James Forsyth

The coalition gets political

The coalition gets political
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The joint Tory Lib Dem press conference to attack Labour’s legacy was a sign of how comfortable the two parties are becoming together. Chris Huhne and Sayeeda Warsi’s message was that the ‘unavoidable cuts that are coming are Labour’s cuts’ and that Labour is ‘irrelevant’ until it admits its responsibility for the deficit. The message was essentially the one that Chris Huhne and Michael Gove set out at the political Cabinet at Chequers last month.

In a move that is bound to generate some headlines, Warsi has written to those Labour leadership contenders who were ministers asking them to forfeit their severance pay and to ask the ex-ministers supporting them to do the same. The move is a gimmick but in this anti-politics age it’ll go down well with the public.

One other thing worth noting was that when asked, Waarsi, who is the chairman of the Conservative party, refused to commit the Tories to trying to win Huhne’s marginal seat at the next election. Huhne won last time thanks to Labour supporters lending him their votes something that won’t happen next time. If Huhne, who has also been damaged by stories about his personal life, is to hold on in 2015, he’ll almost certainly need some help from his coalition partners. This help could range from the Tories simply not putting resources into the seat - as one Minister told me recently, ‘if the Coalition is a success, a future Lord Ashcroft won’t be pouring millions into trying to unseat Chris Huhne [the Energy Secretary] in Eastleigh’ — to the full coalition monty of them standing down their candidate.