David Cameron insisted at the start of August that he would press ahead with a vote next year on constituency boundary changes – despite Nick Clegg’s vow to block the measure.
“It is a very sensible proposal and it will be put forward,” he declared, to widespread scepticism.
That firm line belies the belief in Tory circles that the boundary reforms – which would have helped the party’s chances at the next election – are now dead in the water. The plans were doomed the moment that the party abandoned Lords reform.
One rumour circulating right now is that Tory high command is already preparing to pick candidates for the next general election, as early as November, and that they will be on the old boundaries.
That would be interpreted widely as a signal of Cameron throwing in the towel.
I put the question to CCHQ which at first denied the theory and then refused to comment.
There is one argument as to why this would not necessarily mean that Cameron has given up on boundary reforms. In theory, the party could start to select scores of new candidates for the many constituencies which aren’t set for any major changes. (That is how Labour seems to be approaching the challenge.)
Also, the final boundary reforms aren’t complete until this autumn and not voted on (in theory) until the summer of next year. That gives the Tories a long time to let them wither on the vine.
After all, it would be virtually impossible for Cameron to win this without the vote of either the Tories or Labour.
So they may thrown in the towel in the run-up to Christmas – or they may maintain the pretence for another year.
The upshot either way: Cameron’s chances of outright victory in 2015 recede even further.