James Forsyth

Grant Shapps: No talks with the Lib Dems on a party funding for boundary changes deal

Grant Shapps: No talks with the Lib Dems on a party funding for boundary changes deal
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Grant Shapps, the perky new Tory chairman, has just been grilled on The Sunday Politics by Andrew Neil about the Tories’ majority strategy. In a sign of how tight the next election will be, Shapps stressed that you don’t actually need 326 seats to have a majority in the Commons because Sinn Fein don’t take their seats.

He said he was able to "reveal" the Tories' 40/40 election strategy:

 “We’re going to defend our [40] most marginal seats, and we’re going to go and attack the 40 seats that we will need to win. We’re going to focus and target on those seats in a way that we’ve never done before. Targetting is very, very important and it comes down to pavement politics,  winning it seat by seat. Showing that we are the people, we’re the party, we’re the candidates who can best represent that local community.”

And he said he had not given up hope on a deal on the boundaries still being done:-

“The vote has to take place next year in October...Now a year is a long time, a week’s a long time in politics, a year is a lifetime in politics, I think an awful lot can happen between now and then... I haven’t given up hope for it because it was in the Coalition Agreement, because Nick Clegg came out very strongly and said it was right for the basis of fairness and I believe him, it was absolutely right it should happen. But, I’m putting in place a strategy for us to win the election regardless.”

Getting through the boundary changes would make the Tories’ task easier. But Shapps emphatically denied that there are any talks going on about a deal that would see the Tories agree to more state funding for political parties in exchange for the Liberal Democrats agreeing to the new boundaries.

The whole Andrew Mitchell, gate-gate business continues to dog the Tories. Shapps looked distinctly uncomfortable when questioned on it. But he said that no Tory MP had expressed concern to him about whether or not Mitchell could still effectively do his job as chief whip which is a surprise given how openly Tory MPs have been discussing this matter.