The Conservative party seems to have viewed the demise of the Jeremy Kyle Show as a gap in the market which it needs to fill, with a series of bizarre stories about the behaviour of some of its leading figures over the past few days. Just to top off Mark Field grabbing a female protester at a dinner by the neck and Boris Johnson’s relationship troubles, there is also the start of a by-election triggered by a Conservative MP being convicted of expenses fraud. In keeping with its apparently constant need for drama and attention, the party has decided that the best way to deal with Chris Davies being booted out of his seat by his angry constituents, more than 10,000 of whom signed a recall petition following his conviction, is to select, er, Chris Davies to fight the seat.
It is not entirely clear why the local Conservative party in Brecon and Radnorshire thinks that this is a good way of holding onto the seat. But then again, it’s not entirely clear why leadership contender Jeremy Hunt thought it was a good idea to send this bizarre tweet praising his convicted colleague shortly after the petition had succeeded. Perhaps the party has given up all chances of winning what will be a furiously contested by-election by the Liberal Democrats, who held the seat until 2015. If it has given up, then at least the Tories can say that there was no chance they’d win anyway, given they were fielding an expenses cheat as the candidate. This is still a very odd approach to things.
Perhaps Hunt is thinking more optimistically about the prospect of Davies returning to the Commons and Hunt himself defying the odds and becoming Tory leader. In that scenario, Hunt will need every vote he can get, whether from an entirely blameless MP or one who admitted two charges of making a false expenses claim, was fined £1,500 and given 50 hours of community service. Given there are at least two MPs who don’t want either Hunt or Boris Johnson as leader (two ballots were spoiled in the penultimate parliamentary round of the contest), the next leader will need every bit of support they can get to have even a chance of achieving the things they are currently promising their party. Or else the current chaos will look more like a cosy morning chat show aimed at mums doing the laundry in comparison to the mayhem that will ensue in the Tory party.