Exclusive: Cable was sidelined in Lib Dem campaign, book will reveal

Amusing extract from Dennis Kavanagh and Philip Cowley.

Paul Waugh has written of how a forthcoming book about the 2010 election -- The British General Election of 2010 by Dennis Kavanagh and Philip Cowley, published by Palgrave later this month -- reveals that "Cleggmania" from the TV debates caused complacency in Lib Dem circles and may have cost the party seats.

And I have got hold of another amusing little extract from the book, too:

Whilst the extra media attention (and accompanying money) from Cleggmania was welcome, foreign correspondents travelling with the Lib Dem team demanded things in return. At one point, a Russian TV station contacted Clegg's press secretary asking if they could be filmed taking a sample of his blood so that they could use the DNA to trace his Russian ancestry. There being relatively few Liberal Democrat voters in Russia, they were politely declined. Cowley Street also organised tours for Vince Cable and Paddy Ashdown, the latter focusing primarily on seats in the south-west. Cable's tours had originally been intended to be more high profile, but with the post-debate attention now focusing almost exclusively on the leader, Cable would occasionally wonder out loud why there were so few journalists present.

Looks well worth a read.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.

Emily Thornberry heckled by Labour MPs as tensions over Trident erupt

Shadow defence secretary's performance at PLP meeting described as "risible" and "cringeworthy". 

"There's no point trying to shout me down" shadow defence secretary Emily Thornberry declared midway through tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. Even by recent standards, the gathering was remarkably fractious (PLP chair John Cryer at one point threatened to halt it). Addressing MPs and peers for the first time since replacing Maria Eagle, Thornberry's performance did nothing to reassure Trident supporters. 

The Islington South MP, who voted against renewal in 2007, emphasised that the defence review would be "wide-ranging" and did not take a position on the nuclear question. But her colleagues' anger was remorseless. Former shadow defence minister Kevan Jones was one of the first to emerge from Committee Room 14. "Waffly and incoherent, cringeworthy" was his verdict. Another Labour MP told me: "Risible. Appalling. She compared Trident to patrolling the skies with spitfires ... It was embarrassing." A party source said afterwards that Thornberry's "spitfire" remark was merely an observation on changing technology. 

But former first sea lord and security minister Alan West complained that she had failed to understand how the UK's nuclear submarines worked. "Physics, basic physics!" he cried as he left. Asked how the meeting went, Neil Kinnock, who as leader reversed Labour's unilateralist position in 1989, simply let out a belly laugh. Thornberry herself stoically insisted that it was "alright". But a shadow minister told me: "Emily just evidently hadn't put in the work required to be able to credibly address the PLP - totally humiliated. Not by the noise of the hecklers but by the silence of any defenders, no one speaking up for her." 

Labour has long awaited the Europe split currently unfolding among the Tories. But its divide on Trident is far worse. The majority of its MPs are opposed to unilateral disarmament and just seven of the shadow cabinet's 31 members share Jeremy Corbyn's position. While Labour MPs will be given a free vote when the Commons votes on Trident renewal later this year, the battle is on to determine the party's manifesto stance. 

Thornberry will tomorrow address the shadow cabinet and, for the first time this year, Corbyn will attend the next PLP meeting on 22 February. Both will have to contend with a divide which appears unbridgeable. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.