POLITICS
08/03/2012 14:46 GMT | Updated 09/03/2012 03:09 GMT

Chris Huhne's Eastleigh Seat Is A 'Target', Says Tory Chair Baroness Warsi

Baroness Warsi has said the Tories are ready to fight for Huhne's Eastleigh seat, if the former energy secretary is forced to resign after his trial for allegedly perverting the course of justice.

Speaking to the House Magazine Warsi, who chairs the Conservative Party, said: "It is a target seat and I think we would fight it hard and we would fight it to win. I don’t think the Lib Dems are dug in there. It’s winnable.

"We will do everything we can to win it. The fact that I was out campaigning in Eastleigh - I did an event there for members [recently] - means it is certainly a seat that we would fight.”

“The party is ready for any by-election at any time. When a by-election is called in Eastleigh then of course we will kick in to action.

"You’d expect political parties to keep an eye on those seats where there is a potential of a by-election, but… there’s a process in place, there’s a court hearing and a trial, we don’t know how long that’s going to take and we don’t know what the outcome of it is going to be… [but] if a by-election is called in Eastleigh then yeah, the party will be ready to cope.”

“I think the backdrop of how that election is called… it depends on what the outcome of the case is. The by-election could be called because, you know, Chris might stand down irrespective of what happens at the court case.”

Huhne allegedly persuaded ex-wife Vicky Pryce to take his penalty points for a speeding offence almost a decade ago. He denies all charges and is next due in court in May.

Since his prosecution the Tories haven't exactly been supportive of Huhne, with both the PM and education secretary Michael Gove making gags about the charges.

At a fundraiser for the Tories David Cameron joked: "So we had to speed to get here on time. It’s a good job Samantha was driving – or at least, that’s what it says on the forms!"

Two weeks later Michael Gove quipped at a lunch for journalists that he'd heard that Alex Ferguson was thinking of replacing Wayne Rooney with his wife Colleen in the front three of the Manchester United team, "because it's the wife that takes the penalties."

In the interview published on Thursday Baroness Warsi also suggested that the Tories have to cope with LibDem criticism of their policies:

“Politics is always there in the background, but sniping for the sake of sniping and opportunism…doesn’t go down well.

"It’s not good for team spirit: you’re either in it or you’re not in it, and if you’re in it you can’t be half way in it or you can’t say ‘I’m going to be in for the bits that I like and then not choose the bits that I won’t.

"Brits don’t like foul play," she said.

“We are the bigger and the stronger party in the coalition and therefore, to some extent, we bear the bigger responsibility to keep the coalition together. I also think that as a party, you know, we’re better than that.

"We can scream until we’re blue in the face about who did which bit of it but it is a joint record which we will take to the country - but what the country will also assess us on is how we behaved during that time when we were in coalition.

"The British people do not like bad team players, and ultimately I would rather be a good team player than a bad team player. Or I’d leave the team.”