Chris Huhne’s guilty plea alters the political landscape. There’s now no need for a reshuffle to accommodate his return to the top table of British politics. Huhne, who ran for the Lib Dem leadership twice and some thought would do so again, is now standing down as an MP.
In this respect, Huhne’s departure from the scene makes the coalition more stable. But the coming by-election in Eastleigh will be quite a fight between the coalition parties. Even Tory ministers are looking forward to landing a few blows on their coalition partners. One I spoke to just now, declared ‘we’ll throw everything at it. You have to win by-elections’. I understand that CCHQ is already moving resources to the seat.
This contest is a particular test for the new Tory chairman Grant Shapps. He has been appointed as a campaigning chairman and his strategy for a Tory majority is dependent on taking seats Lib Dem seats such as Eastleigh. A victory there would make a Tory majority look achievable. A defeat, especially in these circumstances, would confirm that it close to being mission impossible.