They really don’t want to finish third…
Guido hopes former by-election supremo Lord Rennard will appreciate his Eastleigh souvenir stickers. Back in 1983 Liberal activists fighting against Peter Tatchell in Bermondsey infamously if unsubtly wore “I’ve been kissed by Peter” badges. It’s only fair randy Rennard gets a taste of his own medicine…
You can always rely on Polly Toynbee to spectacularly miss the point:
“Their distrust may be justified here, as this byelection follows a familiarly vicious pattern, the air thick with dirty tricks. Where did the Lord Rennard sleaze reprise from 2009 suddenly come from, and why now in the final runup to election day? Blasted across every front page, Nick Clegg’s fumbling response hasn’t helped, but it doesn’t take an expert political nose to suspect this stinks.”
She then goes on to play down the claims against Rennard as “less than criminal” – despite the police being called in – and compares the story to “Tory tricks directed at UKIP”. Perhaps she should read what Cathy Newman has to say on why she ran the story now. This is about the women who are victims of sexual harassment being able to hold a sex pest to account, and the lies being told by people who tried to stop their story coming out:
Polly’s diversion tactics are one in the eye for the sisterhood.
The BBC hit straight back against this morning’s claim from the Tories that they had behaved disingenuously, briefing that they invited Maria Hutchings to the 5Live hustings as far back as last Wednesday. CCHQ sources are citing security reasons as an excuse for the confusion. They aren’t taking it lightly, Damian Green has just told Sky that “the BBC can be a bit self-important”, and a “jolly cross” Dave has berated the Beeb’s man on the ground, saying his bosses had “behaved badly and stupidly”.
Rather awkwardly, it appears there would have been time for Hutchings to do the debate and still be able to meet the PM…
UPDATE: Here is what Dave had to say:
“I think the BBC has behaved badly and stupidly over this from everything I’ve heard about it. My understanding is that we were discussing with you for ages beforehand about the timing of the hustings and the fact that Maria wanted to be with me for this meeting. This is a totally got up thing by the BBC. You know you’re not the most important thing in this by-election – the candidates are.”
Not the voters then…
The Tories are not happy with the BBC over the Maria Hutchings hustings no show. Kicking back, CCHQ say they made clear to the Beeb they were happy for Hutchings to take part in a live hustings, so long as it didn’t clash with Dave’s visit to Eastleigh today. Despite that last night 5Live briefed that Hutchings had said no and that they would empty-chair her. A particularly irate Tory source insists: “The BBC are being disingenuous, they are wilfully misleading listeners. We’re not quite sure how this fits with their code of integrity”. There is even talk of an official complaint. Either way, that doesn’t change the fact that their candidate was the only one missing this morning…
5Live are empty-chairing Maria Hutchings after she bottled this morning’s hustings. Quite how that works on radio we will find out. Unsurprisingly the LibDems are jumping on her no show, Tim Farron is crowing that the Tory machine have kept her away and party HQ has come up with a mildly amusing missing poster.
Meanwhile their own candidate Mike “Perhaps I’m a bit dull” Thornton has admitted he won’t give up his council seat if he becomes MP. Hardly brimming with confidence then. If only the Tory candidate was there to ask him about it…
UPDATE: George Hollingbery is stepping in for Hutchings.
The Eastleigh by-election has reached that point where every word the candidates have ever uttered is dredged up and thrown back at them. John O’Farrell got it in the neck about his views on the IRA and Thatcher at the weekend, Maria Hutchings apparently once called Dave a sell-out and the LibDem bloke’s voting record does not match his leaflets. For his two cents, the Brighton bomb quote was not the only bit of O’Farrell’s 1998 autobiography Things Can Only Get Better that caught Guido’s eye:
“I was able to stay in the Labour Party while it ceased opposing privatisation, ceased to support unilateral nuclear disarmament, ceased voting against the Prevention of Terrorism Act and went back on just about every policy I believed in to get itself elected in 1997.”
O’Farrell has fired up the Labour Twitterati and got some boots on the ground, but aside from his comedic running commentary from the stump, he has not really said very much. Has he changed his mind on privatisation and nukes?
The Prime Minister may have been in Eastleigh this afternoon but the LibDem campaign has received the biggest boost today: Stephen Gough, the local Eastleigh naked rambler, has declared he is a member of the LibDems and planted his yellow rosette firmly on his er, poll. They’ve got the big mo…
When the LibDems sent out their latest begging email for cash for the Eastleigh campaign, sending it to a Tory MP probably was not the best plan:
From: Paddy Ashdown
Sent: 12 February 2013 12:47
To: ADAMS, Nigel
Subject: Please do this today
When we won Eastleigh in 1994, it was a breakthrough for Liberal Democrats. This by-election can be as well.
To give you just one example, a donation of £25 today will allow us to contact an extra hundred voters in Eastleigh before the weekend. Only Mike Thornton can beat the Conservatives in this campaign, and cannot afford to lose by a few votes.
Give whatever you can afford today, and you’ll make all the difference.
From: ADAMS, Nigel
Sent: 12 February 2013 13:08
To: ‘Paddy Ashdown’
Subject: RE: Please do this today
Dear Lord Ashdown,
Thank you so much for your email asking me to donate £25 to the Lib Dem campaign fund for the Eastleigh by-election.
I have given your appeal very serious consideration and decided that on balance, a donation to the speeding awareness charity BRAKE is a more appropriate donation to make at this time and I have duly done so.
Thanks again for getting in touch and the best of luck in your campaign.
Nigel Adams MP
Conservative Member of Parliament for Selby and Ainsty
Gloves? What gloves. Broom broom!
Ed MIliband says he wants more working class people and people with an armed forces background to stand for parliament, so the Eastleigh by-election is the first opportunity for Labour to choose someone from that kind of background. Yet Labour heavyweights seem to be swinging behind John O’Farrell, who is about as much of a Labour luvvie as you can get. O’Farrell first appeared on the West End stage when he was 10 years old, writes novels and does comedy for the BBC. He wrote a book with the title Things Can Only Get Better: Eighteen Miserable Years in the Life of a Labour Supporter, 1979-1997.
The man who reputedly invented the grey John Major spitting image character also wrote the jokes for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. He seems serious about standing, he has stood unsuccessfully for Labour before in 2001. The Labour glitterati are backing him and he has already started campaigning in the constituency. Polly Toynbee has publicly endorsed his candidature and says she will work for his election. “Up the workers!”
John Denham has emailed all Labour Party members asking them if they would like to be the party’s no-hope candidate in Eastleigh:
“As I’m sure you’ve already heard, following Chris Huhne’s resigation we’ll be fighting a by-election in Eastleigh. There are only three weeks until polling day on 28 February. There’s a lot to do in the meantime but Labour Party members like you have achieved great results in by-elections over the last couple of years – and I know you’ll do it again. But before all that, we need a Labour candidate and I wanted to give you the opportunity to put your name forward. Apply to be Labour’s candidate in Eastleigh by emailing your CV.”
Hopefuls have until Saturday to get their name in. Apparently “If you’ve never been out campaigning before, don’t worry – there’ll be training available.” Looks like they are all but sitting this one out then…
The Special Adviser code states:
“19. Special advisers must not take part in national political activities, which are: holding, in a party political organisation, office which impinges wholly or mainly on party politics in the field of Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly or the European Parliament…
20(ii) …if they wish to take part in a General, European or by-election campaign, or to help in a party headquarters or research unit during such a campaign, they must first resign their appointment.”
Despite this, Nick Clegg’s SpAd James McGrory launched the LibDem Eastleigh by-election campaign last night from the Cabinet Office. The Tories reported him to the powers that be and now the Cabinet Office say:
“James has already apologised for sending the email. He has been reminded of the rules.”
He’s sorry, he’s sorry, he’s so so sorry. Who he has apologised to was not mentioned, but an interesting precedent has been set; abuse taxpayer funded position to politic and you are fine as long as you are “reminded of the rules”. Guido imagines that some people over at the Department for Education will note the wrist-slapping with interest.
UPDATE: McGrory apologised to the Cabinet Secretary.
The gloves are off. Not only are the LibDems planning on moving the writ today for the Eastleigh by-election, but they have also fired the first real shots of the campaign. Sadly for them, those shots were firmly into their own feet. By using his taxpayer-funded Cabinet Office email address to launch Nick Clegg’s by-election campaign last night, LibDem SpAd James McGrory has found himself in hot water on the first day of this very short campaign. Needless to say the partisan attack has gone down rather badly with his coalition partners. Backbench Tory MP Andrew Bridgen scores an easy goal this morning:
Dear Mr Heywood,
I am writing to ask you to investigate a breach of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers by James McGrory.
The Code of Conduct for Special Advisers, last updated on June 2010, states:
‘You must not act in a way that is determined by party political considerations, or use official resources for party political purposes’
But in an email from his Cabinet Office account on Wednesday 6 February, Mr McGrory contacted journalists to brief a speech to be delivered by Nick Clegg on Thursday 7 February.
The email was saturated with party political content, centred around the upcoming Eastleigh by-election. Most troubling of all was a series of source quotes, stating:
“This is Nick firing the starting pistol on the Eastleigh by-election.
“It’s a speech that sets out the distinctive approach of the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government when it comes to tax.
“This is going to be a very keenly contested by-election and Nick is eager to remind the voters of Eastleigh, as well as the rest of the country, that the Liberal Democrats are cutting taxes for those on low and middle incomes.”
The email went on to offer up Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes for interviews around the Eastleigh campaign.
Given its political nature, Mr McGrory’s email therefore appears to be a clear breach of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers.
I also note that the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers states that those who hold the post must resign it if they wish to campaign in a by-election.
“if they wish to take part in a General, European or by-election campaign, or to help in a party headquarters or research unit during such a campaign, they must first resign their appointment. If they wish their appointment to carry on during a campaign, they may continue to give assistance to their Minister as before, but they must be careful not to take any active part in the campaign. They should not, for example, take part in public meetings or accompany their Minister to party political engagements which are related to the Election campaign”
Upon the conclusion of your investigation, I would therefore be grateful if you could update me as to whether it would be appropriate for Mr McGrory to resign his position.
Andrew Bridgen MP
Activate Sherlock Heywood…
Guido has seen exchanges between the Government whips office and Tory MPs that would imply they are not expecting the Eastleigh writ to be moved for many months. Michael Fabricant, who seems to be in charge of the by-election again, reminds colleagues that the LibDems have three months to fire the starting gun. His background notes on the seat confirms that the Tory candidate will be Maria Hutchings, though he is rather gloomy about her prospects “although many constituents in Eastleigh will understandably feel that they have been let down badly by their Lib-Dem MP, this will not be a shoe-in [sic] for us.” Somewhat of an understatement…
Word reaches Guido that former lobbyist turned Clegg Downing Street spinner Olly Grender is being discussed as the LibDem nomination for the Eastleigh by-election. She’s got competition though from Dr Tim Leunig, formerly the chief economist at the liberal wonk-shop CentreForum, and now at the DfE, who is also said to be eyeing up the seat.[…] Read the rest