Author Archives: Andy Boddington

Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in rural Shropshire and edits Lib Dem Voice on Thursdays

Johnson: Imperious, impervious and delusional

Our prime minister is beleaguered, only he doesn’t know it. He told the press pack in Rwanda that he intended to remain as prime minister until the mid-2030s. With members of his cabinet scheming against him and negative approval ratings in opinion polls, that looks unlikely.

Both Johnson and some Conservative MPs are in denial about the message sent by the government by the public in Thursday’s twin by-election defeats. At least two of Tory MPs have blamed the Tiverton and Honiton defeat on the “girls” (MPs to you and me) that shopped Neil Parish for his tractor porn antics in the chamber. Another said they didn’t see the defeat coming because “people were lying on the doorsteps”. How out of touch can the Tories be?

Other MPs recognised that the bond of trust has been broken between the prime minister, the Conservative party and the voters: “People think he’s a liar and a shady bugger.”

As Richard Foord said on Thursday: “It’s time for Boris Johnson to go. And go now.” The departure of the “shady bugger” is long overdue.

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Roe vs Wade struck out as illiberal forces gain ground

There was no surprise about yesterday’s decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn the historic Roe vs Wade decision. The ruling, which ended half a century of constitutional protection for abortion, had been leaked the beginning of May. The ruling, from which three Democrat judges dissented, is expected to further divide the nation ahead of November’s midterm elections.

The verdict does not make abortion illegal in the USA but it does allow individual states to pass their own laws restricting abortion to the earliest weeks of pregnancy or situations such as rape.

The ruling is likely to stoke further tensions in a country that is increasingly polarised. It could also presage the overturning of other rights such as same sex marriage and access to contraception.

The Roe vs Wade decision dates to 1973, six years after Liberal MP David Steel introduced the Abortion Act as a private members bill in the House of Commons. Lord Steel has since argued for further liberation of the law. But abortion remains controversial in the UK with regular protests outside abortion clinics.

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Tiverton and Honiton: “It’s time for Boris Johnson to go” – Foord speech in full

In a calm, reasoned and powerful acceptance speech, newly elected Lib Dem MP for Tiverton and Honiton has a message for Boris Johnson:

Tonight, the people of Tiverton & Honiton have spoken for Britain. They’ve sent a loud and clear message: It’s time for Boris Johnson to go. And go now.

Ours is a great country and there’s no greater part of it than Devon. But every day Boris Johnson clings to office, he brings further shame, chaos and neglect…

I also have a simple message for those Conservative MPs propping up this failing Prime Minister: The Liberal Democrats are coming.

Foord said the cost of living crisis is hitting hard, including in Devon.

He also paid tribute to Ed Davey for his leadership: “You believed from the start that this result was possible. You rallied our troops and led from the front.” The contrast with Boris Johnson who shied away from meeting voters in Tiverton and Honiton was left unstated.

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Tiverton and Honiton & Wakefield aftershocks: Dowden goes (updated)

There will be news breaking throughout the day as the political establishment cogitates on the results of by-elections and fallout begins.

The first Conservative to fall on his sword is Oliver Dowden, until this morning chairman of the Conservative Party. He told Boris Johnson earlier this morning:

“Yesterday’s parliament by-elections are the latest in a run of very poor results for our party. Our voters are distressed and disappointed by recent events and I share their feelings. 

“We cannot continue with business as usual. Somebody must take responsibility and I have concluded that in these circumstances it would not be right for me to stay in office.”

Is Dowden a sacrifice to distract attention from the failures of Boris Johnson or are Conservatives finally saying enough is enough and walking away from the chaos at the head of the party and government?

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Tiverton and Honiton: “The Major from Uffculme” wins for the Lib Dems

Congratulations to Richard Foord and the Lib Dem team on a convincing win in mid-Devon. Richard took the Lib Dems from third place to a majority of 6,144 votes. It is a stonking win and with Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire completes a hattrick of by-election victories. Foord comfortably overturned the 24,239 majority won at the December 2019 general election by former Tory MP Neil Parish – who was forced to resign after he was seen viewing pornography in the House of Commons.

One resident is quoted by the Express as calling Richard Foord “the Major from Uffculme, a good local bloke.” That moniker might stick.

Tonight also saw local council gains in Highley, Kingston and Waverley.

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Tiverton and Honiton: Lib Dems call victory

3.00am. The count is still underway. The result not declared. But the Lib Dems are claiming victory in Tiverton and Honiton. Helen Hurford is reported to have locked herself in a room to avoid the media.

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Lib Dems take Highley in Shropshire

Some good news to begin the night while we wait for the Tiverton and Honiton result.

Congratulations to Mark Williams who takes Lib Dem number of the unitary Shropshire Council to 14, the second largest party. This was a hard fought campaign for a seat the Conservatives wanted to win, after they lost 12% of their seats in the 2021 all up council elections including the then council leader who was ousted by a Lib Dem. Late last year, the Conservatives lost the North Shropshire constituency to Helen Morgan.

Helen was among the large team of campaigners from across Shropshire and beyond that leafleted and canvassed in the constituency from the day the by-election was called after the resignation of an independent councillor.

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Food banks and posh nosh

On Monday, the Conservatives held their summer party fundraiser. The top lot was dinner with Boris Johnson and his rivals Theresa May and David Cameron. The Dinner of the Century – so-called to avoid inviting Johnson critic John Major – went for £120,000.

This was of course a fundraiser and at such events silly things go for silly prices. But the symbolism cannot be missed. Three prime ministers tucking into posh nosh with someone who has £120,000 in spare change while people are struggling to feed themselves and queuing for the food bank.

News of the Dinner of the Century broke on Wednesday, the day before 36 Shropshire organisations, including councils, food banks and support groups, published an open letter on the cost of living crisis. They are pleading for more help for rural communities, for longer term help and for those in relative comfort to think of ways they can help others.

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The polls open in Tiverton and Honiton, Wakefield and local by-elections

It is 7.00am and the polls have opened in the two headline by-elections of today. The Lib Dems have been prioritising their efforts in Tiverton and Honiton in mid-Devon, with hundreds of activists and most of the party’s MPs turning out to deliver leaflets and knock on doors. Labour’s interest of course has been in Wakefield where it hopes to begin taking back the Red Wall seats it lost in 2019.

Both by-elections were triggered by MPs resigned in disgrace.

Keir Starmer has said a victory in Wakefield “could be the birthplace of the next Labour government”. If Labour win, Starmer can face down his critics in the constituency and in the shadow cabinet who describe him as “boring”.

Ed Davey is under no such pressure – the Lib Dems having secured two impressive by-election victories in Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire within just over a year. He has been very active in all the campaigns, including in Tiverton and Honiton. He is also more social and comfortable with voters than Starmer appears to be.

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Tiverton & Honiton: Observer and Davey call for tactical voting

The Observer leader column today calls for voters in Tiverton and Honiton to vote tactically for the Lib Dems and voters to tactically vote for Labour in Wakefield.

In an editorial that does not pull its punches, the Observer describes Conservative MPs who voted to keep Boris Johnson in office as “morally myopic and politically foolish”.

“A double whammy of byelection defeats will frighten Conservative MPs in red wall seats and those traditionally true blue. A scare, the bigger the better, is exactly what the Tories need before this government slithers into even worse degeneracy.”

The newspaper says there is no shame in tactical voting. While “political outcomes are distorted by an antique and unfair first-past-the-post electoral system”, voting tactically is the only way to mobilise “the anti-Tory majority”.

The Tories are running scared and Johnson is running so scared he flew to Ukraine rather than face his own Red Wall MPs on Friday. But nothing is certain until the votes have been counted. It is time for that final push.

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Matthew Parris opines on how Lib Dems can win by wooing Tories

Columnist Matthew Parris has been wandering a bit in recent years, step by step getting further away from the Conservative Party which he once represented as an MP. He was MP for West Derbyshire from 1979 to 1986, leaving politics to pursue a career in journalism. Since then, criticism of the Tories and their pursuit of Brexit have two of the major themes of his columns. Parris left the Tories in 2019, saying he was going to vote Lib Dem.

The week before the North Shropshire by-election, he wrote:

“We’ve got a wrong ’un in Downing Street. Does anyone have the balls to dislodge this impostor, or must cowering Tory outsource their courage to the voters of North Shropshire next week?”

We know what happened in North Shropshire. Today in The Times, Parris turns his attention to the Tiverton and Honiton by-election.

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One week to go in Tiverton and Honiton!!!

I rarely use exclamation marks when writing, but it is getting exciting! Next Thursday voters in Tiverton and Honiton will be heading to the polls. And the polls say we are only a couple of per cent behind the Tories. Although, the bookies have us as favourites, there is no room for complacency. It is time to get to Tiverton and Honiton if you can.

The HQs will be open from 9am until 8pm:

  • Tiverton at 8-9 Mountbatten Road, Tiverton EX16 6SW
  • Honiton at 118 High St, Honiton, EX14 1JP

If you need or can offer a lift for volunteers on polling week, please complete this form.

Campaigning next week won’t be helped by the national rail strike. Although notionally for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, services are expected to be disrupted for the entire week and overcrowded when they operate. Cue traffic jams at the usual bank holiday pinch spots to am from the south west. However, we Lib Dems are not put off by such matters. We are at the point of winning and we must win. We must pull off the hattrick of three by-election wins in a row.

 

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Paddington Bear for ethics adviser after Geidt goes?

Wendy Chamberlain was being ironic last night when she said the only person who would now take on the job of ethic adviser to Boris Johnson’s government would be Paddington.

Last night, Lord Geidt’s resignation was a bit of a mystery. It was known that he was unhappy in his role because of the antics of the prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is his boss. Geidt had an uncomfortable session on Tuesday when he told the public administration and constitutional affairs committee it was reasonable to suggest the prime minister may have breached the ministerial code when he was fined during the Partygate scandal.

Today, we have the full correspondence between Lord Geidt and Boris Johnson. In his resignation letter, Geidt said he was being asked to judge on Johnson’s intention to risk a “purposeful and deliberate breach of the ministerial code” and he was not prepared to do that.

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Food strategy for England is a recipe to make you sick

Reading the government’s much vaunted food strategy released on Monday, I was remined of the school dinners of my youth. Bland. At times lumpy. And flavourless and unsatisfying. The only way you could eat the main course was with an unhealthy dose of salt, though the deserts were usually sprinkled with sugar. There are no restrictions on salt or sugar then (late fifties and early sixties) and there are to be none now.

Boris Johnson’s true instincts were made clear 16 years ago when, as shadow education spokesman, he praised parents who defied healthy eating moves: “If I were in charge, I would get rid of Jamie Oliver and tell people to eat what they liked.” He is now in charge and he has all but dismissed another chef, Henry Dimbleby, whose government commissioned report on a National Food Strategy recommended expanding provision of free school meals, a 30 per cent reduction in the amount of meat we eat and taxes on sugar and salt. But although Johnson seemed to be more interested in obesity after he caught Covid-19, the food strategy published on Monday shows he doesn’t have the stomach for dealing with it.

Faced with criticism at the weekend after the report was leaked last Friday, Boris Johnson said the solution to was not to “start whacking new taxes” but “to eat less”. The era of nudge policies seems long gone.

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Tiverton and Honiton: Hurford comes out of the cold

The battle is hotting up in Devon. The Conservative candidate Helen Hurford has this week come out from hiding and has been allowed to speak to the national media. The i has the story.

I couldn’t help raising a smile when Hurford started talking about herself in the third person: “Helen Hurford has a six-point plan to deliver… and she will fight with all the gusto and passion that she has.” That sounds like she was reading from one of her own leaflets or a script from CCHQ, only she had forgotten that it was about her.

In contrast to Hurford’s somewhat stilted comments, Richard Foord comes across as quietly confident. Maybe I am biased, but as this juncture in a by-election we can win, I think we are entitled to be a bit biased.

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Benefits to Bricks and Boris Bluster

This government is stuck on the letter “B”. Build Back Better. Bus Back Better. And now Benefits to Bricks. And, of course, there is the perennial Boris Bluster. The speech Boris Johnson gave in Blackpool on Thursday seemed to be more about keeping Johnson in his home at No 10 than getting others into homes. Although billed as a “housing speech” it was more a rambling justification for Johnson’s position. Although the main topic was meant to be housing, we heard of olive oil and bananas, Suez and Ukraine, inflation, policing, health, cost of living, riots and much more on the way to mortgages and a right to buy for social housing tenants.

We were told we are living in good times: “People don’t face the misery of the 1980s or 1990s”. Johnson failed to mention that all but three years of those decades were under Conservative governments. And that there wasn’t then a food bank in every community. And when he said, “Everyone can see and feel the impact on household budgets”, I briefly fantasised that he too was flat broke and was facing the cruel choice between fuel, heating and food.

This government is out of touch with how hard times are for many people. And that shows in its current announcements, including Benefits to Bricks.

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Two weeks to go in Tiverton and Honiton – we can get there, if you get there (or on the phone)

Local people are crying out for help but Boris Johnson simply isn’t listening. He’s more focused on trying to cling to power that helping struggling families.

That’s the message from Richard Foord, our Lib Dem candidate for Tiverton and Honiton. He said the Conservatives had taken the area for granted for decades and the party’s current infighting would mean further neglect.

The Telegraph today says: “This month’s vote takes place amid fears Sir Ed Davey’s Liberal Democrats are parking their tanks on the lawn of Boris Johnson’s party as they seek a third by-election scalp in the space of a year.” We should take that scalp (to use the Telegraph’s primitive language) and we can do so with a push over the final two weeks of our campaign. There are volunteer activities in the constituency and regular Maraphone sessions for those that can’t get there.

Please note that significant rail disruption is expected from 21 June until after the by-election.

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A great jubilee but what is the future of the monarchy?

As people return to work after a long bank holiday weekend and business in the Commons and Lords resumes, the difficult question must be asked, what is the future of the monarchy? Although the Queen’s popularity remains strong, the same cannot be said of her successor Prince Charles, especially amongst young people.

Compared to his mother and his son, Charles these days seems dated. It is hard to imagine him doing a sketch with Daniel Craig or Paddington Bear. Despite this, half of people expect him to a good job as monarch, though 75% think Prince William will do a good job.

There is no national mood to abolish the monarchy. But whether the monarch should remain the head of state is a more open question. Especially as Prince Charles has a track record of lobby ministers for his people obsessions. Should we move to a presidential system?

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Does 100 days of bloody war in Ukraine presage wider conflict?

One hundred days of fear. One hundred days of death. One hundred days of annihilation of cities, towns and villages.

It is 100 days since Russia launched its bloody wave of killing and destruction in Ukraine. The conflict in Ukraine is not a war somewhere off. It is in the biggest country in Europe and is on the delicate border between the EU and Putin’s Russian sphere of influence.

The impacts on Europe are immense and growing. From the need for countries such as Poland to house millions of refugees to the need to urgently rewire economies dependent on Russian and Ukrainian wheat and vegetable oil. And there is the vexed question of Russian gas and oil which props up some European economies and pumps funds back into the Kremlin’s murderous war machine.

Sanctions and reluctant measures to reduce dependency on Russian fossil fuels are having an impact. But like the supply of weapons, it is proving too little too late.

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Crown Imperial Madness

Yesterday was a day of pageantry, cheering crowds and an unforced display of respect for the monarch from many in our nation. Boris Johnson’s government has now crowned that achievement with proposals that will make the UK a laughing stock worldwide. Proposals to bring back imperial measurements fly in the face of modernity and the needs of enterprise. But they suit the needs of this out of touch government, which seems to believe that if we bring back crowns on beer glasses and allow grocers to sell only in imperial measures it will lift the popular mood.

Although this scheme is the brainchild of Jacob Rees Mogg, who seems to be living in the century before last, business minister Paul Scully is the fall guy who today is presenting the daftest idea to come out of any government’s stable in decades. Not so much Build Back Better as Build Back Backwards.

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Call for help this weekend in Tiverton and Honiton

Ed Davey, Sarah Olney and the by-election campaign team are calling for help in Tiverton and Honiton this weekend to ensure that Richard Foord is elected three weeks today. Postal votes land on doormats in just a few days. There are volunteer activities in the constituency and regular Maraphone sessions.

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Ben Bradshaw: Good prospects of Lib Dem Tiverton and Honiton victory

Former Labour culture secretary Ben Bradshaw has called for Labour voters to vote Lib Dem in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election on 23 June. Well, he almost did. In a carefully worded message on Westminster Hour and reported in the Independent, Bradshaw says:

“I think there are very good prospects of a Lib Dem victory.”

He says the only way to give the government “a kicking” is to vote Lib Dem:

“What some Labour members and activists don’t always appreciate is that a lot of Conservative voters, if they want to give the government a kicking will vote Liberal Democrat but they wouldn’t vote Labour.

“So if we have a joint purpose of wanting to send the prime minister a message and ultimately defeat this government in a general election then I think there are very good prospects of a Lib Dem victory there.”

I wonder how Liz Pole, chair of the local Labour Party and the Labour candidate for the seat feels about that.

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17 August 2022: Ambulance Domesday in West Midlands

If you live in the West Midlands and are going to fall ill, you better get on with it. Certainly, don’t leave it until 17 August because if you want an ambulance, you may not get one. That’s the apocalyptic prediction from a director of the West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS).

Ambulance provision in the West Midlands, as in many other areas of the country, has been struggling for a couple of years. There are endless stories of delays in ambulances reaching patients. Handover delays from ambulance paramedics at the county’s two hospitals, both maintained by the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospital Trust (SaTH), are among the longest in England. There are far too many reports of patients dying during these delays when they might have survived. Too many patients with worse health outcomes because they could not get to specialist treatment quickly enough.

Mark Docherty, Executive Director of Nursing and Clinical Commissioning at WMAS, this week told the media and the board members of the ambulance service that the whole West Midlands ambulance service could fail by mid-August.

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It’s my party and I’ll lie if I want to – Gray report

The evidence was overwhelming before today that Johnson had been to parties when they were barred by his own government’s rules. That’s bad.

With Sue Gray’s report now before parliament and the public, it is clear if it wasn’t before, that Johnson has repeatedly lied about parties and whether he attended any. That’s seriously bad.

Gray’s report has now been published. Thirty-seven pages. Nine photos. Vomiting, red wine on the walls, fighting, sitting on laps, karaoke, pizzas, prosecco, birthday drinks, sleeping in the office, overflowing bins, leaving drunk by the back door to avoid the press pack outside the front door, along with poor treatment of security and cleaning staff. Classic signs of parties but we have been repeatedly told that there were no parties, just meetings, and Johnson did not attend any parties.

Johnson is likely to survive this because Conservatives haven’t got the guts to remove him. Although perhaps the truth is that they have no one to replace him.

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Robb Elementary School shooting – will America ever get a grip on guns?

We woke to the grim news this morning of another mass shooting in a school in the USA. Nineteen young children and two adults died in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in south Texas. The gunman, eighteen years old, had purchased two assault rifles and used them for a mass slaughter before being shot dead by police.

President Joe Biden just back from Asia made an emotion speech.

“As a nation we have to ask when in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby. I am sick and tired of it – we have to act.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, reported to be close to tears, said:

“Every time a tragedy like this happens, our hearts break. And our broken hearts are nothing compared to the broken hearts of those families – and yet it keeps happening. So, I think we all know and have said many times with each other: Enough is enough. Enough is enough.”

 

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Ukraine won Eurovision. Now we have to win a war.

Eurovision is an acquired taste. Many people regard it as a pleasure. War is an enforced taste. Very few people regard it as a pleasure.

The win last night at the world’s most popular, and often cheesiest, song contest is a mood boost for Ukraine. The jury had put the UK entry, Space Man by Sam Ryder at the head of the pack. In an ordinary year, Sam Ryder would have given the UK the winner that has eluded it since Katrina and the Waves.

This is not an ordinary year. Last night’s event opened with a Rockin’ 1000 rendition of the anthem “Give Peace a Chance”.

The public vote, especially in Europe and Australia, was in favour of Stefania, performed by Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra. Without the war, this performance might have won in its own right. However, this was a night where politics blended with music. As the crowd roared its approval, Oleh Psiuk pleaded: “Please help Ukraine, help Mariupol, help Azovstal right now.” Ukraine duly won Eurovision for a second time.

President Zelensky said on hearing the result: “Our courage impresses the world. Our music conquers Europe! Next year Ukraine will host Eurovision!”

That’s ambitious but the world needs to do everything it can to ensure that ambition is fulfilled. That means winning a war first.

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Chamberlain and D’Souza launch food bank inquiry

There are more than 2,000 food banks in the UK and the number of food parcels they give out has risen enormously. The Trussell Trust, which represents 1,300 food banks, issued 2.1 million food parcels in 2021/22, a staggering increase on the 40,000 it issued in 2010.

Not everyone believes these statistics. Tory MP Lee Anderson for one. After a row brewed up over his Queen’s Speech remark that there was not a “massive” need for food banks in the UK, he told Times Radio: “The actual foodbank usage is exaggerated.” He is undoubtedly right that some people do not know how to cook but he is wrong that his local food bank insists on people having to sign up for a cooking course. And he is talking nonsense when he says that food bank use is exaggerated. As for his remark, “we can make a meal for about 30 pence a day, and this is cooking from scratch”, that is very hard to achieve in a home where cooking in bulk is not possible.

With such ignorance in parliament, it is timely that members hold an inquiry into the issue. On Wednesday, Wendy Chamberlain and Baroness D’Souza announced an inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ending the Need for Food Banks.

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Tiverton and Honiton: Pundits and voters favour Lib Dems

It is early days yet but the Lib Dems are firm favourites to win the forthcoming Tiverton and Honiton by-election. A hattrick of Lib Dem wins could be in the offing.

One betting odds checker puts our probability of winning at more than 70 per cent. The probability of Boris Johnson’s demoralised Tory party winning is given as 25 per cent. Mike Smithson of Political Betting said: “The pace and the betting has been quite extraordinary given that at GE2019 the LDs came in third 46% behind the Tories.”

A focus group for Times Radio earlier this week, reported in the Times this morning, found that voters in the Devon constituency who supported the Tories in 2019 are swinging towards the Lib Dems. The focus group had harsh words for Boris Johnson, referring to him as a lying buffoon, an idiot, liar, self-promoting arsehole and a selfish, greedy man. He continues to be the gift that keeps on giving to the Lib Dems.

 

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Lib Dems power ahead in Powys but not yet in control

In 2017, the voters in Powys elected 30 independent councillors, though that was down on previous elections. The Conservatives had 19 seats and the Liberal Democrats 13.

Today us Lib Dems have 24 seats, not enough to control the council but negotiations on how the council will be run are getting underway.

This is a major advance for the Lib Dems in the Welsh Marches. We have 14 councillors elected as Lib Dems in Shropshire, including seven in the south west, which is next door to Powys.

 

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Wow what a night! (7.30am)

If you are just waking up, the news is the Conservatives are suffering losses, though they are not so far as great as some predicted. Labour is doing well in London having taken the former Tory strongholds of Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet but not as well elsewhere.

The Lib Dems and Greens made gains at the expense of the bigger parties. And the Lib Dems have regained control of Hull! All the results so far are for councils in England. Scotland and Wales will begin counting shortly.

The leader of Hull’s Liberal Democrats Mike Ross told Radio 4 in the early hours: “It’s been a great night for the City of Hull.” It has been a great night for the Lib Dems too.

Just before 7.30am this morning, we had 257 seats, a gain of 57. In the New Statesman earlier in the week, Ben Walker predicted that Lib Dems would gain 41 seats in England at the best. We passed that benchmark before 5:00am.

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