Page last updated at 18:42 GMT, Wednesday, 18 June 2008 19:42 UK

Davis 'should fund by-election'

David Davis
David Davis has accused Labour of running away from debate

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has said David Davis should foot the 80,000 bill for the by-election he forced by stepping down as an MP.

He also criticised Mr Davis's alliance with human rights group Liberty - given his backing for capital punishment.

Mr Burnham made his attack in an interview with the New Labour magazine Progress.

Labour confirmed earlier that it would not be standing in the by-election triggered by Mr Davis's resignation.

Asked by Progress if he thought Mr Davis should pay for the by-election out of his own pocket, Mr Burnham said: "Yes, I do. I think there's a bloody good case to be made for it.

"Why should the resources at local level and national level be devoted to this? Why?"

'Smears and lies'

He accused Mr Davis of "insulting his electorate" by using his 70,000 constituents in a "stunt".

Turning to Liberty and other civil liberties campaigners who have publicly backed Mr Davis, he expressed dismay at people he said had been "seduced by Tory talk of how liberal they are".

It was a light-hearted comment about the shadow home secretary's political journey - by-election political knockabout and nothing else
Department of Culture, Media and Sport

He told the magazine he found it "very curious in the man who was, and still is I believe, an exponent of capital punishment, having late-night, hand-wringing, heart-melting phone calls with Shami Chakrabarti".

Those remarks prompted Mr Davis to accuse Labour of indulging in "personal smears and lies".

"Labour has lost the argument over the erosion of British freedoms," he said.

"While Gordon Brown cowers in Downing Street, his henchmen are out and about to attack me personally rather than engage in rational debate."

'No offence'

But a spokesman for Mr Burnham's Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: "It was a light-hearted comment about the shadow home secretary's political journey, by-election political knockabout and nothing else.

"Nothing more should be read into it and no personal offence was intended to Shami Chakrabarti."

In an interview with BBC Radio 4's PM programme last Thursday, Ms Chakrabarti said she had done all she could to persuade Mr Davis not to quit as an MP.

"When David told me about his decision, I tried to talk him out it - it was late last night, after the vote," she said.

"I would never counsel anyone to put their job on the line - it's a very brave thing."

'Gutless Brown'

She said she had known Mr Davis "for a few years" and the pair had "worked together" professionally.

"I know that he cares passionately about these issues - he cares passionately about resistance to identity cards and in particular to the horrible 42-day law that we saw passed in the most grubby way yesterday," she said.

Labour have confirmed they will not contest the by-election, which the prime minister has dismissed as "a farce".

I have never been so sure of a principle in my life
David Davis

Mr Burnham's attack came just hours after Mr Davis stood down formally as an MP.

The ex-shadow home secretary announced last week he was to force a by-election in his Haltemprice and Howden seat, which he intends to fight on the issue of civil liberties.

It came a day after the House of Commons voted by a narrow margin to extend the maximum time for which terrorism suspects can be held, before they are charged, from four to six weeks.

Mr Davis said that if Gordon Brown did not put up a candidate "people will see him as gutless".

But Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman hit back: "This by-election is a frolic and it's more to do with internal divisions in the Conservative Party."

Announcing his resignation on the steps of the Treasury, Mr Davis said: "There is no doubt in my mind this is the right thing to do. I have never been so sure of a principle in my life."

He said the public were on his side and he confirmed be standing as an official Conservative candidate.

The Liberal Democrats and British National Party have both said they will not be standing in the poll, likely to be held on 10 July.

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party is expected to field a candidate and several other fringe candidates have also expressed an interest.

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