The Totnes Primary
Are Lib Dems foolish to interfere?
This is a screenshot from Newsnight on Tuesday, who ran a long feature on the Totnes selection for a candidate to replace Anthony Steen as the next Conservative MP there, featuring an interview between bay MP Adrian Sanders and editor Michael Crick.
Sanders was repeating much of what he said in his newspaper column the previous week - which I found equally surprising. What he said was that he urged Lib Dems to vote for Nick Bye as he believed Nick would be the easiest person for their candidate to beat at the next election.
Firstly, it is a high risk strategy for any MP to interefere in the business of neighbouring constituents and one that most MP's run a mile from. To be blunt, there are no votes in it.
Secondly, presumably if Mr Sanders believes that Nick Bye is an electoral liability he must think that Nick Bye will lose the next mayoral election if he fights it. As a Lib Dem therefore the last thing he would want would be for Mr Bye to be selected in Totnes and then not stand for Mayor next time in Torbay opening the way for someone new.
On the other hand it could be that perhaps Mr Sanders is trying a double bluff? Is he hoping that if he publicly urges Lib Dems to vote for Nick Bye then Tories might do the opposite in droves, depriving Nick of the nomination and forcing him to stay on as mayor?
A third and much more intruiging possibility is that Mr Sanders is hoping that Nick does get picked for Totnes, wins the seat and then has to resign the mayoralty - creating a juicy well-paid political job vacancy immediately after the next election, suitable for an unemployed local man with political experience to try and get elected into.
I wonder who could be up for that, then?
Either way trying to gerrymander in the internal politics of another constituency is a very high risk activity, it made the Lib Dems seem unusually petty and party political, something they usually go out of their way to avoid. But then personal ambition and what is good for the party have never been happy bedfellows with the Torbay Lib Dems.