If I was a Number 10 strategist (discuss) I would be doing my damnedest to prevent Patrick Mercer from causing a by election in Newark. It will be a little while before we know just how daft/venal/pissed he has been, but from reports so far he has been the victim of yet another faux lobby sting.
Perhaps “victim” is not the most appropriate adjective. Most MPs suffer political death by their own hand (not in the Stephen Milligan sense), caused by arrogance, desire, greed or breathtaking naivety.I suspect the latter in Mercer’s case. He has serious form for shouting his mouth off to the press after a few sherbets, usually in the form of visceral attacks on Cameron. It all goes back to the days when he was a shadow minister and made some vaguely inappropriate remarks about the way people joshed each other about their colour and gingerarity in the army. Well, inappropriate in the bonkerish political correctness that politicians are duty bound to pander to. As a former army officer it was just plainspeak to Mercer, but as a front line politician it was political suicide. And as Cameron was doing his best to de swivel and de loon his party, Mercer was given the order of the hobnail. I suspect if he had towed the line and kept his head down he would be in government.
Sadly it all became very personal, very vocal and usually after closing time. Mercer is in the Mad Nad league of Cameron defenestration. And that is why he is so potentially dangerous.
One of the most depressing things about politics that I encountered, apart from my personal horror of dick swinging partisanship is to witness how rejection can corrode the purist of souls. One moment you are cock of the walk, the next; just a cock. It is a sad sight seeing these lost souls tramping the bars and the tea rooms in search of other bitter kindred spirits and trying to spread the poison.
And this is the problem for Cameron. No matter he tries to connect with his backbenchers, either at Number 10 or just with a pat on the back there are a significant minority who deeply resent him for even trying. The charm offensive has not been a success. What will make the difference in a few months time is when the economy picks up, unemployment regularly falls and business has a spring in its step. Cameron again will look like a winner to even the most disaffected who will slink back into the shadows until another opportunity arises for the poisoned stiletto to be unsheathed.
But never mind the future, lets look at now. In the land of the politically blind the swivel eyed loon is king.
The enemies of the modernisers will see this as an opportunity to strike. Not a fatal blow but enough in their eyes to make the Cameroons see the good sense of doing a deal with the Faragistas. Pressure will be put on Mercer to cause a by election. Not to stand himself but to clear a way for a Kipper victory.
For those of unsound mind having Patrick Mercer as Nigel Farage’s John the Baptist is very attractive. This could panic the Cameroons into making more concessions over the EU (a snap referendum would be a start) and scrapping the wickedness of gay marriage.
Those sentient Conservatives realise that this just won’t happen. Lines have been drawn. There will be no more concessions. They will have scoured the opinion polls and have realised that the two Eds are poison to the voters. The Spending Review is the point of no return for Labour. They are either going to make a massive U turn or accept that they are on a white knuckled ride to oblivion.
I hope that the majority of backbenchers, particularly the ones with marginal seats, appreciate the good sense of keeping their real enemy within their sights.
But if Mercer is not a headache La Belle Dorries could be. I hope it has not escaped anybody’s attention that she comes up for re-selection in her Mid Beds seat in a couple of weeks time. It may not be the triumphant coronation that she expects. I have spoken to a number of people who will be at the meeting who are thoroughly fed up with her antics and want rid of her.
And if she is no longer the Conservative candidate does she cause a by election for the Kippers or does she stand for them at the general?
This could be fun.