Is he campaigning to join the fight after Ming goes?
Tonight the “Chris Huhne for Next Lib Dem Leader” show comes to Bedford where I live. It’s not actually billed as that but that is what it is. For he’s the main guest at the local party’s annual dinner – one of dozens of invitations he is attending at the moment part, apparently, of a strategy to get himself better known amongst the membership for when the party votes on who will be Ming’s successor.
What he showed last year when he was a rookie MP with just nine months Commons expereince was an extraordinary determination to get the job and clearly that still is there.
Almost exactly 12 months ago Huhne was the subject of some of the most dramatic betting moves in modern politics. The above chart shows how his price moved in from an incredible 300/1 to less than 10/1 in the space of just one day. Not so long afterwards he became odds-on favourite a position he stayed in for weeks.
There were suggestions that one or more Huhne supporters were trying to prop up his price and bet against Ming in order that he should get the tag so beloved of journalists – “the bookies’ favourite”. Certainly some punters, including me, who had managed to get bets on the former MEP when he had been in the hundreds were able to make a lot of money laying off when the price got so tight
This is best illustrated by the betting prices, expressed in this chart terms of implied probability, on the night when there was the Question Time debate. This is how the market moved.
There is no doubt my mind that Huhne was out-shone in that debate and that was reflected by the prices. Yet how do we explain the move back to Huhne immediately after that programme ended at 11.30pm?
Whatever it all shows Huhne will be a very serious contender next time. So what are Huhne’s chances of doing it next time? Is it all stitched up for the other ex-MEP and favourite of the party establishment, Nick Clegg?
Huhne has one quality that distinguishes him from all the other potential post-Ming Lib Dem leaders – last year he showed that he had that killer instinct that saw the opportunity and had the guts to go for it. He got beaten but he put himself on the agenda for next time.
The other potential contenders – Nick Clegg, David Laws, Ed Davey – went along with the deal that was designed to give Ming Campbell the job on a plate. This meant that when Mark Oaten had to pull and and Simon Hughes was damaged by the tabloids the party was deprived of a proper choice of the talent that was available.