I don’t understand one-issue by-elections. I’m not going to vote for the BNP candidate who declares the campaign solely about free bouncy castles. That’s ass-backwards. If he gets elected, there’s nothing saying he can only vote on bouncy-castle-related issues. Trick. I might agree with David Davis about the 42 days, but I disagree over a lot more. Even if he campaigns on general civil liberties, that’s only one part of the political agenda.
I’m assuming his seat is safe, so this is really about consciousness-raising. Which could be worthy, but only works if everyone is in on the game. You can’t have a meaningful by-election that’s only about one issue. That’s contradictory. If everyone agrees to use the by-election as a platform to vote on civil liberties issues, fine, but they haven’t. The voter’s duty is to elect the person who best espouses their views, and that averaging-out should take all issues into account. This is just buggering about with democracy, and isn’t fair.
Strikes me that an MP in the shadow cabinet is already in a good position to fight these things, but I suppose he’s gambling on publicity helping his cause. Which is convenient, as you can’t argue with the publicity argument. PR is a good argumentative firewall. Claim that something is good/bad publicity and the discussion has to stop, as nobody really has any clue. Discussions about the ‘New Atheists’ eventually devolve into this – one side claims they’re harming the cause, the other side says they’re not. And that’s it. Sometimes you can look at the results over time, but gauging the effects of publicity is complex at best – both sides can cherry-pick statistics forever – and rarely produces anything definitive.
David Davis has probably done a good job of screwing the Labour Party, though. If Labour put forward a candidate, at their current popularity levels, they’ll go down hard. If they don’t, they’ll look scared. They could just say this outright, given it’s what everyone’s thinking, but for some reason government doesn’t work that way.