Treachery is never more than a shadow away on the Conservative backbenches

30 Apr 2014 at 14:47

If David Cameron is daft enough to be pondering whether he was wise to have sacked Patrick Mercer from his front bench job all those years ago he should desist at once. On the Conservative backbenches treachery is never more than a shadow away. If it hadn’t been Mercer committing this extraordinary act of social and polititical suicide it would have been somebody else. The list of hardcore Cameron haters is probably about sixteen, the sacked, the slighted, the no hopers and the not so much also rans as those who had never managed to find their way to the race course. If anyone says that revenge is a dish best served cold they don’t understand the simmering rage that often erupts in drunken rants to journalists or bitter flagons of bile penned anonymously in the Sunday Newspapers. There’s nothing new about this.

But politics is not just sticking it to your enemies it is about judgment and timing. If anything is going to unite the Tory backbenches it is someone who puts their seats at risk. And it isn’t Cameron.

I suspect that in the tea room this morning there was controlled anger at Mercer’s clumsy act of betrayal. And relief at Farage’s bottling out of standing in Newark. This may prove to be the biggest mistake of his life. The Kippers have got to find a local candidate who is neither a racist, a nut case nor a homophobe in double quick time. For them this will be a challenge. For the Tories I just hope they don’t try and parachute in an A lister. Best to pick a local who is well known in the area.

The next question is when the writ be moved. I would hope the sooner the better. I doubt whether there is time to hold a by election on the same day as the Euros but hope that they don’t give the Kippers time to dig themselves in. After all they are going to be thinly stretched.

In many ways I feel desperately sorry for Mercer. He was a dead man walking after being caught out in an old fashioned cash for questions sting. But rather than leave the stage with a modicum of dignity he has shown himself to be a man of pique rather than principle.

There is an uncomfortable irony to all of this. The people he has hurt are not the Cameroons, but those who have worked hard for him to be elected. His constituency association. They will be bewildered and seething with anger.