Bad news for Cameron is not automatically good news for Miliband

Cameron's proximity to the phone-hacking scandal is damaging, but Miliband needs to be cautious in h

David Cameron is in for a rough few days. His former director of communications, Andy Coulson, is now accused of paying police for information. Coulson's involvement in phone-hacking resulted in his resignation; his alleged involvement in paying-off policemen, however, may result in prison.

This would be a bad break for any Prime Minister. But it doesn't stop there for Cameron. His flame-haired, horse riding buddy, Rebekah Brooks, is at the forefront of the Milly Dowler scandal.

Cameron has already stuck his neck out for Brooks once. According to Private Eye, Cameron talked Murdoch out of sacking Brooks earlier this year. Murdoch will be kicking himself.

On top of this, Cameron will face intense public pressure to put the kibosh on News Corporation's attempted takeover of BSkyB. If this doesn't go through, then Murdoch will be kicking Cameron.

Oh, and it's PMQs today, where Ed Miliband will no doubt give all the above issues a good airing.

Right now, what is bad for News International, is bad for Cameron. This does not mean, however, that it is all good news for Ed Miliband. Miliband has already called on Brooks to go. If - by some miracle - Brooks survives (and judging by the frantic briefing and counter-briefing that her, Coulson and Will Lewis are involved in, she is certainly trying to), this will be the second time since May that Miliband has called on someone close to Cameron to resign, only for them to turn and flick V's at him and stay exactly where they are.

As recently as two weeks ago, Miliband was happy to chomp on canapés with Brooks and co at the News International summer party. Cameron is up to his neck in News International's cesspit - but Miliband and Labour have certainly had a paddle. Miliband needs to be cautious and smart in his attacks on Cameron, and not look like he sprinting after a passing bandwagon. Cameron's proximity to the phone-hacking scandal has damaged him; Miliband need not lay it on too thick.

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Ignored by the media, the Liberal Democrats are experiencing a revival

The crushed Liberals are doing particularly well in areas that voted Conservative in 2015 - and Remain in 2016. 

The Liberal Democrats had another good night last night, making big gains in by-elections. They won Adeyfield West, a seat they have never held in Dacorum, with a massive swing. They were up by close to the 20 points in the Derby seat of Allestree, beating Labour into second place. And they won a seat in the Cotswolds, which borders the vacant seat of Witney.

It’s worth noting that they also went backwards in a safe Labour ward in Blackpool and a safe Conservative seat in Northamptonshire.  But the overall pattern is clear, and it’s not merely confined to last night: the Liberal Democrats are enjoying a mini-revival, particularly in the south-east.

Of course, it doesn’t appear to be making itself felt in the Liberal Democrats’ poll share. “After Corbyn's election,” my colleague George tweeted recently, “Some predicted Lib Dems would rise like Lazarus. But poll ratings still stuck at 8 per cent.” Prior to the local elections, I was pessimistic that the so-called Liberal Democrat fightback could make itself felt at a national contest, when the party would have to fight on multiple fronts.

But the local elections – the first time since 1968 when every part of the mainland United Kingdom has had a vote on outside of a general election – proved that completely wrong. They  picked up 30 seats across England, though they had something of a nightmare in Stockport, and were reduced to just one seat in the Welsh Assembly. Their woes continued in Scotland, however, where they slipped to fifth place. They were even back to the third place had those votes been replicated on a national scale.

Polling has always been somewhat unkind to the Liberal Democrats outside of election campaigns, as the party has a low profile, particularly now it has just eight MPs. What appears to be happening at local by-elections and my expectation may be repeated at a general election is that when voters are presented with the option of a Liberal Democrat at the ballot box they find the idea surprisingly appealing.

Added to that, the Liberal Democrats’ happiest hunting grounds are clearly affluent, Conservative-leaning areas that voted for Remain in the referendum. All of which makes their hopes of a good second place in Witney – and a good night in the 2017 county councils – look rather less farfetched than you might expect. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.