Author Archives: Andy Boddington

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

NHS Strikes – view from the back of an ambulance

It is the season of goodwill, the season of health services being stretched to the limit and this year, the season of strikes, including amongst some of our most dedicated health professionals. Nurses and ambulance crews. The government having applauded nurses, health and care professionals on their doorsteps during the pandemic is spoiling for fight over wage increases. Promising no money.

That is one reason strikers are taking action. The need for some of them to go to food banks. The struggle to pay the rent or mortgage because pay has not caught up with the cost of living.

The other reason is the working conditions. The constant pressure in an understaffed, poorly managed health service. It never copes with demand. It is forever being reorganised but never seems to get out of crisis mode. It never has enough money.

Let me illustrate the issue through the case of Susan. Obviously not her real name.

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Old King Coal is back in Cumbria as the wind blows in favour of turbines

Old King Coal was a merry old soul,
And merry for coal was he,
He called for his mine, and he sold his soul,
Saying climate change is not for me!

(Misremembered nursery rhyme.)

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There has never been a place for racism: “We are all children under god’s sun”

This day cannot pass without commenting on those comments by a now ex member of the royal household.

I am sure I am not alone in having wanted to throw a brick at my radio, in my case an Alexa, listening to Radio 4 PM last night. The racist comments by Lady Susan Hussey were enough to make anyone angry. And then Petronella Wyatt defended her ladyship on the programme. It was sickening. There is no defence for racism. Wyatt’s defence was that Lady Hussey was old and that somehow excused it. No. It doesn’t. Many of my friends are elderly to the point of being ancient. They don’t have a racist thought in their heads.

Racism has no place in society.

 

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The horror of black mould in social housing

Some details in this article have been changed to ensure anonymity and safeguarding.

Last week, I got a message from a young woman with a two year old in a social property built around 1990. Her son had been seriously ill and in hospital with bronchial issues. She had been complaining to the housing managers about black mould for a long while. This case is proving to be the tip of the iceberg.

The death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in Rochdale has heightened concerns. Tenants have always known that black mould is dangerous to health but housing associations and councils have too often blamed the issue onto tenants or failed to make it a priority.

Since Rochdale, we have had a steady stream of cases coming in via messenger. A baby not yet two months old and returned home on oxygen into a house riddled with black mould. I can’t publish details or photos but they made me cry.

A decent home is fundamental to health and happiness.

We are getting a positive response from the housing associations. One chief executive, currently away, emailed me in the earlier hours to ask for the priority cases, which we have sent. There are many more.

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Loss and damage deal agreed at COP27 in glass half empty conclusion

It was always expected that a deal on tackling climate change and compensating for its consequences would go to the wire. And indeed, beyond the wire with the Conference of the Parties overrunning from Friday until an agreement early this morning.

There is still unpacking to do on what was achieved. But the glass is perhaps half full as the developed world has agreed to the principle of reparation for loss and damage for extreme climate events, such as the extraordinary flooding we have seen in Pakistan recently and the extreme drought in Africa and elsewhere. But the glass is at least half empty because there is no money on offer. That will have to decided at a future COP or decided on an ad hoc basis (which is what is done with overseas and emergency aid anyway).

The glass is very much half empty because there seems to have been no commitment to an ending of fossil fuel use, even among rich nations such as ours and the USA. The agreement today is for phasing down fossil fuel use, not phasing out. It is not clear that limiting global warming to 1.5° is now achievable. That of course will lead to more reparation payments, providing those countries responsible for most historical emissions pay up.

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Has Elon Musk broken Twitter?

When I want to know what politicians are saying, including Lib Dem MPs and peers, I turn to Twitter. When I want to get a message out to a broader community than my town (for which I use Facebook), I use Twitter.

But Twitter is in trouble. Serious trouble. That trouble goes by the name of Elon Musk.

True, Twitter was languishing. Failing to effectively monetise its product. Too many staff. Not enough innovation.

But Elon Musk’s shock and awe approach to managing a company he wasn’t that interested in running is weakening the Twitter brand and weakening its credibility. Mass sackings. Mass resignations. Mass closure of accounts. Defections to Mastodon. Record Twitter use but much of that criticising Musk and bemoaning what Twitter is becoming.

Will I join the mass movement and leave Twitter? Not yet. But I don’t rule it out.

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The Autumn Statement big lie – no more taxes

Well, who would have expected it? Hunt blamed the country’s current financial problems on Putin. Nothing to do with more than a decade of Tory mismanagement of the economy. Nothing to do with the disastrous Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss budget which he has now all but reversed. Our low growth rate and our troubles are caused by anything other than the Tories. Of course, we have are weathering bitter storms but the Tories left us unprepared for those storms. Now we must all pay the price.

The big lie of this budget is that there have been no tax rises. Tax rates haven’t gone up but people will pay more tax.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast makes grim reading. The UK’s inflation rate to be 9.1% this year and 7.4% next year, contributing to the squeeze on living standards. The UK is in recession and growth will slow.

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BBC Radio is 100 – but what is the future of world and local radio?

One hundred years ago today, the now British Broadcasting Company started broadcasting radio.

But what is the future of public service radio in and from the UK? The world is going digital but at a very unequal pace. Not everywhere can access digital services at an affordable price, if at all.

The BBC has announced major changes to its local radio service. Local broadcasting will be restricted to eight hours during weekdays – 6am to 2pm. After that, stations will switch to sharing programmes across a wider area. News will be gathered over larger areas. Along with the loss of local voices, there is likely to be a reduced focus on the very local news that BBC local radio excels in.

The World Service is reducing its commissioned and syndicated programming content in favour of more news, which is already becoming like a tape on an endless loop. I fear that, driven by budget cuts, we will become a less effective nation in communicating with the world, reducing our influence and our status as a mature democracy and a world leader.

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Morgan and Farron speak on rural levelling up

Rural issues are often sidelined in the Commons and in public policy. Yesterday, Tim Farron and Helen Morgan made significant contributions to the rural levelling up debate in the Commons chamber.

The debate, secured Selaine Saxby Conservative MP for North Devon, was sparsely attended but there were some strong speeches (Hansard).

Helen Morgan and Tim Farron highlighted the way that farming is being treated under the Conservative government, though the botched introduction of the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS) and trade deals. Rural transport was a major issue, trains, buses and access to rail stations. Hospitals of course featured. Ambulance delays. Bed blocking. The inability to attract staff because there is nowhere local and affordable to live. And the ever difficulty of getting a decent broadband connection in rural areas to allow businesses to thrive (I might add education and medical services to that list also).

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Have the Tories broken Britain?

To answer my own question. Probably. At least for the next several years. We have dispirited political party in charge. It seems to change its mind on policies as often as it changes ministers, while claiming it is in control and leading us forward. All the Conservative Party has done with its constant internal chaos is lead our country to the precipice.

A huge economy likes ours is not going to fall overnight. Or even fall. But there are many striving and burgeoning economies across the world that want a share of our cake.

The pain of Tory incompetence is soaring interest rates. Tax rises are promised. Public spending cuts are high on the agenda.

The Tory pain will be felt by those who owe money, in mortgages and other loans. Saving rates will increase but will be overwhelmed by inflation. People will lose their homes. Businesses will go under. The poor will inevitably remain poor, even poorer.

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COP27: If Sunak won’t go to Egypt, King Charles should

Alok Sharma lost his cabinet role shortly after Rishi Sunak picked up the keys to No 10 Downing Street. It was a shocking action. Sunak could have kept Sharma in place until after COP27. A simple act that would have shown the new prime minister’s commitment to the challenge the world faces as the atmosphere and oceans heat. It would have shown a mark of respect for one of Britain’s greatest champions in tackling climate change. Another simple act would be for the prime minister to attend COP27 for a day to show that Britain is not wavering on its commitments on easing climate change.

The industrial revolution began here in Britain, just up the road from me in Ironbridge. Its achievements are to be celebrated. Its consequences must now be mitigated. We, and the other nations most responsible for greenhouse emissions, must be at the forefront changing the way we work, the way the world works.

This is more a necessary transition than a painful transition. Of course, it costs money up front, but the payback of being ahead on technology change gave us the advantage more than two centuries ago. It should do so again.

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Liz Truss goes, the country and world breathes relief

Jeepers. We needed this. But we didn’t need the continued instability. Liz Truss has rightly resigned this afternoon. She had no credibility when elected. She had no credibility in her few days in office.

The procedures for replacing Truss are uncertain. The Tories after a summer that saw potential candidates for the Tory leadership tearing each other and the Tory’s ability to govern the nation, govern anything was trashed.

In a statement outside No 10 today, Liz Truss resigned. She boasted of her low tax, high growth economy. She has submitted her resignation to King Charles.

The new Tory leader and the prime minister will be decided within the next week (by the Tories).

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This fantasy government is now the stuff of nightmares

When we were children, we played games of fantasy. Believing we were nurses, fire fighters, astronauts. As adults we still play games, not always acting like we are grown up. The Conservative Party has become adept at this. It previously appointed a prime minister who fanaticised that rules didn’t apply to him. Its current fantasy prime minister claims she is running the country. And too many the party fanaticises that no matter what it does, people will still vote it into power.

Yesterday, the Conservative fantasy turned into farce. A pantomime. Party managers’ attempted to whip Tory MPs into voting in favour of fracking by turning it into a vote of confidence on Liz Truss. That failed big time, with around 40 Tory MPs failing to vote. Fracking is a contentious issue but for a prime minister to stake her job as prime minister on it when it was known that many Tory MPs will not support it was one of the most ill-considered decisions of modern government. And, as it proved, the stuff of nightmares.

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Lib Dem MPs on health crisis: government has got it badly wrong

One of the most stunning non-answers in the House of Commons of late was Liz Truss’s response to Daisy Cooper at PMQs yesterday on the danger of collapsing hospital buildings. The here today, and possibly gone tomorrow, prime minister either didn’t hear the question or did not know how to respond (Hansard).

In a debate in Westminster Hall, Daisy Cooper was again in action, this time on the preventive covid-19 drug Evusheld. This is a pre-exposure prophylactic drug administered by injections that gives a degree of protection against catching Covid-19. There are around half a million immunosuppressed people in the UK who could benefit from this treatment, including people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. But the government refuses to make it immediately available, instead waiting on a NICE review which may not conclude until well in 2023, after the expected winter surge in illness, including Covid and seasonal flu. Cooper said the government had got this “badly wrong”.

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Truss car crash interviews on BBC local radio on cost of living and fracking

Having absented herself from the media for days, the prime minister chose to defend her decisions and Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget on BBC local radio. Truss appeared on breakfast shows on BBC Radio Leeds, Norfolk, Kent, Lancashire, Nottingham, Tees, Bristol and Stoke. Her media advisers clearly thought local radio would be a soft touch with presenters more used to talking about a church fete. So very wrong. The interviews were sometimes excruciating. You could hear pauses at times, as she struggled to find her scripted reply and to remember which radio station was interviewing her.

First up for the prime minister was an interview with on BBC Radio Leeds. As the first of the day, it wasn’t so much of a car crash for Truss as the later interviews.

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The Conservatives no longer stand for a stable economy

Friday’s Kwasi-Budget was not officially a budget, despite being on of the most important fiscal statements since the Thatcher era. Because it was not a budget, it was not scrutinised by the Office of Budget Responsibility. That is yet another example of the Conservatives trying to circumvent processes designed to ensure that government’s act rationally.

This was a budget that will make top earners even more wealthy, while leaving the country and the poorest more impoverished. It was a budget based on the discredited myth of trickle-down economics. It was a budget that will allow wealthier people to dine out in style while those on the breadline scramble for crumbs.

This is an idealist budget driven by a leader who is beginning to make Margaret Thatcher look left wing.

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Davey: We have most right wing government in modern history

In an interview with the Guardian yesterday, Ed Davey discussed Liz Truss’s administration ahead of tomorrow’s budget that is not a budget. He said of Truss:

She is saying some of the most extraordinary ideological things. She has appointed probably the most right wing government in modern history. And it seems completely out of touch.

He said Truss’s decision to style Friday’s announcement as a “fiscal event” rather than a budget seemed to be aimed at preventing the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) scrutinising its impact.

The failure to have an OBR assessment shows the economy is being run by ideology, not a plan. They clearly don’t want the evidence, because that would be unhelpful to their argument. And that should trouble everybody.

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Fracking go ahead is not a coherent energy policy

Jacob Rees Mogg announced to the Commons today: ”I am glad to be able to announce that the moratorium on the extraction of shale gas is being lifted.”

This is a bizarre announcement driven by ideology that has no basis in science or economics.

It has long been apparent that Liz Truss lacks environmental credentials and ambitions. She doesn’t even have Margaret Thatcher’s grasp of global warming (who was the only prime minister in my lifetime to have a science degree). This a government that is not scientifically literate. It is parliament that is not scientifically literate with just 17% of MPs having science, engineering, technology and medicine higher education (STEM) qualifications. That compares to 46% of higher education students qualifying in 2019.

Rees Mogg said today that fracking will help with the energy crisis. He seems to think that getting shale gas is no more difficult that turning on a tap. The blunt reality is there not enough gas to make fracking viable in the UK and what there is, is difficult to extract. And that can’t be done overnight and the founder of Cuadrilla Resources, which had wells halted in Lancashire, says no sensible investors would risk embarking on large fracking projects in the UK.

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It has been a week like no other

The queue is more than four miles long with waiting times of nine hours as I write. Nothing like this has happened in my lifetime. Certainly, it has been a week like no other like no other in living memory. Perhaps like no other. The sudden and dramatic death of Princess Diana created an unprecedented outpouring of grief and astonishing scenes in the capital as crowds flocked to be in London. To camp in the parks. To put flowers on the trees. But it does not match what is happening in London today.

The arrangements after the death of Queen Elizabeth II were well rehearsed. Like many deaths it was not unexpected but the timing was unknown. Her last duties as Mary Reid said earlier, were to accept the resignation of the outgoing prime minister, Boris Johnson and the incoming prime minister, Liz Truss. Perhaps we will never know Her Majesty’s views on the prime ministers she agreed could the lead country, or those leaders from around the world she must have met with gritted teeth behind the famous smile.

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Should parliament sit through the conference recess?

Parliament returns from the summer recess on Monday with a new Conservative Party leader and, shortly afterwards, a new prime minister when the Queen gives her approval at Balmoral.

The details and consequences of those events will be discussed here on Lib Dem Voice. And just about everywhere else. But the Commons will only sit for 14 days from the end of the summer recess before it takes a month’s break for the party conferences. Some of the conferences. MPs will sit for two days during the Lib Dem conference.

The summer recess lasted for 53 days. Nearly two months at a time of growing national crisis, around 30 sitting days. The Lib Dems called for a recall of parliament during the summer recess, including to act on the energy price hikes.

MPs need their holidays, as do their staff and civil servants that support them. But while the Conservatives have been distracted while they gaze at their political navels, the nation has not been distracted. The world is more unstable than before the war in Ukraine and the tensions in the Asia Pacific. The cost of living crisis is getting scary. Very scary. There are issues to be resolved that cannot wait until after the conference season

MPs could sit for 11 additional days in between the party conferences, three more if parliament sits on a Saturday. We should be calling for that.

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On Artemis and Pakistan

Pakistan floods. A thousand, possibly thousands of lives ended. Homes and businesses destroyed. On the other side of the world, billions are being spent on trying to get back to the moon and onwards to Mars.

But does the world, even among the rich nations, have enough money to pay “to boldly go” while countries flood, suffer drought and people starve? Isn’t more important to give relief and tackle the real horror of our age, climate change?

But if we lose the lose our sense of adventure, the desire to explore, the need to imagine, will we ever solve the world’s problems?

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Holiday Oddities

Holiday Oddities

It is bank holiday weekend in the UK. Around the world conflict, droughts, floods and other crises continue unabated. UK government has ground to a halt while the Tories fight amongst themselves unwilling to recall parliament and unable to govern. To get away from that as much as we can, here at Lib Dem Voice Towers we have been looking at recent silly season stories. Some are funny, some stupid, some sad, some tending on the serious and some very scary.

In compiling this compendium, we have consulted with Larry, the No 10 cat. He says that if the prime minister had not been on a one jolly after another, he could have kept the country laughing for weeks. Larry is of the opinion that it is the job of a prime minister to keep us all amused, which is why Teresa May didn’t last long.

If you have your own silly season stories, whether political or not, please add them to comments.

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Are Lib Dem concerns different from the Tories and Labour? Tory yes, Labour not so much

Most of us have gotten fed up with the deluge of opinion polls of late. On top of the usual run of surveys, there are all those surveys for the leadership election. Many seem designed to fill newspaper columns rather than advance the debate or help the unrepresentative few chose the next prime minister.

But two surveys caught my eye this week. A YouGov tracker illustrates what we know or perhaps guess about political priorities. Voters for all three parties believe that the economy is the most important issue, with the greatest concern among Lib Dems. But fewer than a quarter of Tories think that the environment in among the top three issues facing the country, compared to half of Lib Dems and Labour voters. There is not a huge difference between the parties on concern about health but the Lib Dems are the most concerned. When it comes to being concerned about immigration and asylum, the Tories are in a league of their own.

Another YouGov survey for Times Radio shows that Lib Dems prefer to shop at Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. Labour supporters prefer Asda and Morrisons. As for the Tories, they are all over the place.

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The politics of cats

Cats have become political. No wannabe prime minister who would dare suggest they did not like cats, though Rishi Sunak has yet to declare. Budding politicians no longer kiss babies but they do stroke cats. Even Sir Ed Davey kneels subserviently in the presence of cats.

There are people who believe that cats should be locked up to preserve wildlife. Indeed, the majority of American cats are not allowed outdoors, a move encouraged by the American Bird Conservatory and others. The EU has dismissed restrictions on the right of felines to roam, though one German town has implemented a summer ban.

Wildlife is under pressure. Although the RSPB says there is no scientific evidence that cats are responsible for the decline bird populations in the UK, it is perhaps only a matter of time before politicians are lobbied to keep all cats indoors.

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Water shortages are not just the fault of the weather or climate

Areas of southern England and parts of continental Europe are now in officially in drought. Taps ran dry in Northend in Oxfordshire. The source of the mighty River Thames shrank back to more than five miles from its source near for the first time in memory. Hosepipe bans are in force and people are advised to reduce water use.

Although there is now some rain in some areas, the water deficit in the soil is now so great a couple of days rain will do little more than revive those flagging garden plants and maybe perk up the lawns we seem to love so much.

This is not 1976 and we are unlikely to see standpipes in the streets at any point. But the current shortages do show how our water system is being pushed to the limits.

This article asks the question, why is England and its water companies so unprepared?

Climate change has made drought more likely but it is not the only factor behind the water shortages. A lot of the issues lie with the effectiveness of the water regulator Ofwat, the lack of a clear government strategy for new water resources and the lack of investment by water companies.

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North Shropshire Lib Dem election HQ saved from flames

Phew! What a scorcher! That’s a phrase we have rarely heard in the UK since 1976. Here in Shropshire, the Shropshire Star reported yesterday seven combine harvester fires over the last week. There have been a at least a couple of more fires since, including at Soulton Hall.

Soulton Hall has a particular place in the history of the Lib Dems and our current fightback against the Tories. After the enforced resignation of Owen Paterson amid a typical Tory scandal, Soulton Hall became the base for Helen Morgan’s successful campaign to replace him.

Two days ago, farmer and Lib Dem supporter Tim Ashton was combining a wheat field. The combine harvester developed problems. Tim quickly realised that quenching the subsequent fire was “like using a thimble to bale an ocean”. The fire was at risk of spreading to the nearby historic Soulton Hall. Working with a neighbouring farmer, a firebreak was created and Shropshire Fire & Rescue arrived to dowse down the wreckage. A small area of crop was lost along with the combine but Soulton Hall and part of Lib Dem history was saved.

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Truss looks to be the winning loser in Cheltenham races

Max Wilkinson, who wrote earlier today on LDV about the Cheltenham navel gazing, features in today’s Guardian. Political correspondent Peter Walker wrote:

“Sitting in a town centre pub converted from an imposing former courthouse, Max Wilkinson, a local Liberal Democrat councillor who competed against Chalk in 2019 and will also fight the next election, says the imminent change of leader has not overly changed voter sentiment…

In 2019, the incumbent Tory MP, the former solicitor general Alex Chalk, held off the Liberal Democrats by just 981 votes, and one local Conservative conceded they expect to lose the seat by 5,000-plus votes next time.”

That’s positive news but the tortuous leadership election must end first. (Please let it end soon!)

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Conference: Morgan calls on Lib Dems to stand up for rural communities

One of the Lib Dems’ newest MPs, Helen Morgan has put forward a motion on supporting rural communities to Conference in September. The wide ranging motion, which will be summated by Richard Foord, calls on delegates to agree that rural areas should no longer be taken for granted and that the Liberal Democrats are best placed to help them. It says the government should introduce a price cap on heating oil and other off-grid fuels and expand the rural fuel duty relief scheme to be doubled and to cover more areas. It also calls for ministers to protect rural childcare providers with a package of support and provide emergency funding available to ambulance trusts to reverse or cancel closures of community ambulance stations.

Speaking exclusively to Lib Dem Voice, Helen Morgan said:

Those of us who live in rural areas like Shropshire are all well aware of the poor state of our services – from health to transport to broadband and policing.

The Conservatives have taken us for granted for far too long. My election was proof that people have had enough and want to be represented by a party with their interests at heart.

The UK cannot properly be levelled up without its rural areas being included.

The full motion is below.

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The beautiful game is coming home but not in politics

Trollies are being wheeled out of supermarkets stacked with booze. The BBQs will tomorrow be lit to sear burgers and sausages to the point of incineration. It’s party time because it’s coming home. And the final is against Germany, our nation’s favourite enemy in what used to be called the beautiful game.

Today’s newspapers are not only full of coverage of the Lionesses, they cover the other contest gripping the nation (or probably not). The battle to become Tory leader and the prime minister of our nation. With the backing on Ben Wallace and Tom Tugendhat, Liz Truss probably thinks it’s all over. It is not over until the final whistle.

I think most of us wish it was over. Why has the Tory party imposed this lengthy torture on us? It’s a huge home goal for the party, which is showing itself in the worst possible light.

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Tories think the only way to win is to be like Lib Dems

If you can’t beat them, imitate them. Is that to become the new motto of the failing Conservative Party? Or should I say flailing party because it’s leaders and members are hitting out at everyone while disregarding their own failures to their party and the country and the world.

With local elections coming up in many parts of the country next May, a Tory councillor has been giving advice on how to get elected. Much of the advice could have come from Paddy Ashdown. Correction. Much of the advice does come from Paddy Ashdown.

In an extraordinary fess up that the Tories have been getting campaigning wrong for decades, Croydon councillor Mario Creatura said over on Conservative Home: “We must use the Lib Dems’ tactics against them.”

Creatura misses a vital point. In order to use “Lib Dem tactics” you need to think like a Lib Dem. You can copy and paste a philosophy and campaigning style that has taken decades to develop into a blog post but you cannot hope out of touch Conservative candidates who expect to be elected by right will suddenly be transformed into local activists.

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    Fully support this article....
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