David Cameron ruled out an early return to the Tory front bench for David Davis after the former shadow home secretary's comfortable victory in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election.
Mr Davis said the voters in the East Yorkshire constituency had sent a "stunning message" to the Government over the erosion of civil liberties by returning him with a 15,355 majority, easily seeing off the challenge of minor parties and a colourful array of mavericks in the absence of Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates on a turnout of almost 35 per cent.
Mr Cameron said he was delighted by the result, but made clear he was not contemplating an immediate reshuffle of his top team to accommodate Mr Davis's return to Westminster. He said: "Obviously I will talk to him about what the future holds, but I have a very strong Shadow Cabinet. David is a very strong Conservative and a very big figure in our party and I'm sure there are all sorts of ways in which he will be able to contribute in the future."
The Conservative leader pointedly added that Mr Davis's move to force the by-election was a "personal decision, not a shadow cabinet decision".
Friends of Mr Davis said he accepted that his stand would mean a return to the back benches and could even jeopardise his chances of winning a senior post in a future Conservative government. They said he would not seek to damage his party intentionally, but there are fears in the Conservative high command that he could prove a disruptive influence and attract support from disillusioned right-wingers, particularly if the Cameron project hits a rocky patch.
Mr Davis is planning to stray well beyond civil liberties issues after his return to Westminster by also speaking out on social mobility, public sector reform and foreign affairs.
He said yesterday: "There is going to be a whole series of issues which relate to the erosion of freedoms in this country and I will be able to make these arguments firmly and strongly – and I won't be the only one."
He disclosed that he had tried to persuade Baroness Manningham-Buller, the former head of MI5, to speak out earlier against the detention of terrorist suspects for up to 42 says. He said her attack this week in the Lords left the plan in "tatters, robbed of any remaining credibility".
But Tony McNulty, the Home Office minister, dismissed Mr Davis as "a busted flush" after the by-election, which Labour said should never have been held at taxpayers' expense.
"This was a complete circus, tinged with vanity, with a bit of self-delusion around the edges," he told Sky News.
"This man discovered his principles only once he had squared off the Liberal Democrats, whose rather naive and inexperienced leader was foolish enough to be mugged by Mr Davis."
The former shadow home secretary won 17,113 votes in the contest – almost three-quarters of the ballots cast. The Green Party came in a distant second, with the English Democrats, who had campaigned for an English parliament, in third place.
Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: "David Davis has done well in keeping the issue of 42 days' detention without trial in the spotlight. However, the challenge for his party is to stop being piecemeal protectors of liberty and realise that freedom is indivisible."
Haltemprice & Howden result
David Davis (Conservative)
17,113 (71.57 per cent)
Shan Oakes (Green)
1,758 (7.35 per cent)
Joanne Robinson (Eng Dem)
1,714 (7.17 per cent)
Tess Culnane (National Front)
544 (2.28 per cent)
Gemma GarretT (Miss GB Party)
521 (2.18 per cent)
Jill Saward (Ind) 492 (2.06 per cent)
Mad Cow-Girl (Loony) 412 (1.72 per cent)
Walter Sweeney (Ind) 238 (1.00 per cent)
John Nicholson (Ind) 162 (0.68 per cent)
David Craig (Ind) 135 (0.56 per cent)
David Pinder (New Party) 135 (0.56 per cent)
David Icke (ND) 110 (0.46 per cent)
Hamish Howitt (Freedom) 91 (0.38 per cent)
Christopher Talbot (SEP) 84 (0.35 per cent)
Grace Astley (Ind) 77 (0.32 per cent)
George Hargreaves (Ch P) 76 (0.32 per cent)
David Bishop (Elvis) 44 (0.18 per cent)
John Upex (Ind) 38 (0.16 per cent)
Greg Wood (Ind) 32 (0.13 per cent)
Eamonn Fitzpatrick (Ind) 31 (0.13 per cent)
Ronnie Carroll (History) 29 (0.12 per cent)
Thomas Darwood (Ind) 25 (0.10 per cent)
Christopher Foren (Ind) 23 (0.10 per cent)
Herbert Crossman (Ind) 11 (0.05 per cent)
Tony Farnon (Ind) 8 (0.03 per cent)
Norman Scarth (Ind) 8 (0.03 per cent)
TurnouT 23,911 (34 per cent) [-36.12 per cent]
Con majority 15,355 (64.22 per cent)Reuse content