By Lord Ashcroft
By-elections are hardly ever convenient for a government, but next week’s contests in marginal Wakefield and supposedly safe Tiverton & Honiton are especially inopportune. The events that precipitated each of them have hardly helped, judging from my focus groups of 2019 Conservatives in both constituencies this week.
“It’s a bit more serious than partygate, isn’t it,” as a man in the West Yorkshire seat put it. “OK, he was found guilty but the thing that got me was that part of the Tory party was told before he was elected. They knew beforehand but stood by him.” Not everyone agreed (“it was an individual – people like that can get into everywhere”) but there was no doubt the former MP Imran Khan’s offence had “tarnished things.”
In Devon, some were sorry to see the demise of Neil Parish. “Being a farmer, I think it’s a shame. He was a farmer himself and he was a good advocate for us.” Even so, he had to go. “There’s a combine called the Dominator, so I can see that, but he did do it a second time. He’s done the right thing and resigned. It’s what it was, silly boy, and it’s a shame because he was a good MP.” Some of the women took a different view. “I thought he was a right numpty before that,” said one, “so it wasn’t a surprise (more…)