Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Is this Tessa a bad investment?

Thursday is D-Day for a number of reasons.

Firstly, we'll get the report from Gus O'Donnell as to whether the Culture and Media Secretary has broken the ministerial code. Don't expect tabloid-style damnation from Sir Gus - that's not the Civil Service way. Most of the damage will be in things unsaid, but unless the Cabinet Secretary can lay this one to rest convincingly, then the rumours will continue to spread and Tessa will end up committing the worst ministerial offence - she'll become the story. I have to admit that the omens aren't good and unless the media sharks find a new target, she'll end up going - the pressure of the story and of further revelations will demand it. According to the BBC, they have a letter from Mr Mills to his accountant:
"I told no lies, but I turned some very tricky corners which kept Mr B out of a great deal of trouble." He says that $600,000 was put into a hedge fund and refers to "the person connected to the B organisation". Later he says: "I regarded the payment as a gift - what else could it be?"

Even if what happened with the hurried remortgage and subsequent clearance of the debt is all in order technically, it doesn't feel right and has overtones of the dying days of the Major government, mired in sleaze. She'll be lucky to make it to the weekend before she resigns, doubtless to focus on supporting her husband.

The other event on the horizon is the finishing post for the leadership election in the Liberal Democrats. All the ballot papers had to be in by lunchtime Wednesday and the result is due at 3pm on Thursday.

Guido is still calling it for Campbell ahead of Huhne - 53/47 with the Hughes second preference votes included. PoliticalBetting has been sat firmly on the fence for a few days, reckoning that it is too close to call - the latest betting chart just puts Campbell in as favourite, but it remains close. That's my honest answer still - although I'm still just about shading it for Huhne (largely as a contrarian approach to Guido, but also as an instinctive opinion).

All will be revealed over the next few hours.

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