David Davis: now with added diversity

Just a quickie: the header graphic on the David Davis website has now been edited to show a bit of ethnic and age balance. However, data from the 2001 Census shows Haltemprice and Howden to be 98.2% white, and 24.5% over 60. On that basis, I’d probably have opted for more older faces, rather than more ethnic faces. And in the 42 days context, I guess you could make a case for an obviously Muslim person. But hey, at least it shows they’re listening. They’ve also added comment functionality on the ‘blog‘, plus a rudimentary forum. It’s a start.

Dodgy start to David Davis campaign

The website for David Davis’s campaign to get re-elected – on an identical platform? – in Haltemprice and Howden is now live at www.daviddavisforfreedom.com. I suggested last week that if his (wider) campaign was to be truly successful, he’d need ‘some kind of politics 2.0 initiative’: and so far, there’s not much sign of it.

The Ministry of Truth blog does a real hatchet job on the Terapad-based site’s copyright and privacy notice: not normally pages which would merit much attention, but this is not a normal by-election. To give you a taster:

All editorial content and graphics on this site are protected by U.S. copyright and international treaties and may not be copied without the express permission of Promoted by Duncan Gilmore on behalf of David Davis, which reserves all rights. Re-use of any of this site content and graphics for any purpose is strictly prohibited.

Yes folks, that’s just beneath a big banner which says ‘David Davis for Freedom‘. It’s clearly been automatically generated from a template, but if your entire candidacy is about rights and privacy, you really ought to have had a closer look.
And speaking of the banner at the top of the page: doesn’t it seem a bit – um – lacking in diversity? If you look at the associated Twitter account (39 followers, zero updates so far), you’ll find a ridiculously huge version of the same graphic (see above) does reveal a few non-white faces; but since you can’t actually see them on your screen, that doesn’t really stand up. And I’m not sure there’s a single person over 40 in the lineup either.
But that isn’t the only curious omission. There’s no hint of a Conservative party logo. You’ll be looking through the site for quite some time before you uncover a single reference to Haltemprice and Howden. Amusingly, the only substantial reference to his party is followed immediately by a ‘but’. And reading the text on the homepage, you’d have no clue that having resigned, he was even planning to stand again.
And then there’s this…

In Davis’s defence, he has made an early move to reach out 2.0-style, with a lengthy article published yesterday on ConservativeHome – which, of course, came out in favour of 42 days. ‘I have deliberately embarked upon an unorthodox course of action to dramatise the damage being done to the country I love,’ he writes – thus admitting, surely, that yes, it is a publicity stunt. He says his website will be ‘a sounding board for the debate I am determined to generate about the threat to our liberties’, although I can’t yet see any hint of debate on the site… not even comments on the ‘blog’. I’d also note the paragraph in which he writes:

Fortunately, the Westminster Village does not have a monopoly on political comment and reporting. In marked contrast to some rumour-mongering in the media, the blogosphere rapidly is becoming the real forum of popular debate and it offered a very different take.

Davis himself clearly recognises the need to reach far beyond a mere constituency by-election, if his campaign is to amount to anything. I’m afraid he has a long way to go.

Big test for single-issue politics

Like everyone else, I’m trying to make sense of David Davis’s decision to resign his Commons seat, and fight a by-election to win it back. He says he’s trying to start a national debate on ‘one of the most fundamental issues of our day.’ But when it comes to the vote, assuming he wins, he’ll only get a mandate from 1/643 of the country. In a seat he was already safe in, with his nearest challengers (the LibDems) not fielding a candidate. Result: we’ll end up exactly where we started, with a Conservative MP representing Haltemprice and Howden.
Nick Robinson offers a list of ten solid reasons why it’s potentially nuts. By any conventional measure, he doesn’t have a lot to gain… which leads me to think of something else.
We’re constantly hearing about general public disinterest in politics, but a continuing – and growing? – interest in ‘single issues’. Taking him at his word, David Davis is attempting to redefine himself as the nation’s Mr Liberty, effectively abandoning – or certainly, putting on hold – a successful conventional political career.
If Davis is to really pull this off, he needs to position himself at the heart of a national grassroots political campaign, crossing traditional party boundaries. It’s hard to imagine how he can do this without some kind of ‘politics 2.0’ initiative – joining up with existing online-led campaigns like NO2ID, perhaps, and confronting big hitters like ConservativeHome (who got a mention at PMQs on Wednesday, and are now voicing some regrets). Yet at the moment, his personal website (www.david-davis.co.uk) has been subsumed into conservatives.com.
At the other extreme, there’s the ‘playing chicken’ theory, which suggests that if Labour are so sure they’ve got public support on 42 days, let’s see them prove it. Except that in 2005, Davis got 47.5% of the vote, versus just 12.7% for the Labour candidate: hardly a level playing field. And it would be odd for a senior Shadow Cabinet member to lead such a ballsy party-political initiative (apparently) unilaterally.
One other cynical thought crosses my mind. With the Tories under Cameron riding high in the polls, there’s really no prospect of Davis ever getting the Ultimate Prize now. He might have nothing to gain by doing this; but perhaps he’s got nothing to lose either. Worst case, he bows out in glory, a hero, a man of principle.
If nothing else, the next few weeks will make for a very, very interesting spectacle. If single-issue politics really is the order of the day, here’s its big test. The implications could be staggering.