Analysis: Davis resignation

Tory MPs were thrown into dissarray by the news
Tory MPs were thrown into dissarray by the news

Chaos, confusion and high drama ruled Westminster today.

politics.co.uk was drinking coffee with a Tory MP in Portcullis House when the news broke. A Labour MP approached to tell him the news only to be met with: "You're pulling my leg".

Within minutes the building was filled with Tory MPs cramming themselves into their colleagues' offices to watch the television.

"There must be a mistress involved in this somewhere," one guessed.


"Apparently Cameron is livid with him over 42-days," a Labour MP suggested.

But once David Davis appeared on the television to make his announcement the rumours stopped, albeit with the constant interruption of beepers and text messages filling the room.

"I will be resigning my membership of this House and I intend to force a by-election in Haltemprice and Howden," Mr Davis said. "I will fight it. I will argue this by-election against the slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms by this government."

At that point one Tory MP smiled at another. "He's not going anywhere," he said.

Today's announcement was an unprecedented moment in modern British politics.

It marks a groundbreaking moment in the dance between the two main parties. The Conservatives have now come out as the party of civil liberties, and - assuming Mr Davis wins his by-election, which he almost certainly will - they will be committed to a reversal of some of the present government's actions. That might be the DNA database, pre-charge detention, ID cards, CCTV camera saturation or all of them.

Since Labour and Conservatives came to an agreement on the role of the market, neither party have been able to mark out an ideological space for themselves. Today, civil liberties became that space. The Liberal Democrats have been saying it for years, but the difference between authoritarianism and liberalism today replaced that of right and left.

Sides were chosen the moment of the announcement. With remarkable speed, the Liberal Democrats - Davis' only real competitor in his constituency - announced they would not run against him. The age-old unity between Liberal Democrats and Labour against the Tories has crumbled into nothingness. It's early days yet, but this could be the beginning of a new period of cooperation between these old enemies.

And of course, there was the supreme irony of a former SAS man suddenly becoming the champion of civil liberties in the UK. Watching the announcement take place, one couldn't deny the sheer drama of it.

Two days ago, this website predicted that yesterday's vote on 42-day detention could mark a sea-change in British politics. Today's announcement indicates that is indeed the case.

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