Sources confirm Baker out of Libdem/Labour loop

More clues emerge in Guardian piece

While Nick Clegg has been keen in the last 24 hours to wash his hands of any Coalition ideas, as The Slog has been saying for weeks, there is much more going on behind the headlines.

Last week The Slogger spoke to Norman Baker, the Libdem anti-Blair conspiracy theorist. There was, he assured me, no cross-bench contact between his Party and Blairite Labour. This was a surprise, as sources had identified its existence several times to The Slog.
In the intervening period, those sources have been happy to seal Baker’s fate as a future player in the Party. “Norman’s out of the loop” said one,”He’s no idea what’s going on. He may even retire this time.”

In a scoop bigger than most people realise today, The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour and Nicholas Watt homed in on the Constitutional element of what’s going on. Referring to the ‘Miliband’ option in the event of a hung Parliament, they describe how an opening condition for Libdem post-election cooperation would be to remove Brown and allow the Queen to appoint David Miliband Prime Minister.

The Slog has always maintained that Miliband pulled out of the Hoon/Hewitt putsch when it became clear the battle was lost. We have also consistently argued that Anyone But Gordon is alive and well…and that this group has been meeting Libdems informally for some time.

“Miliband bottled it after the Hoon thing” said a senior Ministerial source this morning, “But there are still many working to ensure Miliband will be the successor.”

Among these, we hear, are a former prominent person, and a peer of the Realm. These two old chums still believe that victory can be snatched from Gordon’s clenching jaw….but not if Labour is entirely routed – after which the Hung Parliament/Miliband option would be academic.

Lord Mandelson, a Labour source explained, “is always three moves ahead. The thought of a post-election civil war about the leadership horrifies him. The constitutional back-door appeals to him greatly”. Astonishingly, this was said without irony.

A senior civil servant confirms this picture of Mandelson’s likely intentions. “Peter is absolutely in his element at the moment. He’s put Balls back in his box, and hopes to salvage a stalemate from the disaster that has been Gordon’s time as PM. It’s the sort of intrigue he adores.”

Clegg is playing what he thinks a clever game of ruling out seats in a coalition Cabinet. It’s about as clever as not booking seats on the Titanic after inside information from the iceberg – however, again he is displaying more maturity as the meltdown saga unfolds. But here too, our regular Libdem mole observes, “There is no way we would do the Miliband thing unless there really was no alternative. Nick’s preference is for the Tories, and a deal on education.”

Junior Libdems are less enthusiastic. The mole added: “They and the grassroots think we should shoot for a lot more. And the Libdemvoice tendency will have a fit about any dealings with Cameron. At the end of the day, it’ll be down to circumstances. Nick’s too smart to ally himself with failure. He thinks the fair thing in the eyes of the electorate is to give the Tories a chance to hang themselves.”

Meanwhile, The Slog still has his 28-1 bet on a National Government before the end of 2012.