Shadow Cabinet member Andrew Mitchell, Birmingham’s only Conservative MP, distanced himself from David Davis’s decision to force a by-election over the erosion of Britain’s civil liberties.
Mr Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) is Mr Davis’ strongest political ally and a personal friend.
But he was said to be “astonished and dismayed” by the former shadow Home Secretary’s decision to resign as an MP.
Mr Davis announced on Thursday he would quit the House of Commons, forcing a by-election in his Yorkshire constituency, following the Government’s success in pushing through measures giving police the power to hold terror suspects for 42 days.
His decision caused turmoil in the Conservative Party. Leader David Cameron said he would be supporting Mr Davis, but pointedly made clear he had not approved the strategy.
Mr Mitchell, shadow Secretary of State for International Development, managed Mr Davis’s campaign to become Conservative leader in 2005.
However, even he was not consulted about the decision, and was presented with a fait accomplis.
Although respecting Mr Davis for his rugged individualism, he has told friends that he finds it hard to believe that it is a sensible route to take.
Despite this, the Birmingham MP plans to join David Cameron in backing Mr Davis’s by-election campaign.
Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, yesterday lashed out at Mr Davis’s “farcical” resignation, and hinted that Labour may refuse to stand a candidate in the by-election.
Speaking at a press conference in Downing Street, he said: “I think everyone now recognises that this is a stunt that has become a farce and has revealed the deep divisions of the party.”
But Mr Davis insisted the Government would be displaying “contempt” for the public if it refused to participate.
He said: “It is an incredible act of cowardice on the part of Gordon Brown to intimate he is not going to put up a candidate.”
He added: “It shows he is ashamed of his policies.”T
he 59-year-old also denied he was on an “ego trip” or suffering from some form of mid-life crisis, and hit out at the Government’s “shabby” use of bribes and bullying to secure its narrow Commons victory over extending pre-charge detention. He insisted his own fate was “trivial” next to the cause of civil liberties, and berated the media for focusing on the everyday “small change of politics” rather than big issues.
“The Government has piece by piece, across the board, eroded a whole series of civil liberties,” Mr Davis said.
“What matters here is that these fundamental liberties have come under assault across the board.”
Meanwhile, former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie threw his hat into the ring, revealing that Sun proprietor Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Wade, the current editor, wanted him to stand in the by-election “in the interests of democracy”.
“I don’t feel it’s right that he should be allowed to have a walkover, a major procession,” Mr MacKenzie said.
“I don’t feel my civil liberties as being at risk but I view my life as being at risk if I am on the Tube or the train and some bad guy wants to blow me up or blow my family up.”
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg announced on Thursday that his party would not be fielding a candidate.
A spokesman for the East Riding of Yorkshire Council confirmed the election in Haltemprice and Howden in 2005 cost £95,520.