As the Conservatives continue their race to the bottom it is clear that they are in denial. They deny that Brexit was an act of stupidity and wanton self-harm. They deny that Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng caused a disaster. They will deny that ‘Levelling Up’ has died in a ditch. And they will deny that they are a shameful club of incompetents riven by internal division and driven by brutal ideology and shabby self-interest.
Sometime in the not-too-distant future, we will have the opportunity to hear it on our doorsteps, as the canvassing starts for the general election. Tory MPs – those who have not jumped ship to go into more lucrative careers, directorships and consultancies – will start knocking on doors telling us what a fantastic job they have done.
Fortunately, those of us who live in Somerton and Frome might be spared this farrago as we don’t seem to have an MP. Well, to be accurate, David Warburton is still our ‘MP’, but has not been seen in the neighbourhood (or the House of Commons) for over a year on account of investigations following reports of sexual harassment, cocaine use and financial malfeasance. According to The Sunday Times, it seems his personal finances are something of a rat’s nest with his not declaring a loan of £150,000, submitting a fake statement to unlock a seven-figure mortgage application, and failing to declare a donation of £25,000 – a relatively small sum, but still, not to be sniffed at.
Of course, he denies all of it. It seems he has drunk deep at the Johnsonian well. Keep denying it and hope it will all go away. Like Johnson, he is not inclined to represent the interests of his constituents, but still takes his MP’s salary and no doubt expenses. But he is no Boris. He does not have the charisma, the £800,000 line of credit or the well-turned phrase.
When the story first broke in April last year he claimed to have “enormous amounts of defence”. This is not really the place to get into the grammatical weeds, but what the hell, that is some strange syntax. It would be correct, for example, to refer to ‘enormous amounts of evidence’, or even cocaine, but either one has a defence or one does not. It does not come in quantities. However, there are circumstances, especially when taken unawares by a door stepping hack, that one’s mouth might get a bit carried away.
Even as a convicted criminal, Boris is still an MP, still has the whip and is still seen in public, making trouble and fluffing-up the dander of Rees-Mogg and the ERG with a view to returning to Downing Street. And like Boris, Warburton seeks a reprise of his role in the House. He has declared that he will stand for Somerton and Frome again. Whether as a Tory or an independent, and whether this is a good or bad thing, remains to be seen.
On the one hand, if he is reselected as a Conservative candidate, the voters know he is damaged goods. Even a staunch Tory in the Somerset heartland must have second thoughts about this man, who seems to think his main role as an MP is to improve his personal circumstances. It so clearly sums up what is wrong with the party. One imagines a fair proportion of local Conservatives switching their vote to whatever far-right alternative crawls out of the mire, or veering to the Lib Dems, or just staying at home.
On the other, if he stands as an independent and there is a far-right alternative, that will be three choices for the habitual Tory supporter to choose between. With luck Warburton will split the vote and finally give the people of Somerton and Frome an MP with their interests at heart. Undeniably a good result.
In a piece of shameless gerrymandering, from May 2023 voters will need to produce photo ID at polling stations. It is generally accepted that the people most likely not to have photo ID tend not to vote for the Conservatives. A list of accepted forms of photo ID is here.
If you, or someone you know, is a registered voter and has an NI number, but does not have a driving licence or passport or other form of acceptable photo ID, they are available free of charge here.