“David Cameron had discussions with Greg Dyke, starting at the end of last year, about the prospect of becoming a candidate for Mayor of London. These discussions included the possibility of being a joint Conservative Lib-Dem candidate. Throughout this, our aim has been to get the maximum number of good candidates to stand to give London a real choice. However, Ming Campbell said that he was not allowed to go ahead with any form of joint candidate, irrespective of the merits of the candidate, because of their Constitution. In any event, Conservative Party members in London would have been given a say in the process. The primary process for the selection of our candidate is continuing. Over 40 people have already applied to take part in our open primary and we will be announcing the process shortly.”
So he confirms the story was true. Ming Campbell's total rejection was interesting as well as slightly mealy-mouthed. He took the high moral ground and said that it would deprive the electorate of a choice. Not exactly what the LibDems thought when they withdrew their candidate against Neil Hamilton or Richard Taylor in Kidderminster was it? On those two occasions they were quite happy to deny the electorate a choice.
But don't get me wrong. I am delighted Greg Dyke will not be standing under a Conservative banner, essentially because it would have been a fraud on the electorate. He isn't, after all, a Liberal, let alone a Conservative. He's a damned Socialist! How anyone on the Cameron team could have thought this was a good idea baffles, as well as horrifies me. I've made clear in the past that I support their 'big tent' policy, but this is a step too far, even for me.
And what message does it send to the other candidates who have already started campaigning? Several have given up their jobs to seek the nomination, yet they have essentially been told by the party that they are not good enough. Well the party will now have to make do with them because it is quite clear that no one else will come forward.
Of course, the nightmare scenario now is that the LibDems persuade Greg Dyke to stand for them. How could the Conservatives then criticise someone they had been seriously talking to about standing under their banner? With difficulty, that's how.
The only person chuckling into his whisky glass tonight will be Steven J Norris. Cometh the hour...