One of the strangest sights in the wee hours of Friday morning – and there were many – was Lord Ashcroft turning up on Andrew Neil’s Boat O’ Fun for an interview. Ashcroft has kept out of the limelight even when he was in it, and to hear him talking about the negative impact upon Tory fortunes of the televised debates, and about how he wasn’t going to be as involved in politics anymore, was especially curious given its timing. The Observer has a story tomorrow in which he, or those around him, goes further: Ashcroft is “furious” with Cameron about the debates, and smarting from Cameron’s signal failure properly to stand up for the noble lord when all around him were screaming ‘non-dom’.
The Conservative Party usually waits until it has lost an election to have what the Mirror with a hint of hyperbole call a civil war. But with Cameron having 70 minutes with Nick Clegg, and some rumours afoot that the Liberal Democrats have been offered no fewer than three Cabinet positions, the party’s right have little time to make themselves felt. One senior frontbencher (Liam Fox?) is accusing the central troika of the Tories’ election campaign – Osborne, Letwin and Gove – “a smug, smarmy little clique” and calling for their dismissal. Most Tories have frozen out by a Cameron leadership which promised victory in exchange for ruthless centrism. They may not stand for this in the absence of a win.
The Liberal Democrats (OK, maybe not the Orange Bookers) remain between a rock and a hard place – torn between progressive principles and a desire to pass this first test as a party of power. In the meantime, Labour stay – wisely, sagely, smartly – silent. Ben Bradshaw has been allowed out to mutter about a progressive alliance, and ex-SDP man Lord Adonis has been appointed chief negotiator, but Gordon Brown has decamped to Scotland and is fulfilling his constitutional role only, whilst the leadership debate is put on hold. Steady as she goes – Labour is by no means defeated, has indeed performed well in local elections, and has no interest in rocking what is already a boat beginning to pitch.
Rarely do I agree with (ew) Norman Tebbit, but he was right about one thing today: we live in interesting times.