25 May 2014

Post election plots and operations

Senior Liberal Democrats think they are dealing with a full-scale leadership plot by a combination of activists and parliamentarians.

They believe it has been organised so that other figures – beyond the candidates, MPs and former MPs on show today – emerge over coming hours and days to create a sense of momentum.

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Arranged against them the leadership has called on Paddy Ashdown – as of today, formally general election campaign manager – and others to mount the studio barricades.

Behind the scenes some but not all MPs have had contact from the leader himself.

One MP claimed that one of the parliamentary candidates who came out calling for Nick Clegg to go was politically connected to Lord Oakeshott, Vince Cable’s longstanding friend and some time adviser.

Dr Cable himself is in another time zone visiting China.

Some MPs have been muttering for weeks that it might make sense to ditch Clegg and anoint Cable without a contest, to help differentiate the party from its coalition allies.

Amongst Labour frontbenchers you hear similar talk of “operations” going on – and not the NHS type. Dan Hodges has written about them here.

Knives are out for Douglas Alexander the campaign manager – they are rarely sheathed these days.

Yvette Cooper is accused by some of wrongly briefing she was gagged from speaking on immigration in the campaign. Andy Burnham, it’s muttered, travelled to endless counts within 50 miles of his home to press the flesh.

Meanwhile, Ed Miliband’s email inbox is being flooded with the thoughts of colleagues about how to turn things round.

One ally says the leader needs to be bold but probably doesn’t realise how dangerous the situation is and will be unduly comforted by some of the more favourable psephology knocking around.

Cameron thought he was looking after his own back when he shut down parliament ahead of the Queen’s Speech, limiting the scope for Tory MPs to gripe and plot face to face. Turns out he might’ve inadvertently done quite a favour to his two main opponents.

Tory MPs don’t seem massively reassured by the Ashcroft marginals poll.

One Tory MP told me he thought Ukip could climb Everest, as Patrick O’Flynn characterised the Newark by-election challenge.

If they did that, the Tory said, David Cameron might yet get, a couple of weeks later than planned, the full-blown Tory panic that was always expected around the end of May 2014.

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3 reader comments

  1. Steve Cheney says:

    The media has been desperate to portray this election as not only a Labour failure (despite them doing about as well as anyone could reasonably expect), and there is a danger that the party will feel the need to act just to prove that it’s not scared to do so.

    As a broad supporter/non-opposer of the party, I hope they have the sense to realise that it’s not their voters that are calling on them to change everything that’s been perfectly serviceable so far, and hurl themselves to the right just on the offchance of competing with the Tories and UKIP for a handful of far-right votes.

    The Tory media has been gunning for Milliband since 2010; it would be absurd for the party to decide that their archenemy’s supporters are telling them to kick out their leader because they desperately want Labour to win. Labour’s own voters don’t see him as this terrible millstone around the party’s neck, and that’s surely what should matter. If we’ve learned anything from UKIP’s media coverage, it’s that a sensible party doesn’t pay that much attention to what its opponents don’t like about it.

  2. Murray Rowlands says:

    Certainly depressing news about the disarray in the top echelons of Labour. One of Eds virtues was that he prevented 1980’s style blood letting but what have the Party leadership done with the time that ws given them to rebuild after the 2010 disaster. After the ill considered support for the Lib Dem initiative on PR the idea of PR for local government at least as a policy was dismissed out of hand by Ed. Yet its essential if the Party is to rebuild in the South.For each 100% Labour authority in the North under first past the post Labour looses more ground in the South.

  3. H Statton says:

    Whereas Ukip are currently experiencing what they might call a landslide of sorts, there is no doubt that the Lib Dems are experiencing a landslip.

    It is extremely difficult to envisage how the Lib Dems can now possibly get back into the game. Whether Clegg resigns, which he has publicly declared he will not, seems almost academic.

    The party boat has been sinking for some time. Replacing him would make some people happy in the short term but it’s probably not going to affect the eventual outcome of the party’s performance in next year’s General Election.

    Finishing behind the Green Party (no disrespect meant) in the EU elections greatly reflects the scale of their demise. For a party in government to experience such a fall from grace is exceptional.

    Excluding Greek’s Golden Dawn, all the right-wing populist parties have figured prominently in the EU elections. Leader of the National Front (France) Marine le Pen is quoted as saying, “The sovereign people have spoken loudly” (BBC NEWS Europe, 26th May 2014).

    I thought Ukip might do well in the EU elections but was surprised at the distribution of political wealth. For Labour and the Conservatives, it’s another wake-up call. Both parties are going to have to do a lot more work at the coalface if they want to extinguish the flames of Ukip.

    Regardless of his “saintly” (The Telegraph, 2009) character, as described during the Leveson enquiry for making no gratuitous expense claims, maybe Ed Miliband is just underappreciated and undervalued by the general public.

    Despite beating established figures such as Ed Balls and Diane Abbott, Ed Miliband still only narrowly overcame the challenge for the Labour leadership from his brother David in September 2010 (David later retired from politics in 2013). Was it a case of voting for steady Eddie or just not wanting to risk things in favour of the more polemic David?

    As for Cameron, from people I hear around me it’s, ‘the same old Tories’ or ‘the self-servatives’, and some of this is coming from people that voted Conservative at the last election. I suspect they might have migrated to Ukip.

    Cameron has his educated, well-presented, articulate opinions but when someone is not saying what the people want to hear, no-one is going to listen. And when the economy is squeezing people’s lives tighter than ever that much that speaks for itself.

    MPs have more holiday time before the vote this time around but will the public take time to really think about the long-term ramifications beforehand? I sincerely hope so.

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