'The tantalising prospect of an election battle between Rupert Murdoch and David Cameron mesmerised Westminster yesterday, before the media tycoon moved last night to kill off the idea.
The genesis of a "Sun versus the Tories" by-election was a 40th birthday party thrown for Rebekah Wade, the tabloid's editor, on Thursday night. The Sun, the principal media cheerleader for Gordon Brown's contentious 42-days detention proposals, was outraged by David Davis's resignation. A characteristically unrestrained leader in the tabloid yesterday, headlined "Crazy Davis", fulminated against the former shadow home secretary's "shabby act of treachery" and "petty grandstanding".
Ms Wade and her team had on Thursday afternoon already been discussing a cunning plan to convert this print attack into a full-blown campaign battle, by approaching Rachel North, one of the survivors of the July 7 bombings, to stand against Mr Davis.As journalists and politicians - including senior Tories but not Mr Cameron - mingled and gossiped at Ms Wade's party, the idea gathered momentum. Mr Murdoch was among those captivated by the concept of a Sun campaign...'
I mean, what the hell? I wish that I had found an answerphone message from Ms. Wade or one of her assistants on my mobile. I would have been quite tempted to put it on youtube, perhaps remixed. I can't believe they were discussing this at a fortieth birthday party. Mind you, I've come up with some madcap ideas at parties myself, that seem deranged in the sober light of dawn.
The back-peddling then starts and the rest of the article is quite funny.
Why on earth would I stand against Mr Davis? I'm not a politician. And I don't support 42 days. (As I thought I had made rather clear, by writing this, for example, in The Sunday Times, which is published by Mr. Murdoch. And by going on and on about the subject for the last two years on my blog and elsewhere.)
Why isn't a Labour politician standing? There's enough of them voted for it. If they are so sure that the public is mad for 42 days they should have no problem convincing them, should they? They were all keen enough on it when I watched them debating it last week on TV. They were all delighted to vote for it and were not whipped or cajoled or encouraged or bullied or 'incentivised' at all, oh no.
I have never voted Conservative, because I am not a Tory. I usually vote Labour or Liberal Democrat. I'm really struggling to support Labour these days for reasons which are well-known to my regular readers.
Personally - and this is my personal opinion expressed on my personal blog - I would support a cross-party alliance of people who campaign to raise the single issue of civil liberties, and if Mr Davis can summon up such an alliance, great. I expect lots of people would support it. Judging by the public reaction on blogs, message boards, and in the readers' comments on newspaper sites, there are a great many people of all sorts of political persuasions who are very excited by the idea of a debate and pleased about Mr Davis' stand. The debate about freedom and fear, liberty and security is a very important debate, and one that is of significant relevance to everyone, not just people who were randomly involved in a terrorism attack, such as Locherbie, or Bali, or the London 7 July bombings.
Mr Davis is a senior and serious politician with many year's experience. What is the point of putting someone who is not a politician nor experienced in the ways of political campaigning, up against him, just because their life was blighted by a bomber, by chance, three years ago? How is that fair? How is that a debate?
In fact, the idea of using a symbolic 'terror victim' to do the government's heavy lifting was first floated on Hackney Labour councillor Luke Akehurst's blog...and got a huge kicking from bloggers of all political persuasions, who said, quite rightly, that it was wrong. And a lot of other things besides (sensitive readers beware: high-velocity swearing in many of the following links)
Meanwhile, it is interesting that the Westminster village has been chuntering so much and been so negative about what Mr Davis' decision to raise the issue of civil liberties and resign his position to do so. Neither journalists nor politicians like being completely surprised, and Mr Davis surprised them.
To put it mildly.
Matthew Parris has some musings on the subject, in The Times
I thought this week had been mad but it just keeps on getting madder and more bonkers.