The half-hearted Conservative campaign in the Old and Sad by-election raised the hackles of some Conservatives. Said hackles will stay raised if they read Michael Gove’s comments on who voters in Hull should back in the forthcoming council elections.
The BBC’s Nick Robinson noticed this little exchange in the House:
Defending his plans to cut Education Maintenance Allowances in the Commons this afternoon Gove praised councils that helped students with travel costs:
“In Hull, Liberal Democrat-controlled Hull, any student in receipt of EMA also gets a travel grant to cope with the full cost . . .”
Then, in response to interruptions, he continued:
“Well, they won’t if a Labour council takes power, I suspect. But if they’re wise enough to vote Liberal Democrat at the next local elections in Hull . . .”
Cue lots of ooh-ing and ahh-ing and a knowing smile from the minister:
“. . . or for the Conservatives in any seat where we are well placed to defeat Labour, then they will have a council that is fulfilling its statutory duty.”
This is the first time that a Conservative minister has actively supported the idea of voting for the Lib Dems. It does not seem to have been a slip of the tongue from Gove. Despite the batterings he has received over his somewhat botched education reforms, he rarely slips up at the despatch box. The Tories have no chance of taking Hull – Gove was imploring Tory voters to vote tactically.
“First Hull, next the rest of the UK?” asks Robinson.