By Peter Hoskin
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There’s no denying it, this
morning’s Guardian
story about Chris Heaton-Harris
is an embarrassing one for the Conservative
Party — and a troublesome one for David Cameron. Mr Heaton-Harris, who is the
Tory campaign manager in Corby, was recorded suggesting that he encouraged the
writer and anti-wind farm campaigner James Delingpole to involve himself as an
independent in the by-election. You can watch the footage here
and here,
but the gist of it is contained in Mr Heaton Harris’s remark that:

“I suggested to him that he did it … Please
don’t tell anybody ever … He just did it because it’s a long campaign, it’s six
weeks to cause some hassle and get people talking … Maybe we’ve just moved the [wind
farm] agenda on.”

Mr Heaton-Harris is this morning
downplaying the story, claiming that some of it can be attributing to him “bragging
about things beyond my control,” and pointing out — in a statement that’s included
in the first video — that Mr Delingpole was never actually a candidate in the
election because he never actually submitted a deposit, and has since pulled
out of proceedings anyway. “I always hoped that James Delingpole would not
formally enter the race,” reads one part of the statement, “as I hoped to
convince him that I and the Conservative Party represent his views across a
broad spectrum of issues.”

In any case, it’s hard not to see
this within the context of John Hayes’ scepticism about wind farms — which was expressed
last night. Indeed, Mr Hayes has himself been dragged into this
affair, thanks to Mr Heaton-Harris’s claim that “hopefully John Hayes, James
Delingpole and I will have a meeting somewhere.” The minister is now having to
deny that his recent “enough
is enough”
comments about wind farms were part of some “secret plot” hatched
with Mr Heaton-Harris and Mr Delingpole. The Guardian does note, however, that “He
did not deny he had been communicating with Delingpole via Heaton-Harris.”

I did wonder, a few weeks ago, whether Mr
Hayes was speaking out against wind farms with support from the Tory
leadership, and particularly from George Osborne. But now it seems, more and
more, that this issue is running away from Cameron & Co. The Labour Party,
and particularly the Labour campaign in Corby, will surely dive on all this
with glee. It will provoke anger and dismay among the Lib Dems in Coalition.

And, in these respects, the brouhaha over windfarms now bears
some comparison with that over Heathrow. Both incite considerable depth of feeling
on the Tory backbenchers, and both are policy areas where Mr Cameron is
restricted by the demands of Coalition. Perhaps, as I’ve suggested
, the Tory leadership could use the forthcoming update of the Coalition
Agreement to set out, more clearly, some of those areas where they will differ
with the Lib Dems come the next election. That might take some of the simmering
resentment out of the situation, at least.

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