25 October 2016

Three questions for Zac Goldsmith

In what appears to be a series of orchestrated announcements between Zac Goldsmith and the Conservative heirarchy we now have a by-election in Richmond Park without an official Tory candidate.  Goldsmith has been installed as the bookies favourite standing as an independent on a straight anti-Heathrow expansion ticket.

But despite his frequent assertation that he is an independently minded MP he votes with the Tories more than nine times out of ten.  In fact since we had a full blooded right wing majority Tory government in 2015 he has rebelled just five times out of 146 votes - less than 3.5% of the time.

So, I have three straightforward questions to ask:

1. If he wins the by-election will he take the Tory whip and, if not, will he caucus with his pal UKIP MP Douglas Carswell?
2. Will he seek the Tory nomination in 2020?
3. Will he back Theresa May in a confidence vote?

22 October 2016

A roasting of Trump from the archive...

With the US presidential election a few weeks away I thought it might be time to dig out of the archive Jonathan Meades's excellent evisceration of Donald Trump from 2011.


20 October 2016

Whither Witney?

Some photos from a visit to Witney earlier in the week on a glorious autumnal day.

A busy weekday morning in the Lib Dem HQ in Corn Street, Witney.

The sort of street that Bob and Thelma from the Likely Lads would live in if it was 250 miles North.

A military transport plane heads towards RAF Fairford (or possibly Brize Norton?)

The sort of idylic rural home that makes producers of TV lifestyle programmes swoon.

So how are the Lib Dems going to do?  The truth is I have no inside information and what follows is hunch and supposition.

Witney is the sort of rock solid seat that always returns Conservatives so given the state of the various opposition parties a comfortable hold should be on the cards.  But the Lib Dems have fought a vigorous campaign from fourth place and are likely to leapfrog Labour and the Greens as a result.  But from my (albeit) brief visit both reds and greens maintain significant pockets of support which means they are unlikely to be squeezed down to the sort of levels that hand the anti-Tory mantle solely to the Lib Dems.  How well the Lib Dems do - and there is some talk that they may even challenge to win - will inevitably depend on how many Green and Labour voters lend their votes to the Lib Dems later today.

But the Tories are sufficently entrenched that how the opposition parties line up shouldn't matter to their prospects of defending the seat.  And in that the election feels very much like another recent high profile Oxfordshire by-election - Henley in 2008.  That saw another vigorous Lib Dem campaign (and a Labour lost deposit) and certain over-excited talk in the Lib Dems of snatching the seat from the Tories.  And there I remember the sense of disappointment when the result came in that the Lib Dems had marginally increased their share to 28%.

However - given the party's collapse in the Clegg years - 28% now would be (and would be seen as) something of a victory.  Mark Pack has a useful guide to judge the Lib Dem performance.