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Does Ming owes his position to the man jailed yesterday?

January 27th, 2007

    Did illegal eavesdropping change the course of the Lib Dem election?

Just on a year ago this week Simon Hughes was riding high in his bid to become leader of the Liberal Democrats. Mark Oaten had pulled out of the race a few days earlier and the sentiment had moved sharply away from Ming Campbell following his lacklustre performances at Prime Minister’s Questions.

In the betting Hughes overtook Ming and became the odds on favourite.

An ICM poll in the Guardian of Lib Dem supporters had rated Hughes, then party president, as the candidate best-placed to restore the party’s fortunes. In a panel survey 62%, had picked Hughes, against 18% for Sir Menzies and 20% for Mr Huhne.

These were pretty convincing figures from a reputable pollster and punters started piling money on.

But then, as we all know, it all went wrong for him. Tabloid revelations about his private life emerged and after that it was going to be an uphill battle. To his credit Hughes stayed in the race and did better than most people had predicted.

Yesterday in the Royal phone taps case involving the News of the World Royal Correspondent a second man was also jailed – Glenn Mulcaire, 36, of Sutton, Surrey. The court heard that amongst four other people that had been targeted by Mulcaire was Simon Hughes.

Although all the focus was on the Royal aspects it is believed that Mulcaire was the person who tapped Simon Hughes‘ phone messages, leading to his high-profile “outing”.

If this had not happened would Hughes have done it? Who knows? But we can say that in the aftermath of that ICM poll political gamblers believed he would and he was the odds-on favourite until the stories appeared.

Mike Smithson






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