Diary: Endangered Lib Dems... prepare for incoming lovebomb


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The Independent Online

As if the Coalition was not strained enough already, the Conservative Home website has unearthed a cunning plan that can only make relations worse. Conservative MPs have been told that their election strategy will be to concentrate on defending 50 of their vulnerable seats and taking 50 off the opposition, including 14 from the Liberal Democrats.

In Lib Dem-held seats, their orders will be to "lovebomb" their voters rather than engage in loud attacks on a sitting MP – although being lovebombed onto the dole is as bad a way as any other to have your career wrecked. We cannot know at this stage which 14 Lib Dem MPs are to be loved to political death, because the Government is still working on its other cunning plan, to cut the size of the House of Commons from 650 to 600. It has been estimated that this exercise by itself could cost the Lib Dems one-fifth of the 57 seats they currently hold.

What can be said is that even if the next election were fought on the 2010 boundaries, no Lib Dem with a majority below 4,000 would be safe from these Tory love bombers.

The most endangered of all is Lorely Burt, right, who took Solihull last time with a majority of just 175. Jeremy Browne, the Foreign Office minister who is near the front of the queue for a place in Cabinet would also be on the vulnerable list, while the 14th most marginal Lib Dem seat, on the 2010 results, is Eastleigh, whose MP, Chris Huhne, will be fighting a highly publicised court case in October. We can assume that the Tories intend to be beastly to their Coalition partners in Eastleigh.


Is anyone listening anymore, Lembit?

But there was one cause for Nick Clegg to cheer yesterday – a well-known Liberal Democrat has publicly called on him to step down from the party leadership. Why is this good news? Because the person making the call is the disaster-prone Lembit Opik, who was in Westminster to launch his new book. The Alternative View.

Since losing his seat in Montgomeryshire, Opik has tried to set himself up on the comedy circuit; he has tried to be his party's candidate in the London mayoral election; and he made a brief appearance on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. This weekend, he even tried to persuade the Mail on Sunday to publish a summary of his book.

He argues that Nick Clegg would actually do his party a favour by letting someone else lead it while he stays on as Deputy Prime Minister, so that his embattled troops can prepare to defend themselves against the disaster that threatens in 2015. It is a sensible argument, but it will be laughed off because he is Lembit Opik. Still, all credit to him for never giving up.


Blessing in disguise for Norman's career

Norman St John Stevas, whose death was announced yesterday, could be heard on an old clip revived by Radio 4 emphasising how discreet he always was. However, there was one short period in his life when he was not discreet enough.

When he was a minister in Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, and imagined that he was on better terms with her than he actually was, behind her back, he would call her "The Blessed Margaret", which was intended to be respectfully humorous.

In January 1981, when he became the first Cabinet minister she sacked, people wondered whether the joke had got back to her and whether she enjoyed hearing it as much he enjoyed repeating it.


Scarborough now spoilt for choice

Scarborough Council is furious with Apollo Resorts and Leisure, operator of the town's Open Air Theatre, for failing to announce any big-name acts this summer, so they have taken direct action and booked three acts themselves – the boy band JLS, and the singers Olly Murs and Dionne Warwick. This has given Robert Goodwill, Tory MP for Scarborough and Whitby – who digs graves in his spare time – an opportunity to show how cool he is. "I think JLS will definitely sell out and the other two may very well sell out too. I think I'll buy tickets to Dionne Warwick myself," he said. Dionne Warwick had a very big hit with "Walk on By" in 1964.