FOR most people, the name Twickenham conjures up thoughts of the sweat, grind and flair of international rugby and one of the great homes of English sport. Yet it is also the political home of the Liberal Democrat sage and Business Secretary Vince Cable – a seat he has held since 1997 when he won it from the Tories.
For a man who likes to portray himself as being of the left and the creator of the “mansion tax” on homes of more than £2 million, the well-to-do west London constituency with expensive terraces populated by bankers, lawyers and London’s upper middle-class is perhaps a surprising political base.
But with a majority somewhere north of 12,000 and a national reputation as big as his own party, Mr Cable has good reason to feel safe over his prospects of re-election next May.
Yet, over the weekend, the Business Secretary’s seat was identified as a prime target by his Tory partners in the coalition government.
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So much for the talk of an electoral pact which would see each coalition party not mount a serious campaign in each other’s seats, which was the talk of the early part of the government. Of course times have changed, and for two years at least, the mutual loathing between Tories and Lib Dems has not exactly been a secret. Nobody expresses this dislike better than Mr Cable himself, who has castigated his Tory colleagues at every opportunity.
Up against Mr Cable is a poster-woman for the modern Tories. Dr Tania Mathias is a local councillor in Richmond and is also an NHS doctor. If David Cameron could have a perfect candidate, it would be Dr Mathias.
The Lib Dems have a strategy to hold on to their existing seats and abandon almost every other constituency. This worked a treat in the Eastleigh by-election, and it had been assumed that where the Tories were the Lib Dems’ principal opponents, the job would be much easier.
But with the Lib Dems now averaging around 7 per cent in the polls, it has reached a point where no seats are safe for them. Add to this the fact that the Tories are likely to lose seats to Labour and are seeing votes leak away to Ukip – so they need to win other areas. This means they need to focus on former Tory seats such as that of Mr Cable and Michael Moore’s constituency of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.
It all means that the scrum from Twickenham’s more famous sport may then provide an appropriate metaphor for what is likely to be a brutal encounter in the next six months, with the two parties pushing hard against one another and occasionally trading blows as the fight for political survival gets dirty.
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