Navel-gazing Tories arrive in Cheltenham (or was it Derbyshire?)

It was a night that confirmed what many people already thought.  For those of us on the outside, it’s now clear that the Conservative party leadership is out of ideas.  In fact, the boldest thinking we heard during the debate at Cheltenham Racecourse last night (Thurs) was when Liz Truss suggested Cheltenham was in Derbyshire.

You’d think that in this moment of national crisis, the two candidates would have something new to say.  Alas, there was very little to help those worried about the cost of living during the debate.  If only they had the foresight to pursue bold policy ideas to solve the looming energy bills crisis, like Ed Davey’s call for the October energy price rise to be cancelled earlier this week.  As for the NHS: Sunak wants to charge people for missing appointments. Truss wants to ‘get a grip’ of waiting times.  That won’t bring much comfort to people here, who report long ambulance waiting times and being sent to Malvern for NHS dentistry.

In Cheltenham, local Lib Dems are making a difference.  After our cost-of-living emergency declaration, we’ve put £60,000 aside to support food banks for the next few months.  We’re also investing £180 million in affordable homes and our first carbon neutral development is on the way – helping to drastically lower energy bills for residents.  Our Golden Valley project will help build on the success of our blossoming cyber security industry.  If only that sort of vision was matched in the Conservative Party’s thinking on the NHS and cost of living.

We’re knocking a lot of doors at the moment in Cheltenham in an effort to overturn Alex Chalk’s 981 vote majority.  I can tell you the extended period of navel-gazing in Conservative ranks is not going down well.  Huge numbers of people who voted blue in 2019 are aghast at what’s happened since under Johnson’s chaotic leadership.  But there’s no quick solution for the Conservatives.  The doorstep response suggests neither Truss nor Sunak is particularly popular either.

While the Conservatives gathered at Cheltenham Racecourse, we were getting on with our campaigning.  In sweltering heat, we visited people in Lansdown – a district ward that the fabulous Glenn Andrews gained for the Liberal Democrats in May for the first time this century.  What we heard there was the same as we’ve been hearing for months on doors across town.  People feel let down and they are worried their biggest problems are being ignored.

Regardless of all the above, I’d like to thank Liz Truss for making the opening segment of the debate about Cheltenham Liberal Democrats.  The fact she mentioned us so early on might lead people to conclude the Blue Wall Tories are a bit rattled.

* Max Wilkinson is the Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Cheltenham. He was the candidate at the 2019 general election and is a councillor on Cheltenham Borough Council and the authority’s cabinet member for climate emergency.

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4 Comments

  • John Bicknell 12th Aug '22 - 8:13am

    It seems that Liz Truss is on course to be PM in a few weeks. I have not been impressed with either her presentational abilities, or policy positions; she seems to be neither a quick thinker, nor a deep thinker.
    Nevertheless, there’s an interesting article: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/12/liz-truss-boris-johnson-tory-leadership-frontrunner-workaholic?CMP=share_btn_tw:
    which, by Guardian standards, is quite well-balanced, analysing her political methodology, and potential strengths and weaknesses as a national leader.

  • Truss and Sunak are like hucksters at a carnival; each trying to outdo the other with more and more unbelievable claims…”His two-headed boy is a fake; come and see my three headed girl”..”Her three headed girl is rubbish; roll up and see my four horned unicorn”, etc., etc..

    After the bluster, when you enter the tent, the only things there are ‘rags and sawdust’..

  • Michael Cole 12th Aug '22 - 8:32pm

    expats: Well said. That just about sums it up.

  • I get the sense that even Tories are underwhelmed by this choice. They wouldn’t say so, obviously, but there’s no great swell of enthusiasm for either candidate – like there undoubtedly was for BJ in 2019. I’ve watched a few of these hustings and there’s no excitement. It’s like the audience is well aware that this is a C-list, if not D-list choice. It’s like 2019 except there are two Jeremy Hunts and no Boris Johnson.
    All of which means that whoever wins (I’ll be amazed if it isn’t Truss) there won’t be a deep reservoir of personal loyalty, like there was with Thatcher, Major, Cameron and Johnson. The relationship between leader and party will be more like IDS, Howard and May. “OK we’re stuck with you. You’ll have to do.”

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