Jill more deserving of `courageous' tag

I HAVE to say to David Davis, former shadow home secretary, that if I had lived in Haltemprice and Howden, I would not have voted for him in yesterday's by-election.

Graham Dines

I HAVE to say to David Davis, former shadow home secretary, that if I had lived in Haltemprice and Howden, I would not have voted for him in yesterday's by-election.

That is no judgement on the Conservatives, or any other party for that matter, but I am against the waste of public money caused by his resignation to force a by-election as a referendum on the Government's anti-terror laws and what Davis calls our burgeoning surveillance society.

My vote would have gone to Jill Saward, the courageous campaigner on rape laws who was savagely assaulted in the notorious Ealing vicarage attack of 1986.

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Time certainly flies. It's hard to believe that this incident occurred 22 years ago. She was brutally raped at her home, a vicarage in Ealing, west London and then waived her right to anonymity to campaign for the victims of sex attacks.

Giving her reason for standing in the by-election, Miss Saward said: “Mr Davis thinks that by forcing a by-election he is standing up for British justice. In reality he is attempting to strike a hammer blow through the very tools the police need to keep us safe.”

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Exactly so.

There were 26 candidates fighting the by-election, a UK record, but Labour opted out of Davis's publicity stunt while the Liberal Democrats decided not to field a candidate because they agree with Davis's opposition to 42 days detention with charge for terror subjects.

Davis has received considerable support from the Tory Party during his campaign. David Cameron was on the stump last week, Suffolk MPs Richard Spring and David Ruffley have taken the train to East Yorkshire to do some canvassing, and this week shadow chancellor George Osborne was in town.

Osborne described Davis's decision to resign and fight “courageous” - sorry to disagree but to my mind this definition of courage pales into insignificance besides that of Jill Saward.

Mr Osborne said the by-election had given people an opportunity to take part in a “proper debate” about the security and liberty of the individual.

He added: “I think David's courageous decision to do what he has done has put those issues not just into our newspapers and on blogs and on television but he has got people talking about them.”

The other by-election this month is in Glasgow East, where Labour is on the back foot as it tries to fend off the Scottish Nationalists.

Labour's campaign got off to a disastrous start, when its original candidate pulled out of the race for family reasons. If the SNP pull off a shock victory, Labour has a ready made excuse - candidate Margaret Curran shares the same surname as the Scottish Socialist Party's runner Frances Curran, enough to confuse those voters who bother to turn out.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister fled the barrage of bad headlines at home to attend the G8 summit in Japan. Although Gordon Brown will have increased his stature on the world stage, his domestic standing goes from worse to worse.

The latest Populus poll for The Times shows a slight Labour rally, but the party's proud boast of the past 11 years that the economy was in its hands has suffered a major reverse. The Tories have moved into a big lead - 39% to 26% - as the best party to manage the nation's finances.


THE Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev John Gladwin, spoke out against the Government's plans to introduce 42 days detention without charge for terrorists when he intervened in a House of Lord debate.

Bishop John said the legislation had “exceptional provision within it, which is beyond the normal way in which we operate in the protection of civil liberties.

“If this House and Parliament are to give their consent to these extreme steps, they need sufficient evidence that that is needed and need to be sure that the powers are properly distributed.”

The bishop, whose diocese includes most of east London and the whole of Essex, said: “What I am not clear about is the reason for the Bill. In July 2007, it was that the motivation for the extension of pre-charge detention was the sense that the police do not have enough time.

“The changes introduced into this legislation in the parliamentary process seem to suggest now that the reason for the Bill is the grave, exceptional threat of terrorism.

“These are not the same reasons. If the reason is a lack of police time, then we need the evidence. If it a grave and serious terrorist threat, then . . . why is the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 not sufficient for the task?”


THE Prime Minister has likened himself to Emily's Bronte's dark, brooding vengeful character Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, who died a broken man haunted by the ghost of his former lover whose body he exhumed twice. The comparison, made in an interview in New Statesman magazine which was designed to soften the image of Mr Brown, have been mocked by his political opponents and dismayed Labour MPs.

You couldn't make it up.

This column was written before the result of the Haltemprice and Howden by-election was known.

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