Poll finds public backs Davis on 42-day detention

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David Davis has won significant support for his decision to fight a by-election on the issue of 42 days' detention, according to a survey for The Independent.

The nationwide poll by IpsosMORI found that 35 per cent of people would vote for the former shadow home secretary if they lived in his Haltemprice and Howden constituency.

Some 23 per cent said they would not support him, while 33 per cent said they would not vote and 9 per cent replied "don't know".

The first national survey on the issue since Mr Davis announced his decision last Thursday found that voters were split over whether he was right or wrong to resign over the Government's moves to raise to 42 days the period for which suspected terrorists can be held without charge. While 39 per cent believed he was right, 48 per cent said he was wrong, while 13 per cent replied "don't know".

IpsosMORI found that men (51 per cent) are more likely to think that Mr Davis was wrong than women (44 per cent). A majority (51 per cent) of 18-24-year-olds believed he was right to resign, with 31 per cent saying he was wrong. The figures were reversed among older voters. Among those aged 65 and above, 54 per cent believed he was wrong and 32 per cent right.

Mr Davis regarded the figures on whether he was right or wrong as very reassuring because the question specifically mentioned 42 days' detention, for which there is overwhelming public support, according to previous polls.

He said: "This debate has only just begun. But already, we are seeing declining support for 42 days, as the arguments are aired and the public engage on this vital national issue. On the broader freedom agenda, I am humbled by the rising tide of public support for the principled stance I have taken."

Mr Davis has launched a scathing attack on the "Westminster village" for condemning his decision and dismissed claims by some commentators that he has suffered "a moment of madness". Writing on the ConservativeHome website, he said: "Well, I think it is madness that, when someone takes a principled stance on a matter of vital national interest, it sparks such a bewildered response from certain quarters of the Westminster village. My conduct may seem eccentric in the eyes of some – but my motive is plain and simple. I have deliberately embarked upon an unorthodox course of action to dramatise the damage being done to the country I love – the mother of democracies – by the Government's cavalier disregard for the liberties we have fought for down the centuries."

IpsosMORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 1,012 adults in Great Britain aged 18 and over. Interviews were conducted by telephone between 13 and 15 June 2008. Data is weighted to match the profile of the population by gender, age, working status, region, housing tenure, social class and car ownership.

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