By Paul Goodman
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Yesterday's meeting of the Conservative Parliamentary Party has already been well covered. James Kirkup has described how backbench MPs told Cabinet Ministers to row in behind Cameron. James Forsyth has reported
how one MP in a marginal seat – James Morris – told his colleagues to
stop making difficulty for people like him. (Another one, Sarah
Wollaston, defended her right to tweet as she pleases.)
One more point. I'm told that David Cameron indicated that Lynton
Crosby, whose performance cheered up Tory MPs, will run the
Conservatives' 2015 campaign and have authority over it. My view remains that there's no point in having another cook spoiling the broth in Cameron's kitchen, and that Crosby must therefore be unambiguously in charge.
This has implications for two people in particular. The first is
George Osborne, who's been Cameron's main political strategist since the
latter was elected leader, and can't help gravitating towards that line
of work. The Chancellor will be unable to resist his inclination to
intervene, but is mighty relieved to see Crosby in place. It's an
appointment he wanted.
The second is Grant Shapps. Some previous party chairmen have led
election campaigns themselves: the exemplar is Chris Patten in the 1992
victory that Cameron yearns to emulate in two year's time. Crosby has
of course led one before – the 2005 campaign, during which Liam Fox and
Maurice Saatchi were joint Chairmen.
This looks like the model
that will apply ten years on from that election. Shapps will be the
voice of the campaign (or one of them) and Crosby will be the hands: if
what he said yesterday is any guide, it looks to communicate a robust
strong-economy-tough-society message. Not great for relations with the
Liberal Demcrats, with whom Cameron may well try to form another
coalition if the election is hung.
In any event, I doubt if Crosby would fully sign up were he not fully in charge.
By the way, about 150 Conservative MPs were present yesterday, I'm
told. So where were the other 150 or so? Some Ministers would have
been in their departments, others absent from Parliament, and some MPs
will of course also have had other commitments. Let's call that another 100. That would leave 50 or so who didn't turn up. That's rather a lot, I think.