Buckingham Tories ordered by CCHQ to campaign for John Bercow or stay silent
Francis Elliott in this morning's Times reported that "the Tory leader has made clear to party members in Mr Bercow’s Buckingham constituency that he will eject anyone found helping Nigel Farage, standing for UKIP against the Speaker at the election."
At the time of Nigel Farage's decision to oppose Mr Bercow as MP for Buckingham - after speaking to CCHQ - I wrote that "Tories in Buckingham will be free to vote for Nigel Farage but CCHQ worries about publicity coup for UKIP."
The same source in CCHQ tells me that the position has hardened at the request of local Tories who do not want their members to support UKIP in any election, even one where there is no official candidate. I suspect lobbying by the Speaker himself has had an impact, too. I know he was furious when my story first appeared and was immediately in touch with the Conservative leadership.
Conservative members will still be free to abstain and secret votes for Mr Farage will obviously never be discovered but public campaigning has been outlawed.
The next stage in the Tory leadership's operation to protect John Bercow will come after the election should he be re-elected, as is now expected. Team Cameron is anxious to avoid Bercow being ousted by the Conservative majority that it is hoped will be elected by then.