With Tory Nigel Evans charged with sexual offences against seven men, party campaigners will have maintained a keen interest in the possibility of a by-election in Ribble Valley since his initial arrest in May. But as the only credible challengers in the event of a conviction for the (now former) deputy speaker, the UKIP operation in the seat is in disarray.
Party spinners have been away briefing that they are in with a chance:
“A conviction would almost certainly force him to resign [his seat], however, and the UK Independence Party has suggested it would hope to do well in any by-election.”
Indeed, an August council by-election in the constituency’s main town of Clitheroe would have provided fertile soil for UKIP to test their ground operation — if it weren’t for the fact that their lynchpin activist in the area, errrr, quit the party and stood as an independent.
Steve Rush, the party’s Westminster candidate in 2010 and former Lancashire vice-chair demolished Tory opposition in the Littlemoor by-election, securing second place as the Lib Dems surged to victory. UKIP didn’t even bother standing a “paper candidate” with nominal campaign support.
Though Rush might well have been forced to step aside for any hypothetical future contest, the state of UKIP in Lancashire’s wealthiest enclave does not augur well for Nigel Farage’s parliamentary ambitions.
Evans is bailed to appear before Preston Magistrates’ Court on 18 September.
Last week’s own goal in which a council leader remarked that the Conservative shadow cabinet “haven’t run a piss-up in a brewery” has renewed the promotion hopes of one Tory backbencher. Positions within licensed industry bodies have raised the prospect of a return to the front bench for former shadow Welsh secretary Nigel Evans.
Speaking exclusively to Political Scrapbook the MP for Ribble Valley said:
“With my varied roles as vice-chair of the All-Party Beer Group and president of pub safety group National Pubwatch, I have most certainly run a piss-up in a brewery.” – Nigel Evans
Friends of Evans claimed last night that several hospitality events the MP had helped to organise took place on brewery premises. A source within CCHQ has confirmed that Team Cameron are looking at ways his experience could be utilised in government, with the possibility that Evans could fill a new role as “Piss-Up Czar”.
Trebles all round!
Tory minnow Nigel Evans MP has been happy to hide in the shadow of frontbencher Alan Duncan in the wake of their unguarded comments on expenses.
What an opportune moment to revisit Evans’ pious remarks on the expenses scandal, which were posted on his parliamentary website:
Even though I was the 570th lowest spending MP out of 646 I am hardly complacent concerning the rot at the heart of our system … These rules now need to be torn up and replaced with something which is not tainted with the murky smog of snouts in troughs.
Snouts in the trough, eh? Scrapbook wonders what those Ribble Valley constituents living on minimum wage make of the following statement, which was secretly recorded in the Houses of Parliament:
“Got to have a second income, mate, couldn’t survive on £64,000″
As he is teased about “trading down” in his choice of drink, Mr Evans adds:
“This is what it has come to now – actually, I’m paying, that’s what it has come to.”
Evans told the Lancashire Telegraph he was being “ironic”. Talking of irony, Evans concluded the article on his website with the following:
I do hope that this same transparency which has acted as a catalyst for urgent change of MPs allowances will be introduced into every corner of public life.
One assumes being filmed secretly by Heydon Prowse wasn’t the sort of transparency Evans had in mind!