Really, really interesting. Quick thoughts:
He’s trying to do for civil liberties what Martin Bell did for sleaze. Can he do that from within the Conservative party?
Nick Clegg has already said the Lib Dems won’t be fielding a candidate, which suggests either astonishingly quick thinking or some undisclosed cosiness. How will local Lib Dems take this? (Does the Lib Dem leader actually have the power to order this?)
Davis is taking no risk at all with his seat: he comfortably beat the Lib Dems there in 2005 with a swing that bucked the national trend, and his party’s position is much stronger now. Will that mean this move is seen as a gimmick?
Denis MacShane’s suggestion that Labour shouldn’t contest it either sounds spot on. This is an election where Labour can only do badly. Davis’s statement that “I will not fight it on the government's general record… I will argue this byelection against the slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms by this government” shows that he’s already spinning his certain victory as endorsing his views on this, when in fact people vote for hundreds of different reasons. Why let him get away with this? He can play his little ego game and then slink back into the Commons having bested Ukip and the Greens. As Gordon Brown may know, an victory without a real opponent doesn’t add much to your authority.
How much of a disagreement was there between Davis and Cameron over 42-day detention and this tactic? Why aren’t Cameron or any other Tories doing this – are they frit? Do they not really care?
Finally, if the tactic works, will anyone else try the same thing? I bet a few Tories would fancy becoming a national hero over, say, the EU treaty referendum. Would Cameron enjoy that?