on pain of proof that no-one has been naughty in the last ninety days, we’re waiting, we can wait all decade if necessaryit’s so sad when one child spoils it for all the rest, Dispatches asks – how was this allowed to happen?

Or maybe I’m dignifying this woman too much. Perhaps instead at some point when she’s making a speech in what is apparently the House of Commons the camera will pull back to reveal a glitzy studio, screaming audience and various key figures from the light-entertainment industry.

“Tonight, Cat, I will be . . . the Home Secretary!”

The Department for Education, Skills and What-Have-You today announces the launch of a public consultation into the ethical issues surrounding use of the police DNA database, which contains 4.5 million profiles of both convicted criminals and innocent people.

I merely flag this up because the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it consultation will only last six weeks, by which time objecting liberals will just about have agreed (by poll conducted on Skype) on names, manifestos and constitutions for the protest leagues into which they will have voluntarily co-opted themselves in order to make a systematic impact on the consultation. Damn, they know us well. Up the Judaean People’s Front.

The Association of Chief Police Officers is clearly in no doubt that the purpose of the consultation is to establish a mandate for how the police use the  database:

The citizen’s inquiry will add to public understanding and will hopefully help develop broad agreement for the forensic use of DNA in the future

As ever this kind of statement is a double-edged sword: yes, a consultation is taking place, but will it ever be analysed for fairness, much less repeated, or will its results be used for ever after as a quasi-democratic justification for abuse of a database which contains (this is apparently absolutely true) 40% of the UK’s black male population’s DNA?

Expect to see a stepping up in security announcements and fearmongering over the period of consultation.

A happily conterminous sidelight on this story: yesterday it was confirmed that the one-offender-one-record database project supposed to track offenders through the system is being scrapped amid spiralling costs – this originally from August. Jack Straw’s comments to MPs afterwards (from an uncorrected oral evidence transcript, as I am required to make clear on pain of pain) are highly revealing of the classic statist blindness to the problems that inevitably occur with such over-arching projects:

Nonetheless, it is very frustrating that so many people, including the private sector, are taken in by snake oil salesmen from IT contractor who are not necessarily very competent and make a lot of money out of these things. I am pretty intolerant of this . . .

I think we all face problems . . . whereby unless we are total IT experts there is a danger of being taken in by snake oil salesmen.

Damn all this snake oil sloshing about everywhere, leaking all over NuLabour’s ten year plan to store everyone on a memory stick. People are so messy, aren’t they.

In other news, a totally unprecedented event has occurred. My epolitix morning bulletin carries a Liberal Democrat news story at the top of its list. And it is indeed the news that Clegg enters the PMQ lists today. I am almost as nervous as if I was actually going to stand up and do it myself, rather than be huddled up on the sofa with a cheese and pickle sandwich which is what I shall be doing.


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