THE public spat between Gerald Vernon-Jackson and Mike Hancock is the talk of Westminster.
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith says MPs see the two Portsmouth South election candidates as going at each other like ‘two rats in a sack’ and the situation has thrown the Lib Dems into ‘chaos’.
They were very close, and they have fallen apart and are at each other like rats in a sack, that’s what I hear, that’s what I hear in Westminster.Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith
Lib Dem Cllr Vernon-Jackson and independent Mike Hancock were allies until Mr Hancock admitted to forming an ‘inappropriate friendship’ with a vulnerable female constituent before going on to quit the party.
Speaking to The News during a visit to Portsmouth yesterday, Mr Duncan Smith said: ‘They were very close, and they have fallen apart and are at each other like rats in a sack, that’s what I hear, that’s what I hear in Westminster.
‘The liberals have got themselves in a mess with Mike Hancock and this constituency.
‘The party took a long while and couldn’t make up their mind about him (Mr Hancock).’
Mr Duncan Smith also challenged deputy prime minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to visit Portsmouth South and meet voters – and questioned why he didn’t after going to Eastleigh last week.
‘I was in Eastleigh two hours ago, and yet I’m here. So my challenge to Nick Clegg is, I managed to get here, so should you. It’s a pretty area, it’s the heart of the Royal Navy.
‘Or maybe, there is a problem here which is Mike Hancock and he doesn’t want people asking what is going on.’
But Mr Hancock rubbished the former Conservative Party leader’s comments.
‘That’s just not true, he is kidding himself,’ he said. ‘It’s Tory mischief making. I always got on well with him actually, he was never a problem to me.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson meanwhile did not want to be drawn into the issue.
‘People in this city will be interested to know from Iain Duncan Smith about the £12bn the Conservatives say they want to cut from the welfare budget, and yet they haven’t said to people where from.’
Mr Duncan Smith was in the city to support Flick Drummond’s campaign to become Conservative MP for Portsmouth South.
Steve Harris, Ukip’s candidate for Portsmouth South, said: ‘Those two were being like two rats in a sack in an interview they had on the radio. Flick Drummond was sitting between them, it was quite funny.’
But he added: ‘This campaign has turned into an auction, not an election.
‘Everyone is trying to be the highest bidder for your votes.’
Rivals hit out at manifesto
POLITICAL rivals have criticised the Tories’ newly unveiled manifesto.
Prime minister David Cameron revealed that if his party was returned to power it would double the existing free childcare provision for three and four-year-olds, saving parents £5,000 a year.
The Conservatives would also legislate to ensure no-one on the minimum wage would pay income tax.
A pledge was also made to extend Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy scheme to 1.3m housing association tenants.
But Ian McCulloch, Green Party candidate for Portsmouth South, said: ‘The huge number of people on social housing waiting lists today can be directly attributed to the failed Right to Buy policy.’
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem candidate for Portsmouth South, said there were better ways to spend public money.