Few things in politics shock me any more, but last week's events in Westminster were simply breath taking (here is a typical reaction). David Davis's decision to resign from his parliamentary seat and contest the resulting election on the issue of 42 days is one of the biggest political surprises in recent years. It is still not really clear how this is all going to pan out and whether Davis, Cameron or Brown will be the big winner (or loser) from these events.
The early stages of the contest lead to two observations. Firstly, there does seem to be a huge divide between the established wisdom of political commentators and those who comment on these events on blogs and message boards. For an example of this, look no further than Nick Robinson's newslog. Robinson broke the story of Davis's resignation and, in his original post, played up the angle of a division between the outgoing shadow Home Secretary and the leader of the opposition. Within a matter of hours, comments were appearing all over the board attacking Robinson - he was buying Labour spin, he was failing to recognise Davis's bravery, he didn't understand just how angry the electorate were over 42 days, he represented "politics as usual" (indeed the attacks were so vitriolic Robinson wrote another blog post justifying his position). A similar pattern occurred on the message board and on other blog.
There is clearly an interesting conflict going on here, but I suspect two things are happening. Firstly, we are back to the old chestnut of how unrepresentative people who comment on politics online are, if only because they disproportionately care about politics, relative to the rest of the voting population. For this reason, I suspect the commentators are ultimately right - Davis might have harmed the Conservatives long term political calculations, which are aimed at looking like a viable government in waiting and winning a majority in a general election. At the very least, it is one hell of an unnecessary risk when plan-Cameron looks to be going perfectly. But, this leads me to my second point - Davis's maverick behaviour is tapping into a genuine sense of anti-politics, which seems to reject smartly packaged, strategic calculation. And that is why it is attractive to a lot of people online.
Such feeling would seem to provide fertile for an Internet campaign, especially since Davis has said that he going to fund the election from individual donations to his cause. It was today that he launched his website... and what a missed opportunity! There is, right at the bottom, a tiny donation link (you could really miss it if you weren't looking very hard). This is what you get if you click on it:
If you would like to support David by making a donation to his campaign, you can do so by making cheques payable to:
‘Haltemprice & Howden Conservative Association Fighting Fund’
Send them to 32 Main Street, Willerby, East Yorkshire, HU10 6BU