Now here's a dog that didn't bark in the night-time. Or rather, an MP who spoke in the day-time. David Ruffley, a senior Conservative member of the Treasury Select Committee, went on television yesterday. What did he talk about? The fragile signs of renewed growth in the economy? The fastest rise in house prices for six years? The current condition of Indonesian long bonds? No: the Bury St Edmonds MP mused aloud about what the political landscape might look like after next year's European elections. He said –
"I think next May’s euro elections might put pressure on [Cameron] to go harder because there is a lot of speculation in and around Downing Street, so I am led to believe, that UKIP might come first. Now if that happens next May there’ll be 12 months before the election and some of our colleagues in marginal seats might get a bit windy. I don’t think UKIP are going to win seats but they could split the Conservative vote if they are very strong and let Labour through in those marginal seats. But I think David Cameron has got 12 months to show that his strategy works."
The conventional wisdom is that the maximum point of danger for Cameron's leadership was this month's local elections. But Ruffley's intervention confirms that some backbench dissidents believe that replacing Cameron with a new leader before UKIP tops the poll next year would be cack-handed timing: better to act immediately after that – and let this new leader sprint for the electoral finishing line the following spring. A senior rebel has put exactly the same argument to me during the past week.
Odd that a Tory MP popped up to make the point yesterday, isn't it, over a quiet Bank Holiday weekend? Almost as if someone, somewhere, wanted to serve notice of intent. "I smell a device." "And I have 't in my nose too."