Huhne’s Sorry Now

Austin Mitchell once famously welcomed a colleague to a particaularly bitter Labour party conference in the 80s by saying: “Come on in, the blood’s lovely!”

Thankfully those days are long behind us. But for the Lib Dems, those unhappy days are here again. No-one does regicide quite like the Lib Dems.

What does it say about a party that’s now looking for its third leader in two years?

It’s fair to say that a Lib Dem leadership contest between two men who both went to the same public school, are both Oxbridge graduates, who trained as financial journalists, served in the European Parliament and became MPs in 2005 was hardly expected to set the world alight.

And it hasn’t…..until now.

Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg went onto the Poltics Show today for a live debate morderated by Jon Sopel.

So far, so dull.

They were agreeing on most matters and I was just about to change channels when Jon Sopel asked Chris Huhne if he thought Clegg would make a great leader. He agreed but said not yet.

Sopel then produced a negative briefing document with the words “Calamity Clegg” at the top, which he said had been sent from the Huhne camp to the Politics Show team.

What followed was handbags at dawn, a TV moment to match Paxman’s famous interrogation of Michael Howard 10 years ago when he asked the same question 12 times.

If you missed the Poltics Show, you can click here and watch it.

What you’ll see is a party tearing itself apart. Iraq was the one issue that galvanised their support at local and national level.

Now that’s being resolved, their vote is getting squeezed with their fair weather supporters drifting back to us and the Tories.

If two men with astonishingly similar backgrounds and political beliefs hate each others guts – and show it so publicly – what hope does the winner have of uniting the party and being an effective opposition?

As Don King said: “It’s got two chances – Slim and none.

“And Slim just left town.”

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