Mon, 15 April 2024

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By Bishop of Leeds
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Senior Tory Says He Faces A “Tough Fight” To Keep His Seat At The Next General Election


4 min read

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has admitted he faces a “tough fight” to keep his seat in the next general election after the Liberal Democrats ate into the Conservative’s vote share in the south of England in this week's local elections.

The Lib Dems had a strong showing in the local elections this week, taking control of Somerset council from the Tories and gaining seats in many so-called "Blue Wall" areas in the south.

One of the party’s key targets at the next general election is Raab’s Esher and Walton seat, where they have already made strong progress in recent years, and a region where the Lib Dems made gains at the locals.

Raab's majority was slashed from 23,298 to just 2,743 in the 2019 election, with the Lib Dem candidate Monica Harding winning 28,389 votes to his 31,132.

On Sunday he was presented with analysis by Sky News showing that the Conservative’s vote share in the south of England had fallen by 5.9% between 2018 and 2022, while the Lib Dems had increased by 2.4%.

“It's gonna be a tough fight for me in my seat,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

But he stressed that the Tories were still doing well in his constituency, pointing out that “we still have more seats than the Liberal Democrats on that council”.

“What you're seeing here — and the Lib Dems have often done it — as history shows they are a repository for some protest votes midterm.”

Raab defended his party’s poor results at the local elections. With 199 of 200 councils declared, the Tories have lost 491 seats and the control of 11 councils, while Labour is up 115 councillors and the Lib Dems are up 222.

He denied that the results were a “disaster” for the party”, insisting that it was a “mixed bag” across the country.

“I’ve pointed to the areas where we've done better than expected. Even in London, which was a very difficult set of results for us, there [were] areas like the Croydon mayoralty, there's areas like Harlow… and other areas where actually it has been uneven. 

“I don't think you can take a single view, other than to say London under Keir Starmer very much looks like a metropolitan party which has got appeal in London but not beyond to the rest of the country.”

Raab added that his party is taking the results from the local elections "very seriously" and that his party’s strategy was to “knit together” a coalition of Red and Blue Wall voters ahead of the next election.

"What people vote in a set of midterm local elections and what they vote for when you choose a government in a general election are two wholly different things,” he said.

The deputy prime minister, who is also justice secretary, took aim at Starmer amid ongoing accusations that the Labour broke coronavirus rules by having a beer and curry with colleagues during lockdown. Starmer denies the rule breach.

Raab accused Starmer of "complete hypocrisy" over the event in Durham.

"It's the rank double standards that drive people crazy,” he said.

"He needs to 'fess up and answer all of the holes in the account that he gave for that beer-and-curry event in Durham."

But shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy defended her party’s leader on Sunday morning, telling Sky News she was “absolutely confident” Starmer did not flout lockdown rules.

"This is a guy who self isolated six times during the pandemic. I don't know a single other person who did that,” she said.

"He is Mr Rules, he does not break the rules. He was the director of Public Prosecutions, not somebody who goes around tearing up the rules when it suits him – in stark contrast to the Prime Minister.

"I have to say I think this desperate attempt to sling mud will fall flat, but I think we'll see more of this as we get closer to a general election."


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