Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Friday, 13 June 2008 15:38 UK

Ex-Sun editor 'to take on' Davis

Hull's a "shocker", says Kelvin MacKenzie

Ex-Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie says he is likely to take on David Davis in a by-election in Haltemprice and Howden if Labour does not stand.

He says he is 90% certain to stand on a national security platform, arguing in favour of 42-day terror detention.

But he is not likely to endear himself to voters in nearby Hull after saying: "It's an absolute shocker."

The light-hearted comments were caught on tape earlier as he was talking to a BBC producer.

When asked to clarify his remarks, Mr MacKenzie said he had been joking and he had never actually been to Hull.

On Thursday, Mr Davis stunned Westminster by quitting as an MP and shadow home secretary to force a by-election on the issue of civil liberties and 42 day detention of terror suspects.

So far no party has said they will contest it, meaning Mr Davis could be returned without a vote.

But Mr MacKenzie, who backs Labour on 42 days, said he wanted to stand against Mr Davis on behalf of the Sun and had the backing of the newspaper's proprietor Rupert Murdoch, after discussing it with him at party on Thursday night.

He told the BBC: "I have been associated with The Sun for 30 years. The Sun is very, very hostile to David Davis because of his 28 day stance and The Sun has always been very up for 42 days and perhaps even 420 days."

National debate

He went on: "I will 90% stand if Labour don't put a candidate up" adding: "I've got to get my ducks in a row, the people of what would be my new constituency would like me to have thought this thing through.

"Democracy has to be about two and not about one."

In May, Mr MacKenzie stood unsuccessfully in a borough council election in Weybridge on the issue of parking charges.

Mr Davis believes the government's plans to extend detention without charge are an assault on traditional British freedoms.

But Prime Minister Gordon Brown has described his move as a "stunt that has become a farce", although he has not confirmed that a Labour candidate will not be standing.

Mr Davis has said that if Labour does not take him on it will be an "extraordinary act of cowardice" by Mr Brown.

'Perfectly happy'

But he said his main concern was to provoke a national debate on civil liberties and the government's anti-terror legislation.

"I would be perfectly happy to have a fight with the Murdoch newspapers - but there will be a debate," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The Lib Dems have said they will not be fielding a candidate as they agree with Mr Davis on 42 days. The smaller parties also seem unlikely to stand, with the BNP, which finished fourth in the seat in 2005, saying it would not be fielding a candidate.

When he made his announcement on Thursday, he said he wanted to take a stand on a range civil liberties issues including ID cards, CCTV, the growth of the "database state" and the erosion of jury trials.

But Mr MacKenzie said it was "rubbish" that "we are living in a controlled state".

"Personally I'm very grateful that there is CCTV around everywhere and I'd like more of it," he said.

"Most of us are not bad guys, we have nothing to fear."

He also told the BBC he would be campaigning on three issues - hostility to the "sense that our country is somehow in the grip of some kind of security vice", demanding that there be "the referendum for Europe", and on more populist issues - like seeking changes to government spending on "things I don't think we care about".

"At the end of the day I am really standing on behalf of those people who don't want to vote for David Davis."

He said he would wait to see what Labour did, but said that if they did not field a candidate "my instinct is I will probably end up standing".


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