Conservative Diary

« Cameron says we don't need a "washed up", debt-denying politician like Gordon Brown running the IMF | Main | Morning coat or lounge suit? »

Are the Liberal Democrats genuinely angry about the No2AV campaign or are they playing politics?

Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2011-04-19 at 14.32.48

I was a studio guest on Newsnight last night and had a ringside seat for Chris Huhne's explosive attack on the tactics of the No campaign and of George Osborne and Sayeeda Warsi, in particular.

  • The Energy and Climate Change Secretary accused the 'No' campaign of "gutter politics" and "downright lies".
  •  "I am frankly shocked," he said, "that coalition partners can stoop to a level of campaign that we have not seen in this country before."
  • He said the Tory Chairman hadn't responded to a letter he had written to her, complaining about "scares and smears".
  • Only the Tories and BNP support AV, he said - forgetting the position of a majority of Labour MPs.

You can watch the interview via BBC iPlayer (6 minutes, 20 seconds in). George Eustice, the Tory MP on the programme, was a model of unflappability by the way.

6a00d83451b31c69e2014e60ff1159970c-250wi Putting aside the issue of dirty historical campaigning by the Lib Dems... what is Huhne up to? What is Cable up to with his multiple provocations of Cameron (listed by Matthew Barrett here)? What is Paddy Ashdown up to?

Over at Coffee House James Forsyth notes that the final No2AV leaflet "is centered around a direct assault on Clegg". I wonder if the angry Lib Dems are trying to stop that tactic, knowing that it would not only hurt the cause of AV but might really wound the already badly damaged Lib Dem leader. Or are Huhne and Cable positioning themselves as heroes of the Lib Dem grassroots, in preparation for a change of leader (probably in the second half of this parliament)?

The dire political position of Clegg's party - particularly if AV fails - is going to make the Coalition a lot unhappier but won't destroy it. The Lib Dems know they'll be obliterated if they bring down the government. Keeping the Cabinet united, however, will require the best of David Cameron's skills.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.