Heart of England, reject the Tories now

Perhaps we should have known. The Witney constituency is West Oxfordshire, a quiet, beautiful farming area of fields dotted with golden-stone villages and small towns. It is an area for hunting, real ale and country dancing. Among the little towns is Chipping Norton. And Chipping Norton became identified with a ‘set’, including David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks – and you remember then about the News of the World and the phone-hacking scandal.

Probably we should have been wary. ‘O Rose, thou art sick!’ wrote William Blake. But there was a rose garden in 2010, and two good-looking Englishmen, who together would lead our country forward through deficit-reduction to prosperity.

It looked good and David Cameron seemed to promise well. But as we know now, Nick Clegg in those Coalition years had to moderate the predatory grasp of the Tories, who neither knew nor cared about the decline of the standard of living of ordinary folk, and the devastation caused by the welfare cuts. The Liberal Democrat ministers did help the poorest wage earners and the most disadvantaged children, but they could not make themselves heard in the country.

Then came May 2015, and a temporary triumph for Cameron. (Where is he now?) The shattered Lib Dems began to see their work eroded in all directions. But worse was to come in 2016. The Prime Minister called the Referendum, to pacify his right-wingers and shoot the UKIP fox. As has been well said, it was he who got us into the current mess. And the country ceased to be governed in any real sense while everyone campaigned.

Then the Tories were shown up for their bad judgements, and worse. Cameron fronted the Remain campaign without conviction, and with no attempt to defend immigration, having promised cutbacks in numbers as improbable as Osborne’s successive Budget pledges had been. Boris Johnson, the untruthful journalist, the ex-London Mayor, consented to lead the Leave campaign without conviction, but with a personal prize in mind. He had a lieutenant, another ex-journalist, Michael Gove, and together they fronted a deceitful campaign, with misleading information brazenly published on the campaign bus. It was not honourable conduct.

Nor was it honourable when one stabbed the other, and tried to claim the prize for himself. But the Tories, with the swift instinct for killing trouble of the hunting set, thinned the field and rapidly chose Teresa May to lead them and be our unelected Prime Minister. She spoke fair words on her accession, as had Maggie Thatcher. But Boris Johnson, who should have slunk away in ignominy, was elevated by May to be our Foreign Secretary. That was not honourable conduct. It concluded a chapter of shame and incompetence that has left our country in the lurch.

We have been shamed by these Tories. The Witney constituency lies at the heart of England. So may the golden-stone land that I have lived in and loved begin the cleansing process. Refuse a Tory successor to Cameron, and elect a woman who can be an honest servant of the people, the Liberal Democrat Liz Leffman.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Cumberland.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Richard Underhill 2nd Oct '16 - 12:24pm

    And have some fun. The satirist at the end of Peston on Sunday was brilliant. Well done ITV, still free-to-air.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 2nd Oct '16 - 2:59pm

    I keep seeing this comment that TM is unelected. She was elected by her constituents and then by her party. We don’t have a presidential system here & that was all that she was required to be elected by.

  • @Graham
    She was elected by Tory MPs, not the party, in an election which would have been dismissed as a farce if it had happened in any other party.

  • Allan Brame 2nd Oct '16 - 4:32pm

    In the end Leadsom dropped out, so the MPs didn’t actually elect het

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Oct '16 - 5:03pm

    Our Prime Minister should be directly elected or voted for by parliament. It shouldn’t simply be the leader of the largest party in the Commons because this could have given us an effective choice between Corbyn and Leadsom, neither of whom represent the country or command the confidence of the Commons.

    The title of this article is flawed, comes across as ordering voters. I agree people should be weary of the Tories, but we need a positive message to win over these constituencies. Some negativity too, of course.

  • The Professor 2nd Oct '16 - 5:41pm

    I voted Lib Dem in 2010, voted UKIP in 2015, voted Leave in 2016

    Reasons for voting Leave:

    Sovereignty – the unsuccessful European Union has seen increasing bullying tactics from the largest (i.e. Germany) to the smallest (cf Greece). These countries do not speak for me and 17 million of my fellow subjects agreed. We will no longer be EU citizens!

    Controlling immigration – in future the UK government, elected by the people, will determine the level of net migration.

    Renegotation – what a joke – Cameron’s non-deal helped me believe the EU cannot be reformed.

    Eurozone – I think for a proper United States of Europe to exist then the Euro needs to be eventually adopted by all member states. I’ll keep the pound sterling, thanks. Winston Churchill was right that a United States of Europe will be led by France and Germany.

    Free Trade with the Rest of the World. No longer will the UK be part of the EU customs union and we can tear down EU-imposed external tariffs/quotas.

    Single market – we will no longer be a member of the single market and will need to negotiate our access to it on terms that are a win-win for both UK and EU. Ideally tariff free but if the EU imposes tariffs we should reciprocate like for like.

  • Peter Watson 2nd Oct '16 - 6:59pm

    @Allan Brame “In the end Leadsom dropped out, so the MPs didn’t actually elect het”
    I think this is a double-edged sword for the Tories. On the one hand it meant a very quick and efficient succession from Cameron’s premiership which contrasted strongly with the chaotic civil war in the Labour Party, and, as Stuart points out, the presentation of this was helped by a sympathetic media. On the other hand, it means that after all these years the Tories have still not come to any sort of decision over Europe: a battle between May & Leadsom might at least have settled something.

  • Katharine Pindar 2nd Oct '16 - 7:02pm

    Eddie, the point is that ‘people should be weary of the Tories’ isn’t enough. Personally I feel outraged at the rotten government they have given us, their casual indifference to standards in public life, their heartlessness to the poor and their incompetence. I think despite the obviously good candidate in Witney, she won’t get in unless we can show real anger at the way we’ve been led and at all that’s gone wrong. We have to fight the Tories, not just say why not take a punt on us! This could be a famous victory if we really fight for it, but we have to stop being nice at this point.

  • Stevan Rose 2nd Oct '16 - 8:45pm

    I have to agree with Peter Martin (and David Owen). I voted Remain with my heart; my head may be content with Leave.

    Our PM is elected according to our Constitution. We vote for an MP, the winning party choose their Leader and PM. The most successful losing party choose the Leader of the Opposition. It cannot be any other way. No UK PM has been “elected” by the wider electorate but when it comes to those who did not lead into an election, May is preceded by Brown, Major, Callaghan, Home, Eden, Churchill, Chamberlain, how far back should I go? It is 109% normal, 100% legitimate. Could we drop any suggestion to the contrary please. Remember that the last Liberal PM didn’t lead the Party into the previous election and he was certainly a legitimate PM, 3rd greatest PM of the 20th Century.

    I was shocked at Johnson’s appointment but since then he hasn’t really done anything wrong (or right) so maybe this was the right tactic to shut him up. Gove got his comeuppance and will hopefully never be heard of again.

    Labour is the incumbent 2nd place in Witney. We should be fighting them as much as the Tories and they’re an easier target in Witney. We need to decimate Labour and dent the Tories to take the seat. Trying to decimate the Tories will lead to disappointment.

  • John McHugo.
    There’s a difference. Margret Thatcher was popular within the Conservative Party and was forced out. David Cameron was not. From what we’ve seen so far, he and his closest allies are being erased from history in a way curiously reminiscent of the old Soviet Union.

  • Anna Soubry and Ken Clark are not massively powerful figures within the Conservative Party. No doubt Tory Remainers are not happy bunnies. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are one or two resignation, but I don’t see any serious threat to May at the moment. It will all depend on how the economy responds once article 50 is triggered.

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Oct '16 - 9:06am

    Practical politics, Stevan Rose and others. Tim’s denunciation of the apparent line of Teresa May is excellent; equally, as Glenn suggests, there is no immediate threat to her. In the matter of the Witney by-election, this is Cameron’s seat, and therefore here is our unique and great opportunity to fight on the grounds of his Government’s record. Labour is in no position to make a convincing case, we should leapfrog them. The Tories are our main enemy in Witney and across the country, whenever the election comes. This by-election could be our breakthrough – one we absolutely need – so worth throwing everything into.

  • Sadie Smith 3rd Oct '16 - 12:36pm

    Mrs May was elected on a manifesto.
    Events give Governments a degree of latitude. They would be useless otherwise. But the Manifesto has grown in significance. That tends to lead to twisting a few words (health) or trying to argue that the referendum was equivalent to a new election but without the detail. Feels messy.

  • Richard Underhill 4th Oct '16 - 12:28pm

    Direct election of a PM is impractical in a parliamentary system. The Israelis tried it and changed back because the PM needs support in parliament.
    Theresa May was nominated by MPs.
    Gordon Brown was nominated by MPs, so that no other MP could stand for Labour leader. Neither May nor Brown received votes directly from their memberships.
    Jeremy Corbyn was nominated by MPs who did not support him and allowed to stand again without being re-nominated. The media currently seem to think he is bomb-proof, until a general election result in 2020.
    Ed Balls voted for Corbyn’s opponent, who lost. Ed Balls is one of several authors and is not avoiding opportunities for publicity as a politician and as a dancer. Vince Cable commented on Balls dancing “Not bad” which Balls said was “his first positive review”.
    Ed Balls’ wife Yvette Cooper MP has stood against Corbyn and lost.
    Boundary changes will give Ed Balls plenty of opportunities to seek a constituency.

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