When I saw the headline last week, 'LibDem MP breaks ranks on Euro referendum' I knew at once it must refer to David Heath. And so it proved. The LibDem frontbencher is defending ultra-marginal Somerton and Frome against a young and dynamic candidate, Annunciata Rees-Mogg (a friend of mine). Annunciata is well-known for her ardently Eurosceptic views. She is quite prepared to campaign on the LibDem's shameful stance on Europe, as they break their manifesto promise of a referendum.
Indeed, the LibDems are exceptionally vulnerable on this. A large chunk of their parliamentary support comes from the South-West. Unfortunately for them, voters in the region are whole-hearted Eurosceptics. Conservative candidates who underline that the LibDems are actively helping the Treatystution get rammed through without a vote may find the marginal seats trending ever bluer.
Mr. Heath certainly seems to share this analysis. Staring defeat in the face, he rebelled against the whip - though a front-bencher - and backtracking at the speed of light, announced that he would support a referendum - though he's happy to remain in a party that won't. However, he won't say so publicly.
The other day, Mr. Heath spotted his challenger campaigning in the streets. He actually ran after her, and berated her that she was misrepresenting him, that he did support a referendum. This is amazing behaviour from a sitting MP, and shows Heath is genuinely rattled. Annunciata pointed out Heath had refused to go on the BBC and call for one publicly. He responded that he was telling her publicly now. Annunciata coolly replied that he should say it in public, on the airwaves, to the voters of Somerton and Frome. So far, so quiet on that front.