David Davis (British politician)

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Not to be confused with David Davies (Welsh politician).
The Right Honourable
David Davis
David Davis.jpg
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
11 November 2003 – 12 June 2008
Leader Michael Howard
David Cameron
Preceded by Oliver Letwin
Succeeded by Dominic Grieve
Shadow Secretary of State for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
In office
23 July 2002 – 11 November 2003
Leader Iain Duncan Smith
Preceded by Eric Pickles (Local Government and the Regions)
Succeeded by David Curry (Local and Devolved Government Affairs)
Eric Pickles (Local Government)
Bernard Jenkin (Regions)
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
18 September 2001 – 23 July 2002
Leader Iain Duncan Smith
Preceded by Michael Ancram
Succeeded by Theresa May
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee
In office
18 June 1997 – 7 June 2001
Leader Iain Duncan Smith
Preceded by Robert Sheldon
Succeeded by Edward Leigh
Minister of State for Europe
In office
20 July 1994 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by David Heathcoat-Amory
Succeeded by Doug Henderson
Member of Parliament
for Haltemprice and Howden
Boothferry (1987–1997)
Assumed office
11 July 2008
Preceded by Himself
Majority 16,195 (33.2%)
In office
11 June 1987 – 12 June 2008
Preceded by Paul Bryan
Succeeded by Himself
Personal details
Born (1948-12-23) 23 December 1948 (age 69)
York, North Riding of Yorkshire, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Doreen Davis
Children 3
Alma mater University of Warwick
University of London

David Michael Davis (born 23 December 1948) is a British Conservative Party politician who is the current elected Member of Parliament (MP) for the parliamentary constituency of Haltemprice and Howden. Davis was sworn of the Privy Council in the 1997 New Year Honours, having previously been Minister of State at the Foreign Office from July 1994 to April 1997.

Davis was raised on Aboyne Estate, a council estate in Tooting, South West London. After attending Bec Grammar School in Tooting, London, he went on to gain a master's degree in business at the age of 25, and went into a career with Tate & Lyle.

Entering Parliament in 1987 at the age of 38 for the Boothferry constituency, in his subsequent political career he held the positions of Conservative party chairman and Shadow Deputy Prime Minister. Between 2003 and 2008, he was the Shadow Home Secretary in the shadow cabinet, under both Michael Howard and David Cameron. Davis had previously been a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2001 and 2005, coming fourth and then second.

On 12 June 2008, Davis unexpectedly announced his intention to resign as an MP, and was immediately replaced as Shadow Home Secretary. This was in order to force a by-election in his seat, for which he intended to seek re-election by mounting a specific campaign designed to provoke wider public debate about the erosion of civil liberties in the United Kingdom. Following his formal resignation as an MP on 18 June 2008, he officially became the Conservative candidate in the resulting by-election and won it on 10 July 2008. Davis was invited by Prime Minister David Cameron to join the cabinet of his coalition government, but he declined, staying on the backbenches to scrutinise and critique the government.

Early life

Born to a single mother, Betty Brown, in York[1] on 23 December 1948, Davis was initially brought up by his grandparents there. His grandfather Walter Harrison was the son of a wealthy trawlerman and was disinherited after joining the Communist Party; he led a hunger march to London shortly after the more famous Jarrow March, which did not allow Communists to participate.[2] His father, whom he met once after his mother's death, is Welsh.[1] When his mother married a Polish-Jewish printworker, Ronald Davis, he moved to London. They lived initially in a flat in a "slum" in Wandsworth before moving to a council estate in Tooting, London.[citation needed]

On leaving Bec Grammar School in Tooting, his A Level results were not good enough to secure a university place. Davis worked as an insurance clerk and became a member of the Territorial Army's 21 SAS Regiment in order to earn the money to retake his examinations. On doing so he won a place at the University of Warwick (BSc Joint Hons Molecular Science/Computer Science 1968–71). Whilst at Warwick, he was one of the founding members of the student radio station, University Radio Warwick. He went straight on from there to London Business School, where he got a master's degree in Business (1971–73), and, later, Harvard University (Advanced Management Program 1984–85).

Davis worked for Tate & Lyle for 17 years, rising to become a senior executive, including restructuring its troubled Canadian subsidiary, Redpath Sugar.[3] He wrote about his business experience in the 1988 book How to Turn Round a Company.

He met his wife, Doreen, at Warwick. They have three children.[4]

Political career

Davis was first elected to Parliament in the 1987 general election as the MP for Boothferry which, in 1997, became the constituency of Haltemprice and Howden. He was a government whip when parliament voted on the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, angering many of the Maastricht rebels on his own right-wing of the party. Davis's progression through the Conservative ranks eventually led to him becoming a Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1994–1997).

In 1999 Davis presented the Parliamentary Control of the Executive Bill to the House of Commons, in which he proposed to transfer ministerial exercise of the Royal Prerogative to the Commons in the following areas: the signing of treaties, the diplomatic recognition of foreign governments; European Union legislation; the appointment of ministers, peers and ambassadors; the establishment of Royal Commissions; the proclamation of Orders in Council unless subject to resolutions of the Commons; the exercise of the powers of the executive not made by statute; the declarations of states of emergency; the dissolution of Parliament.[5]

In the role of Shadow Home Secretary, he successfully gained the 'scalp' of the then Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes, who was forced to resign in the wake of allegations that checks on Eastern European migrants had been waived, and for misleading the House of Commons. Davis was praised for his role in holding her to account at that time. He also revealed his personal support for capital punishment.[6]

More recently Davis has turned the Conservatives away from the Labour Party's plan to reintroduce identity cards[7] citing spiralling costs and libertarian issues. He turned initial Conservative support into one of concern and abstention, making the final change to one of opposition much easier. Davis believed that once the true cost and unreliability of the ID card scheme is explained to the general public, they would turn against it.

He expressed support for the restoration of the death penalty as recently as November 2003. He is highly sceptical of British participation in the European Union, voted against the repeal of Section 28 — a law banning promotion of homosexual relationships in schools – and voted against equalising the age of homosexual consent. However, he has consistently attracted support on a personal level from all sections of the party. Thus, when the gay Conservative MP Michael Brown was pictured on holiday with a 20-year-old man in 1994 (when the age of consent was still 21), Davis drove to Brown's home to offer his help.[citation needed]

At the 2005 general election, he was targeted by the Liberal Democrats as part of their "decapitation plan", an attempt to undermine the Conservatives in Parliament by defeating their leading members. The targeting failed as Davis trebled his majority to over 5,000 votes (5,116, up from 1,903), his share of the votes increasing by 4.3 percentage points.

2005 leadership contest

At the time of the 2005 Conservative leadership contest, David Davis was Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department. His Campaign Manager in the leadership contest was Conservative MP and Davis's deputy as Shadow Home Secretary, Andrew Mitchell (who in 2010 became Secretary of State for International Development in Prime Minister David Cameron's Cabinet).

Davis was initially the front runner in the contest, but after a poorly received speech at that year's Conservative Party Conference his campaign was seen to lose momentum.[8] However, referring to a Conference speech by the party's former leader, Campaign Manager Andrew Mitchell said: "William Hague made a great speech which many people will judge to be better than all the other leadership candidates put together. What that tells you is that being absolutely brilliant at being able to make a speech at conference is not the be-all-and-end-all of leadership. There are other things as well."[9]

In the first ballot of Conservative MPs on 18 October 2005, Davis came top with 62 votes. As this was less than the number of his declared supporters, it became clear that the Davis bid was losing momentum. The elimination of former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke left the bookmakers' favourite, David Cameron, without a rival on the centre of the party. In the second ballot, held two days later on 20 October 2005, Cameron polled 90 votes, Davis 57 votes and Liam Fox was eliminated with 51 votes[10] so Davis went through to the next stage with David Cameron.

In spite of a strong performance in a BBC Question Time head-to-head debate in the final stage of the leadership contest, Davis could not match his rival's general popularity. Conservative party members voted to elect Cameron the new Conservative leader, Davis losing by a margin of 64,398 votes to 134,446 votes. Cameron chose to re-appoint his rival as Shadow Home Secretary following his victory.

Civil liberties

On 12 June 2008, Davis resigned from the Shadow Cabinet and announced his resignation as an MP, in order to force a by-election, and cause a wider debate on the single issue of what he believed to be the erosion of civil liberties. On 18 June 2008, he resigned from the House of Commons.[11] He stood as the Conservative Party candidate for his current seat in the subsequent by-election.[12] The announcement came a day after the narrow passing of a parliamentary vote on the Counter-Terrorism Bill, which would extend the limit on the period of detention of terror suspects without charge in England and Wales, from 28 to 42 days.

He won re-election with 72% of the vote, breaking several voting records in the UK. However neither Labour or the Lib Dems put up a candidate. As is common at by-elections, voter turnout declined significantly from the previous general election to 34%.[13]

At the time of his resignation the Labour MP Andy Burnham made a speech which was widely interpreted as falsely implying an inappropriate relationship between Davis and the Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti. Burnham was forced to issue a public apology under threat of legal action.[14]

As a backbench MP, Davis has continued campaigning for civil liberties. He participated in the Convention on Modern Liberty, where he gave the keynote speech on the convention's final day.[15] He also spoke at the 2009 Guardian Hay Festival, where he criticised Labour's "illusory pursuit of an unobtainable security", and was well received by an overwhelmingly non-Conservative audience.[16] On 15 June 2009, Davis gave the 2009 Magna Carta Lecture at Royal Holloway, University of London, in association with the Magna Carta Trust.[17]

Davis has also supported civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch and in January 2010 he spoke with Tony Benn at the official launch.[18] In 2012 he helped lead the opposition to Coalition plans to allow police and security services to extend their monitoring of the public's email and social media communications.[19]

In 2014, along with Labour MP Tom Watson he challenged the government's introduction of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 in the courts.[20] Although Davis is a staunch Eurosceptic and has criticised the record of the European Court of Human Rights, he has also argued against withdrawal from the court's jurisdiction, on the basis it might encourage countries with far worse civil liberties to do likewise.[21][22]


During a House of Commons debate on 7 July 2009, Davis accused the UK government of outsourcing torture, by allowing Rangzieb Ahmed to leave the country (even though the government had evidence against Ahmed, upon which Ahmed was later convicted for terrorism) to Pakistan, where it is said the Inter-Services Intelligence was given the go ahead by the British intelligence agencies to torture Ahmed. Davis further accused the government of trying to gag Ahmed, stopping him coming forward with his accusations, after he had been imprisoned back in the UK.

He said, there was "an alleged request to drop his allegations of torture: if he did that, they could get his sentence cut and possibly give him some money. If this request to drop the torture case is true, it is frankly monstrous. It would at the very least be a criminal misuse of the powers and funds under the Government's Contest strategy, and at worst a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice."[23]

Davis was amongst the signatories of a letter to The Guardian condemning the Coalition's efforts to hide the UK's involvement in rendition and torture behind secret trials.[24][25][26]

Coalition government

In May 2010, after the 2010 general election which resulted in a hung parliament, it was revealed that David Cameron wanted to invite Davis and other right-wingers such as Michael Howard and Iain Duncan Smith into his Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition cabinet.[27] However, Davis refused and remained a critic of the government on its stance on tuition fees,[28] child benefit, capital gains tax, and penal reform.[citation needed] Nonetheless, he praised Nick Clegg on Question Time, for his determination.[citation needed] He offered critical commentary on the coalition in a BBC interview in March 2012.[29] Following George Osborne's budget in 2014, Davis wrote for The Conservative Woman, calling on him to make the personal allowance fully transferable for single-earner families.[30][31]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Desert Island Discs with David Davis". Desert Island Discs. 16 November 2008. BBC. Radio 4. 
  2. Norfolk, Andrew (7 October 2005). "Davis's grandfather and the Jarrow crusade that wasn't". London: The Times Online. Retrieved 7 July 2008. 
  3. Trefgarne, George (24 August 2005). "What worked on the sugar beat...". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 July 2008. 
  4. "David Davis". Conservative Party. Retrieved 15 May 2009.  See also: Colgan, Jenny (16 November 2005). "'He can be quite selfish and inconsiderate sometimes'". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 21 June 2008. 
  5. "Points of Order". UK Parliament. Retrieved 7 July 2008.  See also: "Parliamentary Control of the Executive Bill". UK Parliament. Retrieved 7 July 2008. 
  6. McSmith, Andy (16 November 2003). "Bring back death penalty says Tory spokesman". The Independent. London. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  7. Agar, Jon (November 2005). "Identity cards in Britain: past experience and policy implications". History and Policy. Retrieved 7 July 2008. 
  8. Tempest, Matthew (5 October 2005). "Odds lengthen on Davis for Tory leader". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 7 July 2008.  See also: "Davis tells Tories to 'walk tall'". BBC News Online. 5 October 2005. Retrieved 2 January 2010.  and Assinder, Nick (5 October 2005). "Did Davis do enough?". BBC News Online. Retrieved 7 July 2008. 
  9. Tempest, Matthew (5 October 2005). "Odds lengthen on Davis for Tory leader". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 7 July 2008. 
  10. "Cameron and Davis top Tory poll". BBC News. BBC. 20 October 2005. Retrieved 13 June 2008. 
  11. "Three Hundreds of Chiltern". HM Treasury. Retrieved 7 July 2008. 
  12. "Haltemprice & Howden". The Conservative Party. Retrieved 7 July 2008.  See also: "David Davis resigns from Commons". BBC. 13 June 2008. Retrieved 12 June 2008.  and Porter, Andrew (12 June 2008). "David Davis to resign from shadow cabinet and as MP". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 July 2008. 
  13. "Haltemprice and Howden: Result in full". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 11 July 2008. Retrieved 11 July 2008. 
  14. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/2166631/Andy-Burnham-writes-letter-of-apology-to-Shami-Chakrabarti-for-David-Davis-comments.html
  15. McVeigh, Tracy (28 February 2009). Government "Using fear as a weapon to erode civil liberties" Check |url= value (help). The Guardian. London. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  16. Davis, David (24 May 2009). "Does the left still care about liberty?". The Guardian. London. 
  17. "The Magna Carta Lecture Series at Royal Holloway". Royal Holloway, University of London. 18 November 2009. Retrieved 21 February 2010. 
  18. "The Official Launch of". Big Brother Watch. 20 January 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  19. Mulholland, Hélène; Booth, Robert (2 April 2012). "Plans for greater email and web monitoring powers spark privacy fears". London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  20. Boycott, Owen (4 June 2015). "MPs David Davis and Tom Watson in court challenge over surveillance act". Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  21. Bowcott, Owen (15 May 2015). "Eurosceptic David Davis could oppose government on human rights reform". Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  22. Davis, David (5 October 2015). "David Davis: In defence of the European Court of Human Rights". Politics Home. Retrieved 2 November 2015. 
  23. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 07 July 2009 (pt 0020)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 7 July 2009. col. 940. 
  24. Chakrabarti, Shami; et al. (5 March 2012). "Secrets and scrutiny". London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  25. Bowcott, Owen (6 March 2012). "Secret civil court hearings 'would put government above the law'". London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  26. Cobain, Ian (8 April 2012). "Special report: Rendition ordeal that raises new questions about secret trials". London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 9 April 2012. 
  27. "Newsnight on Gordon Browns regination as Party Leader with Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman.AVI". YouTube. 18 May 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  28. "Will David Davis’s anti-tuition fees vote remain a "rebellion of one"?". Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  29. "David Davis: transcript". The Daily Telegraph. London. 29 March 2012. 
  30. "Rt Hon David Davis MP " David Davis MP writes for The Conservative Woman: End the bias against one-earner families. Make the £10,500 tax allowance fully transferable". Retrieved 3 February 2015. 
  31. David Davis. "Make the £10,500 tax allowance fully transferable, says David Davis MP". The Conservative Woman. Retrieved 3 February 2015. 

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Paul Bryan
Member of Parliament
for Boothferry

Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Haltemprice and Howden

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Member of Parliament
for Haltemprice and Howden

Political offices
Preceded by
David Heathcoat-Amory
Minister of State for Europe
Succeeded by
Doug Henderson
Preceded by
Eric Pickles
as Shadow Secretary of State for Local Government and the Regions
Shadow Secretary of State for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Succeeded by
David Curry
as Shadow Secretary of State for Local and Devolved Government Affairs
Succeeded by
Eric Pickles
as Shadow Secretary of State for Local Government
Succeeded by
Bernard Jenkin
as Shadow Secretary of State for the Regions
Preceded by
Oliver Letwin
Shadow Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Dominic Grieve
Party political offices
Preceded by
Michael Ancram
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Succeeded by
Theresa May