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Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

If there is a Conservative landslide of anything like the scale most pundits seem to expect, I think the Prime Minister will need to think very carefully about her relationship with Conservative backbenchers. After all, dealing with 390 or 400 MPs is very different to dealing with 330.

May I make a suggestion? Instead of appointing only one PPS, Theresa May should appoint two, or even three. David Cameron sometimes had two, and May needs to do the same. George Hollingbery has done the job up to now, but he will quite reasonably expect a junior ministerial post after serving her for several years.

If I were the Prime Minister, I’d appoint a greybeard from the ’97 or ’01 intake, an MP from the 2015 intake and maybe in the autumn one from the 2017 intake. It will be very important for her to keep her new MPs onside – and it will be a very difficult task. There are enough discontents in the 2010 and 2015 intakes who believe their talents have so far been overlooked. After a couple of years, there will be another 40 or 50 from the new intake who will wonder why May isn’t recognising them.

A second idea is to recreate the backbench committees that the Party ran in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, which the 1922 Committee is apparently in the process of doing. There was one shadowing each government department, and they were an opportunity for MPs to shine in their specialist policy areas by becoming an officer of a particular group. They were abandoned after 1997 for the simple reason that there weren’t enough MPs to populate them. That won’t be a problem after 8 June.

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The best quote of the campaign so far has come from YouGov’s Joe Twyman, talking about the manifestos: “You might like the sound of some of the things on the menu, but if you don’t like the look of the restaurant, you’ll probably eat elsewhere.”

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I was due to have lunch at the Commons yesterday, but the election put paid to that. The occasion was the 90th birthday of a friend of mine, Audrey Barker, who was the Conservative Agent in Norwich North during the 1987 general election, when I was the campaign manager.

Audrey was a real ‘old school’ party agent, and didn’t suffer fools (or politicians) gladly. She really did regard candidates as a legal necessity, and didn’t think twice about telling anyone exactly what she thought of them.

In the end,  Audrey’s son entertained us to lunch as the Royal Overseas League Club on Piccadilly – more commonly known as the ‘in and ‘out. I still want to take her for lunch at the Commons, though. She’s now a constituent of Chuka Umunna, so I’d like to introduce her to him. Assuming he manages to retain his seat, of course…

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Best headline of the week is from The Economist: “Labour’s Economic Programme: Old McDonnell has plan. He eyes IOUs.”

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So why haven’t the Liberal Democrats made any sort of breakthrough in the polls since May called the election? A new YouGov poll this week might have supplied the explanation.

It showed that the Lib Dem policy of appealing to the 48 per cent who voted Remain last June has fallen at the first hurdle. It seems the 48 per cent is now 22 per cent – since, apparently, only 22 per cent of Britons believe that the Government should do a reverse ferret and stay in the EU and go against the June 2016 referendum result. 68 per cent of us think the government should embrace Brexit and just get on with it. It appears that 23 per cent of those who originally voted Remain now believe that the Government should respect the result and get on with Brexit.

All this goes some way to explaining why the Lib Dem vote share hasn’t moved at all, even in places where the party is expected to win seats. In the South West, it has gone up from 15 per cent to 16 per cent since May 2015 – but, meanwhile, the Tories have gone from 47 per cent to 52 per cent. Even Labour have risen by four per cent there.

In London, they’ve gone from eight per cent to 14 per cent, but will this really be enough to win back the seats that they unexpectedly lost in 2015? It has been reported that canvassers in Kingston & Surbiton, which the Conservatives won from Ed Davey in 2015, are having great difficulty identifying Tory Remain voters who are intending now to move their votes back to the Lib Dems. Without them, the latter can rightly fear hearing the expression “Conservative Hold” on election night. They may well lose Carshalton & Wallington, too.

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When I interviewed Michael Gove last week, I asked him if he’d accept a Cabinet job were Theresa May to win the election and then offer him one.

Without hesitation, he looked me in the eye, and said “yes”. He then laughed it off and said it was very unlikely to happen, as you’d expect him to, but I did think to myself: “hmmm, I wonder”. Since then he’s been used by CCHQ as a party spokesman more than once – and again yesterday he popped up speaking for the party in one or two morning interviews.

When she sacked him, May apparently told Gove he’d have to earn his passage back. Since then he has been unfalteringly loyal, and I suppose I would be less surprised than most if that passage back turned into a Cabinet post on June 9th.

The question is, which one? I’ll speculate on a reshuffle next week or the week after, but personally I’d love to see him back at either one of his previous departmental posts. He understood what needed to be done on prison reform, and it would be nice if he could see it through. Or how about him being sent to Health! Can you imagine faces on the Left if that happened? It would be what Sir Humphrey might call a ‘courageous’ appointment.

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I wonder if anyone else has wondered what will happens to John Bercow in the event of a Tory landslide victory. It’s true that he hasn’t annoyed the Conservatives quite as much since May become Prime Minister, but there is still a lot of anti-Bercow feeling on the Tory benches, even if Simon Burns will no longer  bethere to tweak his tail. In the event of such a big win, we have to assume that Lindsay Hoyle would be swallowed up by the Tory tsunami and wouldn’t be available to succeed Bercow, whenever that might be.

I imagine that Eleanor Laing would fancy the job, given that she is next in line in seniority, but I suspect she might face a very strong challenge from Jacob Rees-Mogg. He’s quite popular on the opposition benches, and one can only imagine the delights we’d have in store. I’m sure Jess Phillips would happily be his cheerleader-in-chief and whip Labour MPs into line. There is a feeling that May would not be happy to support a Speaker putsch, but the price for that might well be for Bercow to make it clear that he will depart within two years as promised.

79 comments for: Iain Dale: Why aren’t the Liberal Democrats doing better in these election polls?

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