David Davis has won the support of veteran Labour left-winger Tony Benn in his by-election campaign over 42-day pre-charge detention.
The former minister and scourge of New Labour said he was “totally opposed” to the anti-terror measure and urged Gordon Brown to ditch it if Mr Davis was re-elected in Haltemprice and Howden.
Mr Benn, father of Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, told Labour chairman Harriet Harman he felt free to offer his backing to the Tory former shadow Home Secretary since Labour was refusing to enter a candidate in the contest.
“This follows the recent vote in Parliament to extend the period during which a person could be held without charge to 42 days.
“That is a decision to which I am totally opposed on grounds of principle,” he wrote.
“This by-election will give the voters in that constituency an opportunity to register their view on this issue, through the ballot box, which is, and always will be, the ultimate guarantee of our rights.”
Mr Benn went on to draw a parallel with the 1961 by-election in Bristol South East, triggered by his disqualification from the Commons after he inherited a peerage.
Despite being disqualified, he fought the by-election and won, only to be refused a seat in the Commons until the law was changed to allow the renunciation of peerages two years later.
“Though the election court upheld my disqualification, the law was later changed to allow me to take my seat, I hope that if David Davis wins this by-election Parliament will repeal the law which led him to resign.”