Will Bercow be portrayed as “Labour’s candidate”?
Just reflecting further overnight about the announcement that UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, will fight John Bercow, in Buckingham I’ve come to the view that the 4/1 that’s available is one of the best general elections bets about.
Firstly try to envisage how the campaign will work in this true-blue seat at the election. Because there will be no official Conservative candidate the Farage campaign will be able to present their man as the only “True Tory” in the race while suggesting that Bercow is Labour’s man.
The UKIP leader will get many high profile Tory endorsements – you can see people like Norman Tebbit campaigning on his behalf. At the same time electors will be reminded, fairly or unfairly, how it was Labour MPs who secured the speaker’s job for their MP.
The diverse and mostly rural seat of Buckingham will attract a lot of UKIP activist support to enable them to stage an effective ground war.
This will be supported by Farage featuring a fair bit in the national campaign and will certainly have a much higher media profile than Bercow. UKIP, as the broadcasters will be reminded repeatedly, came second in the EU elections in June and the BBC decision to exclude UKIP from the candidate debate in Norwich North will be thrown back at them.
I know many will look at the SNP and other failed challenges that Michael Martin faced in 2005 in Glasgow NE as evidence to suggest that serving speakers get re-elected. But Martin did not have a figure with as high as profile as Farage facing him and we hadn’t had the MPs expenses scandal.
Finally Farage will be a much more engaging and personable candidate than the sometimes awkward Bercow.