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Chris Heaton-Harris MP’s remarks typify David Cameron’s wind farm troubles

By Peter Hoskin
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There’s no denying it, this morning’s Guardian story about Chris Heaton-Harris is an embarrassing one for the Conservative Party — and a troublesome one for David Cameron. Mr Heaton-Harris, who is the Tory campaign manager in Corby, was recorded suggesting that he encouraged the writer and anti-wind farm campaigner James Delingpole to involve himself as an independent in the by-election. You can watch the footage here and here, but the gist of it is contained in Mr Heaton Harris’s remark that:

“I suggested to him that he did it … Please don’t tell anybody ever … He just did it because it’s a long campaign, it’s six weeks to cause some hassle and get people talking … Maybe we’ve just moved the [wind farm] agenda on.”

Mr Heaton-Harris is this morning downplaying the story, claiming that some of it can be attributing to him “bragging about things beyond my control,” and pointing out — in a statement that’s included in the first video — that Mr Delingpole was never actually a candidate in the election because he never actually submitted a deposit, and has since pulled out of proceedings anyway. “I always hoped that James Delingpole would not formally enter the race,” reads one part of the statement, “as I hoped to convince him that I and the Conservative Party represent his views across a broad spectrum of issues.”

In any case, it’s hard not to see this within the context of John Hayes’ scepticism about wind farms — which was expressed again last night. Indeed, Mr Hayes has himself been dragged into this affair, thanks to Mr Heaton-Harris’s claim that “hopefully John Hayes, James Delingpole and I will have a meeting somewhere.” The minister is now having to deny that his recent “enough is enough” comments about wind farms were part of some “secret plot” hatched with Mr Heaton-Harris and Mr Delingpole. The Guardian does note, however, that “He did not deny he had been communicating with Delingpole via Heaton-Harris.”

I did wonder, a few weeks ago, whether Mr Hayes was speaking out against wind farms with support from the Tory leadership, and particularly from George Osborne. But now it seems, more and more, that this issue is running away from Cameron & Co. The Labour Party, and particularly the Labour campaign in Corby, will surely dive on all this with glee. It will provoke anger and dismay among the Lib Dems in Coalition.

And, in these respects, the brouhaha over windfarms now bears some comparison with that over Heathrow. Both incite considerable depth of feeling on the Tory backbenchers, and both are policy areas where Mr Cameron is restricted by the demands of Coalition. Perhaps, as I’ve suggested before, the Tory leadership could use the forthcoming update of the Coalition Agreement to set out, more clearly, some of those areas where they will differ with the Lib Dems come the next election. That might take some of the simmering resentment out of the situation, at least.


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