What effect will the Rennard allegations have on the Eastleigh by-election? Channel 4 has been working on the story for months, but it is obviously taking off at an inconvenient time for the Liberal Democrats. There is also – for both Coalition parties, although particularly for the Tories because this was a key pledge for George Osborne – the problem of the AAA credit rating loss.
But don’t forget that the by-election was triggered by Chris Huhne’s ‘guilty’ plea for perverting the course of justice, and in spite of repeated references in Conservative campaign material to ‘trust’, Huhne appears to have had little effect on the by-election. One Conservative MP I spoke to about the Rennard scandal over the weekend suspects it may have similar limited impact on the Lib Dems. ‘They’re a bit like cockroaches: we can’t get rid of them with Huhne, and we can’t get rid of them with these ‘sex pest’ stories, either.’ This says a fair bit about Tory MPs’ faith in their own party’s Eastleigh campaign, too.
It may well be that the local battles on greenfield development and a gravel pit end up holding more sway than a national issue.