Andrew Lansley, the Leader of the House of Commons, has had his path cleared for an appointment to the European Commission by the Conservatives comfortable by-election win in Newark.
Before the by-election the stumbling block to his appointment had been fear of losing his South Cambridgeshire seat. But in Newark the Conservatives proved their campaign machine had been significantly upgraded after the disasters of the past.
Whilst South Cambridgeshire had a majority of 7,838 at the 2010 General Election, which is less than Newark had, the Conservatives appear confident they would hold it. This is because it has a similar demographic profile to Newark and the party now feel able to out-campaign the other three parties.
Tory top brass would rather Lansley stayed on as an MP until close enough to the General Election for a by-election not to be required. However having the ability to run a winning campaign will make the transition significantly easier as it gives them options.
Lansley himself seems willing to take the job, he told the BBC’s Daily Politics: “My general approach is if the Prime Minister asks me, I want to say yes.” He refused to comment on whether the Prime Minister had already floated the role.
He was also keen to flaunt his euro-sceptic credentials, saying: “My record will say I have taken positions against entry to the euro. I have been very much against the idea of ever closer union and constant integration.”
Whilst Lansley is a friend of the Prime Minister he was perceived to have struggled in the role of Health Secretary, destroying his credibility as a serious player. He was moved to Leader of the House because David Cameron was not keen to sack him.
A move to Europe would clear a seat on the Cabinet, without the need for the Prime Minister to despatch his former colleague at the Conservative Research Department.
Yesterday, as reported on Breitbart London, Nigel Farage was upbeat about the party’s chances in future by-elections. He told journalists in Newark: “We have fought a damn good campaign here with a first class candidate and the people’s army of UKIP is getting more professional and better at fighting elections. All I can say is roll on the next by-election.”
The problem for UKIP is that this by-election is not in a marginal seat like Eastleigh and that would make it hard for them. A challenge by Farage himself in South Cambridgeshire could cause the Conservatives a real headache but that is unlikely as the UKIP leader has insisted that he will only run in his home county of Kent.
Lansley would be replacing Baroness Ashton of Upholland, who was effectively the EUs foreign secretary but she has now completed her term. It is unlikely that Mr Lansley would be appointed to such a senior position.