Tag Archives: max wilkinson

“We voted Tory and we got chaos anyway” – a report from the streets of Cheltenham

Not long ago a constituency poll put the Liberal Democrats on 58 per cent in Cheltenham, ahead of the Conservatives by a clear 28 per cent. That Blue Wall poll was published not long after the local elections, in which we defeated the Conservatives by 29 per cent in the Cheltenham constituency council wards.

Many people are assuming that this means we are strolling to victory next time. However, as one of the 2019 general election candidates, I remember all too well receiving similar MRP polling figures suggesting a comfortable victory. Those leads disappeared and many of us suffered heart-breaking narrow losses on the night after a campaign many will want to forget. That feeling in Cheltenham was compounded by the fact I received 27,505 votes – enough to have won every election as far back as 1997.

That’s why, since my reselection in early 2022, we have been speeding up the pace of our campaign. In Cheltenham, that means knocking more doors than ever. After the local elections in May, where we came within a whisker of a Conservative wipeout with our positive message on housing investment, addressing the climate crisis and looking after struggling families. I promised local activists we’d be back on the doorstep within a month. We were.

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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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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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In praise of opponents – and a plea for the future

I believe in robust debate and in holding our opponents to account. Those who have campaigned with me will know that despite my light-hearted personality, I’m not prone to giving much ground. Scrutinising our opponents is a vital part of politics and our democracy is worse off if the tough questions aren’t asked.

But after a divisive election, in a time of damaging and sometimes poisonous debate, I want to do something just as important as robust campaigning. I want to offer praise and thanks to my opponents. In Cheltenham we managed to squeeze a large number of hustings into the campaign. I spent a lot of time debating with Alex Chalk (Conservative) and George Penny (Labour), and I exchanged messages of goodwill with Tabi Joy (Green), who had stood aside as part of the Unite to Remain initiative. In what can sometimes be a dehumanising process, regular meetings with opponents renewed my respect for everyone who took part.

So here goes:

To Alex, I thank you for continuing your service in Cheltenham when many expected you to do a ‘chicken run’ to a safer seat. I will always respect you for engaging with pro-European campaigners who protested at your office, though I disagreed strongly with your stance on the Brexit debate. Others would have found an excuse to run away and it is to your credit that you engaged in face-to-face conversation. I also congratulate you on campaigning on schools and the environment. We won’t always (or even often) agree on the way forward, but I want you to succeed.

To George, I admire your bravery in standing for parliament so soon after leaving university. You mastered the craft of debating at the hustings remarkably quickly and clearly have a gift for communication. You did not deserve to become the first ever Labour candidate to lose a deposit in Cheltenham. I know that when you stand in a winnable seat you will make a fine MP.

To Tabi, I owe you huge thanks for being part of the Unite To Remain initiative. Stepping aside was a huge political and personal sacrifice to make. I’m only sorry your big-hearted gesture and our campaign didn’t help deliver more MPs from our two parties. When we did share platforms before the election in events focused on the EU and the environment, you spoke with great passion and knowledge.

And onto the future:

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Merry Christmas from Cheltenham (even though politics is a steaming pile of mess)

This is a Christmas message with a difference. I make no apologies for the colourful nature of the story and I assure you it is absolutely 100% true.

When I was delivering the Liberal Democrat Christmas cards the other day I noticed on the pavement the largest pile of dog’s business I had seen in some time. “What a calamity,” I thought “That’s a big problem for whoever steps in it.” I was heartened, therefore, to see a man approaching the mess with a purposeful stride.

I could see he was going to solve the problem for the good of other people in his road, probably by picking it up and finding a bin. That was until I noticed he was carrying a large bucket of hot water. He then proceeded to pour it over the offending deposit. Naturally, rather than solving anything, this merely compounded the problem by spreading it around. I was carrying out my final campaigning act of 2017 and my political brain was therefore weary, but when reflecting on the scene I had witnessed later on that day I concluded it was the most appropriate metaphor for the political year: a fundamental problem was correctly identified by a public-spirited individual, but the chosen solution was ill-judged and left everyone else with a steaming mess to clear up. It’s not all bad news, though. In the spirit of good will to all, I’ve passed the person’s address to Theresa May with a suggestion he is promoted to Brexit Secretary. With problem-solving skills like those, he’ll fit right in.

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Max Wilkinson selected as PPC for Cheltenham

Cheltenham Liberal Democrats have selected their new Parliamentary candidate. Max Wilkinson was chosen from a shortlist of five at a selection meeting last night.

Martin Horwood, who was Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat MP until 2015 welcomed Max’s selection:

Recently Gloucestershire Live got its hands on all the candidates’ selection leaflets. Max’s said:

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