Tag Archives: conservative leadership

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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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.

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Cheltenham Hustings: Truss and Sunak out of touch

The latest Conservative leadership hustings has been taking place tonight in Cheltenham, a seat our Max Wilkinson is in a very good position to take at the next election. At the local elections in May, the Lib Dems crushed the Tories 57% to 28% locally. It was previously held by Liberal Democrats Nigel Jones and Martin Horwood.

Max has been commenting on the event on Twitter:

After the event, Max said:

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The right-wing myth of Britain’s ‘liberal elite’

Warming up the audience at the Darlington hustings for the Conservative leadership on August 9th, Tom Newton Dunn as compere asked if Boris Johnson had been responsible for his own misfortune. Cries of ‘the media’ came back; and Liz Truss commented ‘Who am I to disagree with this excellent audience?’

Conservative activists thus showed their acceptance of the conspiratorial myth that enables Liz Truss to present herself as an insurgent against a dominant establishment. The idea of a dominant liberal elite, entrenched in the BBC, the civil service, universities and state schools, extending into the ‘lefty lawyers’ in the courts and the gatekeepers of cultural institutions and prizes, pops up regularly in Conservative speeches, Telegraph Op-Eds, and justifications for political reforms by Cabinet ministers. David Frost, now accepted by many on the hard right as an intellectual authority, has just published a paper for Policy Exchange (which describes itself as ‘Britain’s leading think tank) on ‘sustaining the Brexit Revolt’ which attributes the failure to make greater progress in breaking with collectivism and Europe since 2017 to the resistance of this entrenched elite – rather than the divisions within his adopted Conservative Party, or hard evidence of the irrationality of what they aimed to achieve.

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Choosing Johnson’s successor: a Tory attack on our democracy?

The problem with the present Tory leadership contest is that it looks worryingly like a presidential campaign. We’ve seen televised debates among the contenders, news of them, their campaigns, promises and policies. It sounds as if the winner will have a mandate to take the country in a new direction, though the voters are just the 0.3% of the population who happen to be members of the Conservative Party. Where is the public outcry?

This is part of a general trend to move power from Parliament to No.10 which has accelerated since the referendum. It includes the illegal prorogation of parliament in 2019, the use of “Henry VIII” powers to sideline parliament in the massive task of replacing EU-derived legislation and Johnson’s repeated bendings of the ministerial code.

These things have consequences:

  • It risks increasing alienation from politics. “First past the post” means there are many parts of the country where people feel their vote doesn’t matter. The Tories have found a way to make this much worse. Brexit might already be a consequence of this because of the people who voted Leave out of frustration at being ignored.
  • It pushes things to the extremes. Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss need to appeal only to their own party rather than connecting with the rest of the country. That’s particularly serious as there’s now more support for Brexit in the Conservative party than there in the country. EU-bashing and Brexit might help one of them get elected, but they are not in the national interest.
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Tom Arms’ World Review

The nuclear reactor we should be worried about

Forget about Chernobyl. That was small fry worry. Focus instead on the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. Zaporizhzhia  supplies half of Ukraine’s nuclear-generated electricity; is next door to the city of Enerhodar (pre-war population of 53,000) and sits alongside the Dnieper River which supplies the drinking water for millions in southeastern Ukraine and Crimea.

The nuclear facility was captured by Russia on 4 March during the Battle of Enerhodar. The power plant is being kept in operation with Ukrainian workers retained by the occupying Russians. But Putin’s forces have—according to US and Ukrainian sources—started using plant precincts as a base for artillery barrages.

The Ukrainians are firing back. On top of that, no one from the UN oversight organisation the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is making the regular visits that insure that all safety measures and checks are being followed. IAEA director Rafael Grossi this week told Associated Press “You have a catalogue of things happening that should never happen in a nuclear power plant.” Mr. Grossi is trying to negotiate access to Zaporizhzhia but to do that will require his inspectors passing through both Ukrainian and Russian lines. This is extremely dangerous for the inspectors and inordinately difficult to arrange.

 The fight to be UK Prime Minister

The British election campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party and the Premiership of the country this week slipped into high farce and sailed into choppy constitutional waters. Starting with the farce, favourite Liz Truss announced that she would cut public sector pay by about $10 billion by reducing the wages of out of London public sector workers.

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Richard Foord: Sunak and Truss have learned nothing from Tiverton and Honiton

It’s just over a month since Richard Foord achieved one of the best results in by-election history. Last night the Conservative leadership candidates continued their race to the bottom at a hustings in Exeter.

Richard reflected on their performance, saying that they had learned nothing from his win:

Tonight’s debate showed that Sunak and Truss have learned absolutely nothing from their Tiverton and Honiton by-election defeat.

This is a dismal contest between the former Chancellor who repeatedly hiked taxes and a Foreign Secretary who sold out West Country farmers with botched trade deals.

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Liz Truss is still a Republican

Liz Truss was a British Republican when an undergraduate.  Now she’s much more an American Republican than a British Conservative.  Her rhetoric about tax cuts, paying for themselves through increasing economic growth, is straight out of the Reaganite textbook; which is hardly surprising, since she is on record as having asked right-wing think tanks in Washington while visiting what lessons she could learn from Reaganomics and their attacks on regulation and red tape.

It is surprising that commentators in Britain have not paid more attention to the long-term colonization of the Conservative Party by the American right.  I first caught a glimpse of the process when catching a plane to Washington for a transatlantic conference during a short parliamentary recess, some twenty years ago, and found myself accompanied by over a dozen Conservative MPs – none of them specialists in US-European relations – invited to meetings with Washington think tanks.  The stalwarts of the European Research Group look across the Atlantic for intellectual leadership, and often travel across; though they rarely interact with Conservative politicians on the European continent, except with Fidesz in Hungary and other authoritarian populists.

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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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Eugh! Lib Dems react to Sunak v Truss debate

The press release from the Lib Dem Press Office just after the BBC debate between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak last night was very short.

Lib Dems respond to BBC Tory leadership debate

Responding to this evening’s BBC Tory leadership debate, a Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: 

“Eurgh.”

ENDS

While it lacked in words, it summed up the feelings of much of the country, although I still think it was a bit generous.  Neither the participants nor the BBC covered themselves in glory.

Other Lib Dem reaction included:

You wouldn’t expect there to be much for liberals to be pleased about in a Conservative leadership debate, particularly as the participants are pandering to an increasingly right wing membership that would not be out of place in the Republican Party of Donald Trump. Ultra-nationalist, small state, minority bashing, this is what’s left after all the decent, one-nation types left in disgust in 2019.

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Did Liz Truss jump parties to advance in politics?

Here on LDV, we have been reviewing the past of a politician who might our next prime minister. Once an ardent Lib Dem with a passion for getting rid of the monarchy, she appeared on national TV with Mark Pack and Paddy Ashdown. In today’s Times, we learn more about the young Liz Truss from Neil Fawcett, a Liberal Democrat councillor who is part of Layla Moran’s team in Oxfordshire.

She was bloody difficult to work with… I wasn’t massively surprised when she turned up as a Tory. I would not be surprised if she made a choice that she wanted to get on in politics and jumped horses to do it.

What has surprised me is that she has got to the level she has, because I never felt that she was particularly talented.

 

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Hasta la vista, baby or auf wiedersehen pet?

There are several parallel realities in politics. But Boris Johnson lives in a bubble of his own making. Having taken a few days off for goodbyes, a flight on a Typhoon and a visit to Farnborough Airshow, along with missing things of no consequence to his future like a Cobra meeting on the heatwave, he trounced out of PMQs today in true theatrical style. “Hasta la vista, baby”. Johnson is ever the performance artist. Ever the man who triumphs style over substance. I am sure he wants to be a movie star.

Boris Johnson has done more to develop the role of prime minister as a cult of personality than his predecessors. He has been gloriously Trumpian, a stranger to truth and to the gritty reality that he has been wrong, wrong and wrong again. And seemingly unaware about being on the wrong side of the law.

As ebullient as he now is irrelevant, Boris Johnson will certainly go down in history. He has become so toxic to the Tories and the country he is unlikely to come back to front line politics. But far from “hasta la vista, baby”, surely this is a case of “auf wiedersehen pet”. Perhaps I say that hopefully. Goodbye pet. Good riddance pet. We can only hope so.

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And then there were two …

So the contest will be between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.

The votes for Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt were very close, with only 8 between them.

And now we know that the next Prime Minister is going to be chosen by 160,000+ people who worship the memory of Margaret Thatcher.

Ed Davey used his slot at Prime Minister’s Questions to demand a general election once the leadership election is over.

While Tim Farron commented on Johnson’s final remarks.

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Can you cut taxes and level up at the same time?

The Conservative leadership campaign has been a competition to demonstrate the best small-state tax-cutting credentials, with little concern for what that means for public services or investment.  Even Rishi Sunak seems to have forgotten the generous promises of the 2019 manifesto, which helped to win those ‘Red Wall’ seats.  ‘A Conservative Government’, it declared, ‘will give the public services the resources they need, supporting our hospitals, our schools and our police.’  There would be ‘millions more invested every week in science, schools, apprenticeships and infrastructure… to underpin this national renewal, we will invest £100 billion in additional infrastructure spending – on roads, rail and other responsible, productive investment which will repair and refurbish the fabric of our country and generate greater growth in the long run.’

The sense of betrayal in Yorkshire, the North-East, North-West and beyond at the failure to follow these promises through is already strong.  Abandoning the new Leeds-Manchester line, the key to Northern Powerhouse Rail, has been a particular source of disgust. Last Saturday’s Yorkshire Post carried a strong op-ed by Justine Greening and an interview with Ben Houchen, Boris Johnson’s favourite elected mayor, both warning their party about the absence of concern for poorer regions in the leadership campaign and the likely consequences at the next election of having let these regions down.  But Conservative party members are concentrated in the prosperous home counties, and there’s little mileage in telling them to pay more tax to level up the rest of the country.

This failure, however, also presents a dilemma for us.  The seats we hope to win from the Conservatives are also mostly concentrated in the prosperous home counties, where we are seeking to attract wavering voters who will look for taxes to be spent on improving investment and services in their own areas.  Richard Foord and Helen Morgan have spoken up about the distribution of Levelling Up funds to their constituencies, and Tim Farron has active interests in rebalancing the country, but this is not a priority that’s so easy to sell on the doorsteps of Wimbledon or Guildford.

Nevertheless, we are a national party, and as Liberals we should worry that our deeply unequal society – our economic inequality easily the widest in Europe – is incompatible with a healthy democracy.  What’s more, we control some Councils in the north of England, have active Council groups on many others and hopes of winning some parliamentary seats in the next election and more thereafter.

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Badenoch out – are we heading for Sunak vs Truss?

Tory leadership candidates have been whittled down to three in the penultimate round of voting.  Today’s result was:

Rishi Sunak 118

Penny Mordaunt 92

Liz Truss 86

Kemi Badenoch 59

You would have expected Rishi Sunak to pick up more than 3 of the 31 votes up for grabs from yesterday’s eliminated candidate Tom Tugendhat. Instead, it was Liz Truss who gained most, 15 votes, followed by Penny Mordaunt up 10. Kemi Badenoch only gained one vote and was therefore eliminated.

There could, of course be a fair bit of churn. Perhaps some of Sunak’s vote moving to Mordaunt as a result of the YouGov polls which continue to show him losing to everyone amongst Conservative members.

 

It’ll be interesting to see who gains most from Badenoch’s votes. Will Mordaunt be able to persuade Sunak supporters to switch to her as the best chance of beating Truss? Or will Badenoch’s votes simply transfer en masse to Truss, eliminating Mordaunt.

Tim Farron has some advice for Sunak and Mordaunt though:

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If the Tories hate each other so much, how can they be good for our country?

Anyone listening to the criticism of the outgoing administration during the weekend’s leadership debates might get the impression that the Conservatives have been in opposition for the last decade. In some ways they have. In opposition to themselves. The show of unity as ministers flanked the prime minister during PMQs has proved to be nothing other than a flimsy façade.

Of course, it was always thus. Unity is not a feature of modern day Conservative politics, or Labour politics for that matter. But can an administration govern effectively when it is not only so bitterly divided but makes a public show of disunity?

These past few days have been a bit like watching Titus Andronicus, blood and gore galore while onlookers struggle with the plot.

This would be a black comedy and no more than entertainment if it were not an election for the highest office in the land. I fear that the undignified spectacle of so-called leading politicians tearing themselves apart

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It’s a woke leadership election. That is damaging

It’s one of the most contentious topics of our times but hardly the stuff of debate on the top of the Clapham Omnibus and in the snug of your neighbourhood pub. Many people have never heard of “woke” and a third don’t know what it means.

Yet it features strongly in the Tory leadership campaign, mainly in respect of transgender issues. Why?

The anti-woke momentum in the leadership contest is partly driven by the rise of populism on the Tory right. The right wing media have been gunning against woke, especially transgender issues, for months. Searches for “woke” on Google have accelerated since the leadership contest got underway. Candidates have felt obliged to give a statement of their position on woke. Second runner Penny Mordant had been quite relaxed on transgender but toughened her stance yesterday quoting Margaret Thatcher:

“It was Margaret Thatcher who said that ‘every Prime Minister needs a Willie’. A woman like me doesn’t have one.”

This posturing by the Tory candidates in order to get approval from the right wing press is damaging. Discussions on matters such as colonialism and slavery and the transgender debate need space and time to move towards a consensus. Efforts to achieve a degree of understanding, even if a consensus is impossible, should not be wrecked by the ambitions of wannabe prime ministers.

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And then there were five… Sunak leads but Mordant closes

The results are in and the list of wannabe prime ministers has been whittled down to five MPs:

  • Rishi Sunak: 101 (+13; +14.8%)
  • Penny Mordaunt: 83 (+16; +24%)
  • Liz Truss: 64 (+14; +28%)
  • Kemi Badenoch: 49 (+9; +23%)
  • Tom Tugendhat: 32 (-5;  -14%).

Suella Braverman has been eliminated from the contest with 27 votes (-5; -16%). Earlier she refused to stand aside for Liz Truss or Kemi Badenoch to concentrate support for the right wing of the party.

Penny Mordant has made the biggest gains and looks in reach of matching or overtaking Rishi Sunak. Liz Truss still lags and Tom Tugendhat looks close to elimination in the next round of voting on Monday.

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Javid withdraws as eight get onto ballot paper

Those hoping to become leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister, needed to secure the support of 20 Tory MPs by 6pm this evening in order to make it on the ballot paper. There are eight MPs in the race.

Sajid Javid announced his withdrawal minutes before the result was announced, as did Rehman Chishti. Javid resigned from the government at the same time as Rishi Sunak, triggering a wave of resignations that led to Boris Johnson’s downfall.

Sunak gained the most nominations from Conservative MPs today. He is joined by seven others in the first round of voting. They are:

  • Suella Braverman (Attorney General)
  • Kemi Badenoch (former Minister of State for Local Government and Minister of State for Equalities)
  • Jeremy Hunt (former Health Secretary)
  • Penny Mordaunt (Trade Minister)
  • Liz Truss (Foreign Secretary)
  • Tom Tugendhat (Foreign Affairs Select Committee Chair)
  • Nadhim Zahawi (Chancellor).
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The whole bus cheered but where do we go from here?

It’s a long and winding bus journey from Ludlow to Shrewsbury and like many of the passengers this morning I was beginning to doze. Then. “He’s gone!” a man at the front of the bus shouted. Everyone cheered. Brian, the bus driver turned on the radio. People startled into awakedness stared earnestly at their smart phones. The bus briefly buzzed with chatter.

The excitement faded as I caught a second bus to Shirehall with a sobering thought: how do we get out of this mess? I think that was the thought on the mind of the forty odd Conservatives who had assembled in Shirehall who were for the most part unusually subdued, though not of course humbled.

The debate over Boris Johnson’s survival as prime minister has dominated political thinking for many weeks. Sapping political energy that is desperately needed to tackle the cost of living crisis and the creaking NHS.

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Davey: He has shredded the public’s trust in politics

Ed Davey has been writing on the Guardian website. He lashes out at Boris Johnson but reserves his main criticism for the Tory MPs who have kept Johnson at the helm for far too long:

He broke the law. He lied. He has failed disastrously to tackle the cost of living emergency or the crisis in our NHS. He has shredded the public’s trust in the government and in politics.

But Johnson didn’t act alone. For three years, he has been backed to the hilt by more than 350 co-conspirators on the Conservative benches. They nodded along to every shameful lie. They gladly went on TV to defend the indefensible and excuse the inexcusable. They willingly trooped through the voting lobby in support of every disastrous policy.

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One wheel on my wagon and I’m still rolling along…

The government spent Thursday stuck in quicksand. The prime minister was in sand up to his neck. But he still blundered and blustered on regardless through PMQs and a parliamentary committee most people had not heard of. More than forty members of the government have resigned, some from the top table, some the servers who usually bow and scrape. Michael Gove was sacked.

I write this article in the early hours of Thursday before heading off for a lengthy day battling in a Tory dominated council. Will Boris Johnson still be prime minister when I leave the council chamber? Will there be more resignations as dawn breaks?

Boris Johnson has always been in denial of reality. He has always lived in a fantasy world. His world is centred around himself. He is stuck in Slogan Land. Sound Bite Land. Anything but Resigning Land.

When watching Johnson perform at PMQs yesterday, a song from my youth randomly popped into my head. “Three wheels on my wagon, and I’m still rolling along…” The song was nonsense and hasn’t aged well. The same might be said of Johnson. For all the sense he made yesterday, he might have been chanting the New Christy Minstrels’ chorus: “I’m singing a higgity, haggity, hoggety, high. Pioneers, they never say die.”

That’s Johnson. Never say die. Never say resign.

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Another day of chaos

A Twitter round up, including a great question to the PM from Munira Wilson and a punchy interview with Christine Jardine.

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The Greased Piglet

Thought you might enjoy these whilst we wait for further developments.

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What Lib Dems are saying about the resignations

What a night. Boris Johnson apologised for appointing Chris Pincher demonstrating not for the first time his distance from the real world most of us live in. But then a man who doesn’t know when a party is a party is unlikely to have a grasp on when a grope is a grope. The resignations of the chancellor and health secretary, followed by a slew of junior resignations would have left most prime ministers considering their position. But it seems that all Johnson cares about is his own survival.

After Health Secretary Sajid Javid and ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak quit within ten minutes of each other, Conservative vice-chair Bim Afolami, trade envoy Andrew Murrison, parliamentary private secretaries Saqib Bhatti, Jonathan Gullis, Nicola Richards and Virginia Crosbie, and solicitor-general Alex Chalk followed.

Overnight Lib Dems have been reacting to the unfolding events. Here is a selection of comments.

 

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And a partridge in a pear tree…

Another junior minister has resigned. That makes a total of nine resignations this evening – four Tory aides, two senior cabinet ministers, one junior minister, the trade envoy to Kenya and the vice-chair of the Conservatives. (That almost works to the tune of “The twelve days of Christmas”)

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Sunak and Javid resign – is this the end for De Pfeffel?

Ernest Hemingway wrote of bankruptcies that they happened gradually, then suddenly. It seems, this evening, that this is also true of moral bankruptcy, as the Chancellor and Health Secretary have handed in their resignations.

And with backbench Conservative MPs actively calling upon the Cabinet to act, is this the moment when Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson finally meets his political maker?

It’s not before time, as senior Conservative figures are forced to confront the realisation that they have been complicit in enabling this debasement of our political culture to carry as long as it has. Frankly, how many of the current Cabinet …

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Welcome to my day: 6 June 2022 – waiting for Sir Graham Brady…

It looks a bit like a Samuel Beckett sort of a week ahead. Have fifty-four Conservative MPs concluded that;

      a. Their principles cannot bear the behaviour of the Prime Minister; or
      b. Their majorities cannot bear the behaviour of the Prime Minister?

Or, perhaps, that they can get a vote but not win it… yet.

Whatever the truth, like Vladimir and Estragon, we are fated to spend too much time talking around the fate of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson than of the issues that so badly need fixing. On the other hand, if you’re an opposition party looking to embarrass the Government in a by-election, the prospect of the Conservatives spending the next three weeks fighting like rats in a sack is a thing to warm the soul.

The polling data from Wakefield;

      Labour 48%
      Conservatives 28%
      Greens 8%
      Liberal Democrats 7%
      Reform UK 3%

if accurate, suggests a 13.7% swing from Conservatives to Labour, which would overwhelm vast swathes of the Red Wall. The swing from Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats is noticeable too, albeit not as dramatic in impact, but shows that there is a move towards us which, in seats such as Harrogate and Knaresborough, or Cheadle, might be very welcome indeed.

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“Mandate”? A.B.dP.Johnson has a mandate from 0.14% of the UK population

There have been a number of Tory voices saying that A.B.dP.Johnson has a “mandate”. It is important to recognise that this “mandate” is from precisely 0.14% of the UK population:

For the record, those parroting the “mandate” word have included our old china plate, Dominic Raab on Radio Five Live (just after the result was announced) and Tim Montgomerie on Twitter:

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22 June 2019 – the overnight press release

Tory leadership contenders must reverse school cuts

Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran will today use a speech at the ‘Together for Education Rally’ in Westminster to call on the Conservative Party leadership contenders to reverse cuts to schools.

According to the campaign, 91% of schools have suffered per-pupil funding cuts in real terms since 2015. It would cost £2.2 billion to bring funding back up to 2015 levels.

In a bid to reverse these cuts, parents, MPs, councillors and trade unionists will meet in London this Saturday for the Together for Education rally.

Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran …

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