Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Coalition partners go to war over Huhne's seat: Cameron orders party to 'go for the kill' in battle for marginal constituency

Nick Clegg is facing the nightmare prospect of an unprecedented by-election loss to his Coalition partners after David Cameron ordered Tory high command to ‘go for the kill’ in the battle for Chris Huhne’s marginal seat.
The Deputy Prime Minister was said to be ‘genuinely shocked’ by Huhne’s downfall.
The former Energy Secretary had assured him ‘over and over again’ that there was nothing in the allegations against him. ‘Chris had said the same things to us as he had said in public,’ said a close ally of Mr Clegg.
The Conservatives need a swing of just 3.5 per cent to seize Huhne’s Eastleigh stronghold in what would be the first time the Lib Dems have failed to hold a seat in a by-election in the party’s history.
A poll must be held within three months, meaning it could take place on May 2, the same day as local elections in many parts of England. Sources said that far from ‘soft-pedalling’ to spare Lib Dem pain, the Tories had decided to go all out for victory – a foretaste of the 2015 election campaign, when they need to win 20 Lib Dem seats to achieve a Commons majority.
It will be the first by-election in modern political history where two governing parties will be fighting fiercely against each other.
The Prime Minister and a string of Tory Cabinet ministers are likely to visit the seat during the campaign. Maria Hutchings, the mother of an autistic son, who famously ‘handbagged’ Tony Blair over special needs schools closures in the 2005 election campaign, is expected to be confirmed as the Conservative candidate in Eastleigh.

Party chairman Grant Shapps said: ‘When it comes to elections, we stand as separate parties. We will be fighting for every vote.’

One MP described Eastleigh as an opportunity to take revenge on the Lib Dems after they reneged on the Coalition deal to reform Commons boundaries, which are currently heavily biased against the Conservatives.
Alec Shelbrooke said: ‘At least we get an early opportunity to exact revenge on the Lib Dems over boundaries.’
Lib Dem sources insisted that they were confident of holding the seat in a contest that will test Coalition relations to the limit.
Huhne had a majority of 3,864 in 2010, which the Conservatives face a tough battle to overturn despite the Lib Dems’ poor showing in national polls. The party controls the local council and has performed strongly in local elections.
Announcing his intention to quit the Commons, Huhne said: ‘Having taken responsibility for something that happened ten years ago, the only proper course of action for me is to resign my Eastleigh seat in Parliament, which I will do shortly.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2273509/Coalition-partners-war-Chris-Huhnes-seat-Cameron-orders-party-kill-battle-marginal-constituency.html#ixzz2K1Be1iU6
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