Tebbit: odds "even" on whether there is "real trouble" ahead for the coalition

But the real rumblings will come from the Lib Dems next year

On his ever-interesting blog, the Tory right's guru and former party chair Norman Tebbit has this to say in relation to recent divisions within the coalition over the Alternative Vote:

It will be interesting to see whether the potential disunity of the coalition benches is greater than the bonds binding the Coalition together. There are some formidable Tory backbenchers, Richard Shepherd, David Davis, Chris Chope, Charles Walker, Anne Main and the newly elected David Kawczynski, who all spoke critically in the debate. Some voted against the Government whip that night. Many others were put out that the debate was too short for them to be called. They may well seek to make amendments which the Government will resist. There may be alliances between the rebels and the official Opposition. And there is the much less predictable House of Lords to be persuaded to give the Bill a fair wind.

At the end of it, we will have a much better idea of whether the Coalition's whole programme will survive more or less intact, or whether there is real trouble ahead. At the moment the odds are fairly even.

Tebbit is certainly right to highlight the potential trouble of the Tory rebels, and it is interesting to note the individuals he name-checks.

But for me, the real trouble will come from the junior partners in this coalition, the Liberal Democrats. Next week's annual conference will be calm compared to next year's, coming as it will after a hammering in the local elections and the possible loss of a the AV referendum itself.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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