Lib Dems ahead with headache for Cameron

1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA
1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA
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The Prime Minister could be in for a nasty shock in the forthcoming Eastleigh by-election caused by the ignominious departure of Chris Huhne, who has represented the seat for the Lib Dems since 2005.

The latest opinion poll shows that, despite the grisly events surrounding Huhne’s resignation, the Lib Dems are leading the Conservatives by three points.

A victory here for the Lib Dems would be a massive boost to Nick Clegg amid talk that at the next general election they face virtual annihilation. The Lib Dems could also benefit from the fact Tory candidate Maria Hutchings does not exactly see eye-to-eye with David Cameron on every issue of policy. So, generally speaking, the augurs look good for the Lib Dems. But not too much must be read into that. At the last general election, pundits and pollsters alike predicted the Lib Dems would improve hugely on their showing at the 2005 general election. Yet, they actually lost five seats. Cameron will be praying the pollsters repeat their errors this time round.

The overwhelming victory in the Commons for supporters of the same-sex marriage legislation may prove to be shortlived. The “antis” are already plotting a campaign of war in the House of Lords which could scupper the measure. It will certainly delay it. We shall have to see whether the Prime Minister is so committed to this change in the law that he will adopt strong-arm measures to make sure the Upper Chamber does his bidding. And there is every sign David Cameron will take a tough line with the House of Lords.

He has already shown he is prepared to split the Parliamentary Conservative Party in the Commons down the middle on this issue. More Tory MPs voted against the move than voted for it. Some people wonder whether Cameron will try to force the measure through in the Lords by introducing a whip (the Commons vote was whip-free). But many members in the House of Lords are a cantankerous lot and would regard the imposition of a whip as a further reason for being defiant and rebellious. Cameron must be well aware he has a desperate fight on his hands if he is to see this legislation on the statute book.

Lord Prescott must be raging. The civic fathers of Hull, part of which Prescott represented in Parliament for 40 years, have appointed his arch enemy, Lord Mandelson, to the post of high steward of the city. This is the latest humiliation to befall the former deputy prime minister. Only a few months ago, he failed in his bid to become a police commissioner in Humberside. That was bad, but this is 10 times worse. Prescott’s contempt for Mandelson has known no bounds. Unable to contain himself, Prescott apparently wrote an indignant letter to the local council. It is reported the councillors, on reading the letter, were “rolling around on the floor laughing.”