Since my friends and I failed so lamentably to identify Tim Collins earlier this month, in a Guardian quiz on the composition of the Shadow Cabinet, I’ve been doing my best to keep up, mostly through regular visits to timcollins.co.uk, where you can read gripping stories like this or this. What appears on the website mostly focuses on celebrating his tireless work on behalf of his Cumbrian constituents, though, and this is of less interest to someone like me who isn’t really interested in Cumbria, and who has become convinced that Collins’ talent overflows his constituency boundaries and deserves a more prominent role on the national stage.
Which was why I was very pleased to hear Tim Collins on the Today Programme this morning, discussing the forthcoming votes on the leadership of the Conservative Party. Selected highlights appear below.
A couple of things to remember are (i) that Mr Duncan Smith had earlier suggested that his critics were cowards, since they weren’t going public with their plotting, so now that his critics were going public another line of criticism had to be developed; and that (ii) this interview went out shortly after 8am this morning, and that by 9.30am, Sir Michael Spicer had told IDS that the twenty five names were in the bag, and that he’d have to submit to the confidence vote. The interviewer is Jim Naughtie, and this is my own transcription, so no promises of strict accuracy down to the last syllable.
Q: Mr Collins, good morning to you.
Q: Francis Maude has now come out as an opponent of Mr Duncan Smith’s. That may well encourage some others to do the same. Do you believe that the twenty five letters will go in, or not?
–No I don’t, and, to put this in context, it’s been an open secret around Westminster that for weeks, indeed, very possibly for months, Francis has been briefing against the Leader, has been seeking to organise efforts to destabilise him. I think, frankly, it’s a mark of desperation on his part that he’s has felt that has to come out and out himself this morning, because I think that that indicates that he and his colleagues are not confident of getting the twenty five names they have promised so many times by tomorrow evening.
Q: Do you think Mr Duncan Smith will survive?
–I do. We’ve heard from the plotters, or the intriguers, or however you want to call them, we heard two weeks ago that it was going to be within days, we heard last week it would be by the week-end, at the weekend that it would be by Monday, yesterday they told us it would definitely be by Wednesday. Iain took exactly the right decision, a bold and courageous decision, to say, “Now, come on, either you can do it by Wednesday evening or it will be clear that, frankly, you’ve been bluffing.”
Q: If you’re right, and if the twenty five letters don’t go in, what sort of condition will it leave Mr Duncan Smith’s leadership in after the last six weeks?
–Well, I think actually the position is moving potentially, decisively in Iain’s favour over the last twenty four hours, because there’s no doubt that the last few weeks [sic] the one thing every Conservative has been agreed on, whether it’s in the grassroots or in Parliament is that we can’t carry on like this. Now Iain is now the person who is charting a way by which we can bring this process to an end. If it is clear by tomorrow evening, as I hope and believe, that he has faced down his critics, exposed them as a very small minority, not even able to get fifteen per cent of Conservative MPs to call for a vote of confidence, then I think his position will be immensely strengthened, and that he’ll be able to go on from that to make whatever changes he’s believes are appropriate so we can prepare for the next election…
He ends by saying that since the plotters are having so much trouble assembling twenty five letters to force the ballot, he really doesn’t think they’ll be able to get the eighty-plus they need to topple IDS.Sadly, if Mr Duncan Smith does go down in flames tomorrow, that may be the end of Tim Collins’s Shadow Cabinet career, unless dribbling rightists are in demand under the new regime. We shall see. These are interesting — and entertaining — times.