Thursday’s by-election in Haltemprice and Howden was starting to look like a bizarre circus.
No disrespect to the electoral candidates such as “Mad Cow-Girl” (pictured below), David Laurence Bishop (Church of the Militant Elvis party) and Tess Culnane (National Front).
But David Davis’s one-man campaign to promote civil liberties received a shot in the arm today from the stirring debate in the House of Lords.
Former experts who know what they’re talking about lined up to criticise 42 days.
* Lady Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5 (“I don’t see, on a principled basis, as well as a practical one, that these proposals are in any way workable.”)
* Former attorney general Lord Goldsmith (it risks ”giving away the very freedoms that terrorists are trying to take from us”.)
* Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer (“I’m absolutely clear that there’s no advantage for fighting terrorism that will be obtained from extending detentions to 42 days.”)
The timing could not be better for Davis, who is campaigning against the extension of pre-terror detention as well as the wider “Big Brother” state – CCTV, DNA database etc.
The only candidate who might put a dent in his bandwaggon is Jill Saward, victim of the notorious “Ealing Vicarage” rape in 1986.
Her line may also strike a chord with voters: “Too often we hear politicians and criminal justice experts talk about the rights of the accused, the rights of prisoners, and the rights of ex-offenders – even the rights of suspected terrorists.”
Speaking to me on the phone this morning Ms Saward argued that Davis’s views were “a very ideological view of how Britain used to be” from a time when neighbourhoods were more close-knit. Today, people relied more on the state to protect them, she said.
While claiming to want to be an MP, she also admitted that just getting a large number of votes – and raising the concerns of crime victims – would be satisfying.
Remember, the Lib Dems and Labour aren’t standing.
It’s not enough for Davis to maintain his vote; for him to claim any success here he needs to raise it, substantially.