That wily old chief whip John Wakeham gave me some very wise advice many years ago. " If you are in a fix don’t get anyone to lie for you." It is as good now as it was in the 1980s. The Lib Dems have got themselves into an appalling and needless muddle over the allegations against Rennard. What shocked me was the total lack of coordination between senior media appearances by the likes of Clegg, Farron, Browne and Cable. Surely someone from the centre should have worked out a line to take and briefed those who were going to appear on the airwaves? Apparently not. The result makes them all look as shifty as hell when they may well be (shock horror) telling the truth. But the damage has been done just days before the most important by election of this Parliament. The legendary Lib Dem spin guru, Olly Grender, would never have allowed this to happen. The media are going to have a field day and poor old Cleggy will face even more panicky calls for his defenestration. And will it affect the outcome at Eastleigh? I doubt it. The punters thinks most politicians have their snouts in the trough and their hands where they shouldn’t be. Terribly unfair and mostly untrue, but the political classes don’t help themselves. The key to Eastleigh is pretty obvious. Whoever persuades those who promised to vote (and this will shock you, some people tell porkies) to actually brave the weather and tick the box. I have no doubt that there will be the usual post mortems showing that the dogs and the dead have been allowed to vote via our deeply flawed postal system. But hey ho. Anyway, if you are infirm, pissed or on class A drugs you can listen to me and the delightful Owen Jones report on it live from the count on Nolan at 5 Live.
Not surprisingly in the light of our Moody downgrade the usual suspects of the right are calling for George Osborne’s head. Unless he presses that magic button for growth ( which doesn’t exist) and slashes public expenditure even more to fund tax cuts he’s brown bread. To be replaced by…….? Well, General Pinochet is dead and Imelda Marcos is washing her hair.
This analysis of course is quite daft. The message from Art Laffer (always ahead of the curve), Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Roy Greenspan is very clear. Tax cuts do not pay for themselves and must not be funded out of borrowing. The trouble is that a lot of Tory backbenchers don’t like to read economics. And poor old Adam Afriyie rather than keep a low profile is fast becoming a Nadine Dorries with brains. “The government is in the last chance saloon!” his Mail on Sunday piece screamed. Yes matey, where they used to shoot everything that moves. And you are being rather dangerously mobile.
Why don’t these people read The Plan for Growth, updated regularly by the BIS and the Treasury? It sets out how the Coalition is cutting red tape for SMEs, expanding and improving apprenticeships and have approached £310 billion of infrastructure spending, up £45 billion on last year? Too much to hope for.
But the interesting story of the weekend is the report that Michael Ashcroft is no longer going to contribute to the Conservative party. This is rather worrying. His marginal seat campaign was invaluable and his polling of great interest. He is reported to be concerned that the Tories need an extra ten points to win an outright majority and hasn’t a clue where they are going to come from. It would be of serious concern if his army of well placed columnists should turn against Cameron.
A charm offensive is called for.