The Cameroons bedecked in hunting reds have a sporting chance of chasing the Farage fox out of the Westminster hen house.

3 Jun 2014 at 13:58

I am cautiously optimistic about the Newark election. It would take a miracle for the Tories to maintain their sixteen thousand majority for all the obvious reasons in particular the sleazy cloud that hangs over the ghastly Patrick Mercer. Roger Helmer has been an MEP for the area for a long time and is a former Tory of sorts. One of his many drawbacks are that his eccentric views are particularly uncharitable to ethnic minorities and gays. Charisma is a gift that has passed him by. But at least he has worked the turf. Well, as much as any MEP can. It is worth having a close look at the most recent YOUGOV polls. They asked a simple question,

“Do you generally feel positively or negatively about UKIP
In May 2009 the answers were
Positive 28%
Negative 37%
Neither 27%
Don’t know 7%

In May of this year the answer was
Positive 22%
Negative 53%
Neither 19%
Don’t know 6%

This rather explodes the myth that the Kippers are gaining ground. The truth is that at the Euro and county elections only a third bothered to vote. Most didn’t think that it was worth the effort. To be fair to UKIP (God, how that sticks in my throat) their share of the the vote is at its highest at 17%. Interestingly there is a narrow and consistent lead for staying in The EU and a large lead for those who wish to remain if Cameron can negotiate a reformed Brussels.

Then have a look at the latest Ashcroft poll in Newark which gives the Tories a healthy lead. This could be shattered by events. There could be some daft EU ruling or some Cabinet minister could have a serious case of foot in the mouth. But to his credit Shapps has so far successfully buttoned down the operation. Ministers, unless they are on message, so far have adhered to a vow of silence. Of course, like every election, all parties will claim some sort of victory. The Faragistas will claim that they have come from nowhere and given all parties a bloody nose. Labour will squeal that their message that Miliband is not weird, honest, has finally delivered. And the Lib Dems will pray that they don’t lose their deposit. Six years ago they would have a fighting chance of winning a by election in a Tory stronghold.

It’s too early to crack over the Chateau Galtieri 1981,but it appears that the Cameroons in hunting reds may have chased the Farage fox out of the Westminster hen house. But the delicious irony is that Mercer resigned to do the maximum damage to his old foe Cameron. If there is a Tory victory he will have actually shored him up. Politics is a funny old business.

And now for the reshuffle. I have been consistently wrong in predicting the date. But I would be amazed if it is not this weekend. My old friend Nigel Nelson, the veteran political editor of the PEOPLE, has had a very good tip that Shapps will be replaced by as Chairman by Eric Pickles. A straight job swap would cast no shame on Shapps who has been a hyperactive and effective Chairman. But the reassuring, bluff appearance of Pickles on our television screens, whom nobody could accuse of being a member of the ruling classes, would be very god news. More important still he is battle hardened and close to Cameron. He has become a very big beast in the jungle. If there is a Tory win at the general there is no reason why he could not slip effortlessly into the Home Office whilst straight talking May could glide seamlessly into the Foreign Office.

Ken Clarke has had enough as has Sir George Young. It really is time that Michael Fallon is promoted. He is right winger but utterly loyal to Cameron. He would be the perfect Chief Whip to calm jittery Tories. Sadly, Andrew Mitchell is in the middle of a libel action. But hopefully his reward will come.

There are serious mutterings about about the hopeless Graying. He can’t be sacked outright as the right would be biting the carpet. But I am biased. He could be Leader of the House as Lansley prepares for Europe. And the women? If Anna Souberry’s common sense and impressive media performances are not used to the full it would be an act of insanity. Similarly with the splendid Esther McVey. And what about a junior job for Robert Halfon the Treasury’s chief weather vane? But like everybody else I haven’t a clue what will happen.

A few knighthoods would sweeten the sourness of dismissal and would prevent the sacked from falling into the arms of the Cameron haters.

There is a great opportunity to refresh the government. I hope that it is not squandered

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