Huhne’s Thatcher attack looks like part of the long game

Leadership goal for Energy Secretary.

Yet more Lib Dems in the Sunday papers today. After Nick Clegg's Observer interview, we have Vince Cable making the Yes to AV case in the Independent on Sunday and, back in the Observer, Chris Huhne hitting the Tory right were it hurts: attacking Margaret Thatcher.

In fact, the latter column is a three-headed beast – Huhne shares a byline with John Denham and Caroline Lucas – but given that only one of these politicians is in the coalition government, the focus is rightly on the Energy Secretary.

This is what they/he said:

For those who weren't well served by the Tory 20th century, fair votes matter. They matter for the millions of voters who suffered the worst excesses of the Thatcher government, despite more than 54 per cent repeatedly voting against her.

For Peter Hoskin over at Coffee House, this is further evidence that Huhne is pitching to the left, while ConservativeHome's editor Tim Montgomerie takes on Huhne et al's contention that Britain is a centre-left country.

Huhne appears to be the one senior Lib Dem not going through the motions when it comes to attacking his coalition partners over AV: witness his repeated attacks on Baroness Warsi and his threat of action over George Osborne's comments on the cost of implementing the Alternative Vote.

Not for him the rather fake backwards and forwards that has characterised the disputes between Clegg and David Cameron.

For Jason Cowley, writing in this week's issue of the New Statesman, overall Huhne has played a smart hand – "as part of a long game?" – and "has the requisite touch of calm and arrogance required of a first-rate politician".

Cowley concludes:

All in all, he is well positioned to lead the Liberal Democrats as and when Clegg walks – or receives the midnight knock on the door.

Playing to the Lib Dem gallery, and irritating the Tory grass roots by picking out Thatcher for special treatment, won't do Huhne any harm in this pursuit.

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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