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.


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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