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1 May 2011

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

Leadership goal for Energy Secretary.

By Jon Bernstein

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.

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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.