Sunday, January 22, 2006

Where Next For Grace Brothers?

Following the unfortunate revelations about Mr Humphries, Young Mr Grace himself is calling for calm:

"You've all done very well. The task now is to draw everyone together and move forward. No department store is entirely subject to what happens to any one individual. Grace Brothers is much bigger than that."

But what with Mr Rumbold's raid on the boardroom sherry, and before that the problem with Captain Peacock's pants, not everyone is so sure.

"What's wrong with my pussy?" Mrs Slocombe wails. And that one-that-nobody-can-remember-but-he-fancies-Miss-Brahms is even going round telling everyone he's going to take over.

I don't know- whatever will happen next?

Going Down.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Oaten Humiliated

So Mark Oaten has bowed to the inevitable and withdrawn.

The question now is who's next in the humiliation parade?

And do we really care?

Tyler has to admit this race isn't turning out to be quite as entertaining as hoped. In fact, alternative blogging opportunities look much more enticing.

When something interesting happens I'll update this, but meanwhile I commend Guido's objective 24/7 coverage.

Pic of Mark Oaten announcing withdrawal:

Hughes It Is Then

After his better performance at yesterday's PMQ's, Sir Ming is obviously intending to go through with it.

And having tacked left, he's now tacking back to the right. He's ditching that 50p income tax for the undeserving rich, and now wants:

"fairer taxes, not higher taxes. Wealthy people and polluters should pay more; the poor and the old should pay less. I think we should use tax to promote opportunity, not to restrict ambition."

Eh? No 50p rate, but "wealthy people" and Jag drivers "should pay more". Is that right or left? Or just traditional LD gibberish?

But it all leaves Si firmly on track to win. And just because those modernisers are too nice to push.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Clegg At Crash-Site

Following yesterday's dull Sky News hustings, Nick Clegg has reached the crash-site. The punters now have Clegg on 19/1, only just behind Baldie on 17.5/1.

But he's only got another week before nominations close, so just how is Clegg going to elbow Ming aside? Guido reckons it's going to be the failing health gambit, and that does look favourite. But he could also say "well, I was happy to offer myself if colleagues had unanimously wanted that, but it's now clear they're minded to have a proper shoot-out, and I don't think an old man like me should stand in the way. I'm backing young Clegg who's said I can keep my current job and my gas-guzzling Jag."

Will Ming play ball? If not, and given the way LD leadership polls work (single transferable vote) Clegg might decide to go as a fifth candidate. After all as things stand, Si's going to win, and Clegg drawing away some of Ming's first preference votes is not going to change that.

If Si gets more than 50% on first preferences, then all bets are off anyway. More likely is that nobody wins on first preferences, and it's second and third preference that will count.

Assume the bookies are right and Oaten is out on first preferences. Who then gets his "tough liberal" second preferences? Certainly not Si, and probably not Kennedy assassin Ming. Clegg would have just as much chance as the tedious Huhne.

In the next round, Huhne is out. Who would get his second prefs? Again, not Si, and for people who've voted for a moderniser, not the venerable Ming.

By then Clegg is ahead of Ming, who has picked up few of the Oaten/Huhne second/third preferences....catch my drift?

Expect a declaration by the weekend.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Is This What You Want?

Those Orange Bookers have a real problem now. With Si well ahead at the bookies, Ming is looking less and less likely to stand the pace. And they are getting severely rattled.

Scotland on Sunday reports "a long-term associate" as saying:

"He's gone really, really strange in the last 10 days. He used to just be himself and know what to do, now he's surrounded by all these advisers telling him what to say and think."

The "advisers" being those power-hungry modernisers who want Ming to be their Old Pope. Supposedly it's them pulling the strings. And we are even to believe Ming's disastrous showing at PMQs was actually not down to him. It was all the fault of Mark Littlewood, the Lib Dem head of press, who dreamed up the "headteachers" question that Tony punished so ruthlessly.

So we've got an ineffective patrician OAP who in less than a week has demolished his own reputation as a safe pair of hands.

Add in the strong suspicion that he was behind the Kennedy assassination, which will lose him the votes of many a nice LD member.

And add in too the serious doubts over his health. As the excellent Dr Crippen explains, Ming's statistical chances of lasting to the next election, are sadly less than 50%. There's no way that can be kept hidden from members.

Forget the dull Huhne and Oaten. You modernisers just need to ask yourselves one question: "Is Si what you want?"

Cos if not, you'd better find a way of getting Clegg onto the blocks, soonest.

Pic: Guardian

Saturday, January 14, 2006

LibDem Fiscal Sums

Unlike certain Tory leadership contenders, LibDems have never been shy of nailing their colours to the fiscal mast.

Chris Huhne has been making much of his pledge to increase green taxes and use the money to help low wage earners:

"There have to be higher taxes on actions that threaten the future of our world. That means pain for some. Of course...this is a switch in the tax burden, not an overall increase. We must...take the low paid out of tax entirely. Nobody on the minimum wage should have to pay income tax."

He doesn't explain his sums, but he keeps telling us he's a very able economist're right, we'd better check.

Right, so the minimum wage equates to about £9,700pa. And the personal tax allowance is currently £4895pa. So that needs to approximately double to lift those minimum wage earners out of income tax.

And using the IFS ready reckoner gives us a total cost of...jeeps! £30bn pa!

Thirty bill- that's really quite a lot of money, even by the standards of LibDem fiscal sums.

Hmm. So what green taxes would he increase? How about the jolly old duty on unleaded? Should cause a bit of PAIN for those Surrey housewives in their guzzly 4x4s. IFS again...umm...let me see...that's an increase of £1.50 per litre! New pump price of around £2.50 per litre- say, £150 to fill up the 4x4.

Chris is well on the way to saving the planet alright. But possibly not his wafer-thin majority Home Counties seat.

Pic: Grandma's Graphics

Friday, January 13, 2006

Don't Mention The Euro

For some reason Chris Huhne's new website chris2win doesn't mention his red-hot enthusiasm for joining the Euro :

"Germany and France are already about 1% better off each year as a result of their euro membership. These are substantial economic gains reminiscent of the huge benefits derived by the original six member states from their creation of a customs union (and hence abolition of internal tariffs) in the 1950s. The euro is living up to the highest expectations of the economists who advocated it, and Britain is missing out".

Could it be that even in the wacky world of LibDem leadership races, the jobdestroyingsuperstateinducing Euro is now verboten?

Official Euro template: © Ministère de l'Économie, des Finances et de l'Industrie- 03/2002

You Put Your Right Ming In, Your Left Si Out...

Ming sashays left:

"The environment, the environment, the environment...

It's a scandal that the poorest 10% of people in this country pay higher proportion of their income in tax than the richest 10%. It's a scandal. It's a scandal that there are so many people in my constituency who will never get houses.

A party that I lead - I'm not going to talk about the detail in full policy - would most certainly have two things: the environment and a campaign against poverty."

And Si shimmies right:

"Quality public services should not mean an over-mighty state... People have to "earn their way in the world."

Meanwhile poor old Baldie Oaten has had to fall back on a bizarre LibDem multi-nominations rule even to get onto the dancefloor:

'Oaten’s MPs’ nominations include three willing to sign the papers of any serious candidate. In addition to Lembit Opik, his campaign manager, they are Paul Keetch, a close friend of Charles Kennedy, Bob Russell, John Leech, Paul Rowen, Mike Hancock and John Hemming. Mr Rowen, MP for Rochdale, has also offered to nominate Simon Hughes while Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, said: “I’ve offered to sign the ballot paper for anyone who feels they have got a chance.”

Of course, as John Hemming For Leader points out, nominating Oaten 'reveals that John is a masterful tactician, as his cunning plan to prop up his ailing rivals in order to split the 'stop Hemming' vote is an unparalleled stroke of strategic genius.' And poor old Baldie's been suckered right in.

And amid all this Terpsichorean shambles, as Guido reports, Clegg is limbering up for the Military Two-Step. Or is it the Gay Gordons?

Pic: Daily Ramblings

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Uh Huh...You Said Huhne

After Ming's disastrous showing at PMQs yesterday, they're all throwing their hats into the ring.

Of course, Si we expected. But Chris Huhne? Who he?

Yes, we know he's 51, married, Westminster and Oxford educated (another first in PPE, just like Daves Cameron and Miliband), financial journalist. city economist , and Lib Dem MEP. But apart from that what do we know?

Well we do know he became the MP for Eastleigh in May 2005, inheriting a LD majority of 3068, and immediately slashing it to 568 (even worse than Miliband's dismal performance in South Shields)., if you were looking for someone with a proven track record of building electoral support....umm...

Anyway, such is the competition, Huhne's now third favourite on 6.6/1. Baldie Oaten is on 13/1, and after yesterday, Ming has collapsed right down to 2.25/1 (an implied probability of success of only 30%, compared to 66% a couple of days ago.

So the front-runners curse strikes again, and the new leader is Si Hughes on 1.66/1.

This is dreadful news for the Orange Bookers. Their Ming-as-caretaker script is already off the rails, and unless they get somebody credible put up sharpish, they're going to get saddled with Si.

PS It seems quite likely that some of Ming's early supporters must be having doubts about his health. We all wish him well, but as the good Dr Crippen commented here a couple of days ago: "Ming has taken full advantage of Charlie's health problems. But Ming is telling porkies too. He has not "beaten" cancer as the press delight in saying. He is (I hope) in remission. Frankly, looking at him as a doctor, I have my doubts about his health. We need a declaration from Ming's oncologists that he is fit to become leader.We need to know what the odds are that he will alive/fit to fight the next election. I am not a bookmaker. But medically I would say less than 50%. This is quite spectacular political dishonesty and hypocrisy."

Pic: National Literacy Trust

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Clegg For Leader

Matthew D'Ancona joins Iain Dale in urging the LibDems to choose Nick Clegg- even though the latter is backing Ming:

'On Newsnight, Mr Clegg appeared to plead Sir Menzies's case. He was articulate and well-mannered, like the front-runner himself. Unlike Sir Menzies, however, Mr Clegg exuded impatience and readiness for the fight. If you turned the sound off - a trick beloved of New Labour spin doctors - you saw not a benign caretaker, but a man in a hurry. Sir Menzies exudes stability; Mr Clegg exudes urgency.

Turn the sound back on, and you discover that what Mr Clegg has to say is spot on for his party and its future. He is acutely conscious of the threat of a revitalised Conservative Party. He does not think that "clobbering middle England is the solution to our problems either economically or politically".

And I must say, the more you find out about him, the more compelling he becomes.For one thing, he's great on telly, and sails through the Mrs T "he's-the-one" test that picked Cameron.

What's more, he has some pretty compelling ideas- for example, he says "it would be really, really daft to rule out any model from Europe or elsewhere" and that "breaking up the NHS is exactly what you do need to do". That's much bolder than David Cameron, and frankly much more to my liking.

"Like his fellow contributors to the often-cited (if little-read) Orange Book, he has grasped that the third party has greater freedom to be imaginative and radical in its proposals, and that this is its only hope of distinctiveness on the increasingly crowded centre ground."

Which leaves me in a quandry. A Clegg Lib Dem party sounds like just the kind of party I'd always thought the Tories could be.

Wonder what the membership fees are.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Best Eaten Cold

"He showed me no respect." Capo di tutti capi no more.

So what of plummeting poll ratings? Nothing could slake his thirst for vengence. Family vengence. Cold and brutal.

The Prioress crossed herself and left them alone in the dimly lit chamber. Raising himself on one elbow, he pulled the younger man close and rasped out what they both knew would be his final order:

"Marco...find Cambelli and ice him. Slowly."

The younger man was close to tears. "I will do it Godfather. On the grave of Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman, I will teach him his manners...and the proper respect."

To be continued- hopefully over many weeks.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Get Ming

With Lord Ashdown joining up this morning, and other senior LD's, such as David Steel and Shirley Williams already on board, Ming is starting to look unstoppable. The Telegraph reports:

'A survey of 44 of the 62 Liberal Democrat MPs showed that he had 22 backers, including Matthew Taylor, the former parliamentary chairman. Mr Hughes had four backers, including Tim Farron and Steve Webb, and Mr Oaten had two. Vince Cable, the party's Treasury spokesman, Ed Davey, the education spokesman, and David Laws, the work and pensions spokesman, as well as Lord Steel, the former leader, and Lady Williams, have all said they will back Sir Menzies.'

And even among members- where Si is meant to be the favourite- the support is going to Ming. A DT/YouGov poll of 406 LD members gives Ming 49%, Si 21%, and Oaten 13%.

But come on you LD's, leave it out. You owe it to yourselves, and more particularly us, to have a proper no-holds-barred fight. Phil Willis, LD MP for Harrogate, has the right idea. He says he wants a contest and not a coronation "inspired by a small cabal which was intent on ousting Charles and replacing him with Ming".

That's more like it. And Charlie himself says the same. A final act of gratitude towards his loyal deputy.

What with Dave Cameron poncing about all over the place, the nasty party slot is going begging.

Get stuck in.

Picture: Willow Galleries

A Colossus Among Pigmies

Who am I talking about?

  • he brought together the Phoenix Consortium that took over Rover from BMW
  • he founded the first ecommerce operation on the Internet (MarketNet) outside the USA in 1994
  • he is an accomplished cryptographer having devised a number of security and payment protocols; the first person outside the USA to implement the main SSL World Wide Web security protocol; one of the world's leading internet technical experts: programs in eight different programming languages as well as speaking six human languages
  • he was a candidate for Britain's First Astronaut and was a drummer in a Heavy Metal Rock Group. He is a Jazz pianist (having performed with Andy Hamilton and the Blue Notes and the John Patrick Quartet) and has three children.

It is of course LibDem MP extraordinaire John Hemming, and his accomplishments don't even end there:

"Christine Hemming is "not best pleased" by the discovery that her husband is to become a father again - his assistant, Emily Cox is due in October. The revelation that her husband has been conducting a six-year-affair with the 27-year-old Cox barely ruffled Ms Hemming, who has announced that this mistress is "about number 26" in a series of affairs, and vowed to stand by her man."

And quite rightly he's now standing for leader. He broke the news on his own blog, prompting his army of supporters to launch a splendid new site: Hemming's Way: John Hemming For Leader. It comments breathlessly:

"John Hemming turned up the heat on his rivals for the Liberal Democrat leadership today with his announcement that support amongst his parliamentary colleagues has doubled overnight. Despite the fact that he has yet to formally declare his intention to run in the forthcoming contest, John has been able to boast proudly on his blog that:"I have two who have agreed so far."

We can only say Go, John, Go!

PS At 349/1 on Betfair, he looks like a knockdown bargain.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ming steps out

Did you clock that jacket? I've been trying to find a pic, but it must have burned out the cameras. So the catalogue shot will have to do (courtesy Griffin & Howe, "finest in firearms since 1923").

When Ming stepped out over Charlie's body yesterday and stood at his frontdoor to announce his candidacy, he was wearing the kind of Bertie Wooster ensemble long ago banned by those tieless, shoeless, clueless Tories.

I don't know what it does to the men in grey sandals, but by God it should play well with the famous blue rinses in those rural LibDem/Tory marginals down South.

No wonder the punters have shortened The Merciless One's odds to 0.46/1, a 68% implied probability of winning. Si is on 5.2/1, Oaten on 7.6/1, and all the rest nowhere.

With Si's unpopularity among his colleagues, and Oaten's baldness coefficient, sadly for us well-wishers it's looking like there may not be a race at all.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

May I First Pay Tribute...

Charlie's finally bowed to the inevitable, and delivered the dignified resignation speech he should have given before Christmas. The dark waters have closed over him.

And for their part, his "colleagues" have been scuffling on the pavement outside LibDem HQ to deliver their pitches. With tedious predictability, they all start with "May I first pay tribute..." But the jockeying and knifing is only too clear.

What really does stick in the craw of course is the rank hypocrisy of the media. Such as C4's Gary Gibbon asking Si H whether he now regrets concealing the truth about Kennedy's alcoholism from the rest of us. Perleeesze. After that famous Paxo interview in 2002, we didn't notice too many media folk reporting the truth to us. And some- such as Michael White on R4- are actually claiming they didn't know about it.

So now to the actual race. As previously billed, looks like the modernisers will back Ming as caretaker, Limpid Opec will back Mark Oaten, and Si H will back himself.

Si's rules committee meets on Monday, and in the meantime we must assume Ming's supporters will be offering Si and Oaten no end of advancement, foreign holidays etc not to stand.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Going Tonight?

The LibDems over at Political Betting are now talking about Charlie quitting tonight. Norman Lamb has now joined Andrew George in announcing his imminent resignation if Charlie doesn't go. And up to twenty of them are apparently about to do the same.

Seems unlikely he'll go tonight, but an announcement on Monday looks increasingly probable. At which point, Ming et al will scramble to come to the aid of the party.

Makes the Tory contest look like a paragon of propriety and good order.

Cards About To Collapse

He sure ain't going quietly, and seems to believe he can ignore his colleagues and cling on by appealing directly to the members.

The immediate question is how will those colleagues deal with it? And it seems that after all that unattributable briefing, they're now flocking to be interviewed on the record.

Chris Davis, LD leader in the Euro Parliament says: "Charles must now take this weekend and come back on Monday and, for the good of the party, say he will step down. Charles has the support and sympathy of party members across the country, but that is simply not good enough. Charles is a dead man walking."

Monday's the day, and now the first member of his Shadow Cabinet, Andrew George, has announced he will resign if Charlie doesn't go. Others among those 11 signatories are likely to follow- perhaps before today is out.

Vince Cable- apparently the organiser of that famous pre-Christmas letter- says in his usual measured tone:

"He has been a very good leader, but we have had a slow hemorrhaging of support and confidence. A lot of damage has been done and I don't think that the leadership is sustainable.''

He's right- a lot of damage has been done, not only in terms of the party at Westminster, but also more widely in the country. Lying Liars are the same whether they are from left or right, drunk or sober. And ineffective Lying Liars are even worse.

But the real question is how much more damage is Charlie prepared to inflict in order to cling on? Technically, even if his MP colleagues pass a no-confidence motion, he can still stay on pending the membership vote. All he needs are seven MPs to support him and he can stand in the contest.

And who knows? LibDems are a strange ill-assorted bunch, and the members might well vote him back in. Particularly if the likes of Ming and Oaten stay on the sidelines. Remember, this is not like the multi-stage Tory process where the real candidates can hold back pending the outcome of the first round (as Major did in 1990). This is sudden death by membership vote.

And if Charlie did get returned, what then? The LibDems are a house of cards: the archetypal protest party held together by wishful thinking. Does anyone really imagine the likes of Laws, Oaten and Clegg would hang around in some dysfunctional busted flush party led by a hostile, maybe-so-maybe-not-too-early-to-tell recovering alcoholic?


David Cameron must be sending out the Tory party application forms already.

PS That dependable LibDem watcher Iain Dale has done some excellent, entirely objective, posts on the whole fiasco. Like Guido I particularly like his post on Daisy McAndrew's role in knifing Charlie. It was her ITN scoop that outed him, but as Iain points out: "At no point during her report did she mention the fact that she used to work for Kennedy. She should have. I hope there aren't too many mirrors for her to look into when she gets home tonight." That must merit a place in the "Selling Your Own Granny" Top Five.

Picture: Trading Tribe

Thursday, January 05, 2006

They're Off!

You have to feel sorry for Charlie. And in the circs he did a good job in front of the cameras.

But why on earth is he running? Not only has been caught telling a whole load of porkies, but it now turns out half his shadow cabinet have signed a letter of no-confidence. Could be humiliating.

According to Daniel, Adam Boulton makes Si Hughes the favourite, but the bookies still make it Ming as evens.

The next 24 hours should be fascinating.

Picture: piecrust design

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Kindly Leave The Stage

More and more of Charlie's trusty MP colleagues are lining up to push him off the stage. And this time they're going public.

Susan Kramer says that holding a leadership contest could "very quickly" clear the air. "We need someone with a ringing endorsement behind them. That could be Charles, that could be someone else, but it's got to be clarified."

Could be Charles, huh?

"We have to move very fast. We would want this to be done and dusted by the end of February or the very beginning of March."

Meanwhile Alistair Carmichael says the leader should now force a vote of confidence among MPs: "Charles himself should force a vote of confidence early in the new year, probably next week when we are back at Westminster." A secret ballot would provide "a full and open and honest assessment of opinion."

Charlie himself still maintains he won't go quietly, but it's difficult to see how he could present himself to the membership for re-election if he'd already lost a confidence vote among the MPs.

Things look bleak: this morning on R4 Today, even fellow Scot and all-round sympathiser Mr Naughty felt free to ask Charlie why he didn't just give up booze. Talk about kicking a guy when he's down.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Pancakes Of Doom

While tossing off a few pancakes with Ed Davey (right), Lord McNally (left), LibDem Leader in the Lords, hissed:

“There is no doubt that there have been valid concerns about the nature and content of Charles’s leadership. He has to address them. In the months since the general election he has not addressed, as directly as he should have done, the concerns that were being expressed by his colleagues. Does his leadership need a radical, rapid and sustained change in style and content? The answer is yes.”

The radical, rapid and sustained change he has in mind is of course an early bath for Charlie.

And Charlie needs to listen: Tom McNally is a big expert on political disasters, having been Callaghan's political advisor through the Winter of Discontent, and having deserted what he presumed was the sinking Labour ship in 1981. If only he hadn't done so he might now have a real job.

Pic: Ed Davey

Monday, January 02, 2006

Mole Hunt

Charlie has ordered a mole hunt to flush out and ruthlessly "expedite" those of his colleagues who have been briefing against him.

Trouble is...that's pretty well all of them.

Meanwhile, the pornily named Ben Ramm- editor of The Liberal, organiser of the Kennedy Must Go petition- has threatened to reveal some of the LibDems who have signed up:

"I find it remarkable that Charles can so brazenly dismiss the views of the people who have fought so hard on his behalf over the last few years. Although the names were submitted to our online petition on a confidential basis, if it came to it we would be willing to publish some of them."

Ramm claims to have the signatures of 3,300 party members, including 386 LD councillors. And he's got some pretty high-ranking people- I know, because I signed up Bill Gladstone and Herbie Asquith myself.

Distressing picture: RonHaywardNet

Miliband Gang

Rachel Sylvester has tracked down Miliband's supporters to Primrose Hill:

"The Primrose Hill Gang ... meet for weekend brunch at each other's houses - often in the north London enclave of pastel-coloured terraces and delicatessens from which they get their name - to discuss the way forward for the centre-Left."

Who are they?

"James Purnell, the culture minister, and Liam Byrne, who is based at the Department of Health - are Blairites. Others, notably Douglas Alexander, the minister for Europe, are close to Mr Brown. Some are former Number 10 advisers who have moved on - Patrick Diamond, now at the LSE, and Geoff Mulgan, who heads a think tank called the Young Foundation, have attended meetings. Most - including Jim Murphy, a Cabinet Office minister, and Andy Burnham, a Home Office minister - are in their thirties." Tone's head of policy, Matthew Taylor, is also involved, Lord "Get Happy" Layard is a guru.

Some of their time is naturally spent spitting at pictures of Dave Cameron, who infuriatingly "is confounding expectations by cycling to work, shopping at Tesco and persuading Bob Geldof to join his policy review".

But their main effort is plotting to nix Gordo and get their man into No 10:

"This isn't just about finding new ideas," said one member of the group. "It's about how New Labour does politics after Blair and Brown."

If I were Gordo I'd be sending a raiding party up to Primrose Hill for an early shoot-out.

PS Tyler happens to know one or two residents of Primrose Hill. Of course it's long been fashionable and choice, with an affluent mix of City and media types. But just like that other Hill, it's still somewhat edgy. And being part of the LB of Camden it suffers massively from dysfunctional local services and ineffective policing. So residents wage a constant war against local teen villains and Albanian car thieves. Alas, the arrival of Miliband's cronies will lower the tone still further.

Picture: Fort Tumbleweed

Sunday, January 01, 2006

LibDem New Year Message(s)

Ed Davey's New Year message was about as clear as it it could possibly be:

“The need for some sort of change was established before Christmas and we await developments.”

The message from the Hughes camp was also clear:

“Simon believes that although he would win on the one-member-one-vote system, he accepts that he is not popular among the parliamentary party and would face a tough time holding it together. He knows the next few years are going to be tough and the likelihood is that the party will lose seats at the next election.”

He said that?

Er...well, turns out it actually came from "a friend". But it must be somebody close because he's quite comfortable highlighting Si's arrogance, divisiveness, and defeatism. Cheers.

Another anonymous MP said:

“There is a feeling that Charles is merely presiding over the party, not leading it. This was the case even before David Cameron became Tory leader and it is not going to go away just because of the holiday break.”

Well, quite. But what to do?

What about Oaten? Another "friend" says: “It is felt that he damaged his chances by making such a high-profile move last month.”

Meanwhile Ming is lining everyone up to give him a Michael Howrd style coronation. He gets to be caretaker through to the next election pending the grooming of his own Dave Cameron.

Well, so a friend says.