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Comment: Where Does the Latest Political Upheaval Leave Guildford’s MP?

Published on: 26 Oct, 2022
Updated on: 30 Oct, 2022

By Dr Mark Shanahan

Associate Professor of Political Engagement, University of Surrey

Professor Shanahan spent over 20 years in journalism and corporate communication before transitioning his career into Higher Education

Yesterday was another big day in a big month of a big season of politics. Rishi Sunak arrived at 10 Downing Street as the youngest prime minister of the modern age and our first non-white prima inter pares – first among equals.

We may be as much as two years out from a general election, but equally one might be just months away. We’re on to our third PM since the summer and the government’s challenge is no less acute for the arrival of a new face.

MPs such as Guildford’s Angela Richardson will be looking closely at the PM’s actions this week for a sense of how safe their seats might be whenever an election is called. And that will depend on the government’s success against a sea of troubles ranging from the economic crisis, through febrile international affairs to uniting a seemingly ungovernable party.

Ms Richardson probably feels vindicated following last week’s internecine strife in the party. One of the first Tory MPs to call on Liz Truss to resign, she failed to vote with the government on its fracking-wrapped-up-as-a-confidence vote and then publicly backed Rishi Sunak for the leadership.

She has seen Surrey political neighbours Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab return to government, and has witnessed the cautious approval of the markets to the new post-Truss administration.

She is probably feeling very relieved that her choice of leader is at the helm to bring hoped-for stability and may even see some personal reward with an invitation to join the junior ranks of the government in the next fortnight. But will this be enough to keep her at Westminster when a general election finally swings around?

Guildford General Election result 2019 – Wikipedia

University towns are not like other party political constituencies when it comes to general elections and that was shown amply in 2019. While a Boris-boosted Tory Party delivered an 80-seat majority for the Conservative Party, little blobs of red and gold appeared on the electoral map in places such as Reading, Oxford and Canterbury – and very nearly in Guildford.

Of course, Angela Richardson was elected here, though probably more from the votes of the Surrey Hills villages than the town itself. The Conservative majority fell from over 17,000 when Anne Milton held the seat to a little over 3,000 for the new MP.

Hard right is simply not right for Guildford.”

In some ways it wasn’t a surprise. Richardson was hardly known in the town or the party and the Lib Dems put up a strong fight, focusing on those who’d voted Remain in 2016, on London commuters and particularly on the university staff and students – always more likely to be less “Blue Wall” than longer-term residents.

Don’t expect any of that to change in the run-up to the next General Election. Guildford is 11th on the target list of seats for the Lib Dems. And it’s the kind of seat where an informal pact with other parties may see one “progressive” challenger to the Tory incumbent.

Tory voters here tend to be a little more centrist in their economic views and more liberal socially and they’ll be looking to the Sunak government to recalibrate towards traditional conservative pragmatism rather than pursue the more ideological path it has taken since Brexit. Hard right is simply not right for Guildford.

Angela Richardson would have been warmed by Rishi Sunak’s words about “Integrity, professionalism and accountability”

So Angela Richardson would have been warmed by Rishi Sunak’s words about “Integrity, professionalism and accountability”, and his first moves to keep Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor, dispense with Jacob Rees-Mogg at Business and shift Therese Coffey out of Health and the Deputy PM role seemed to hit all the right notes.

But then the messages of integrity and accountability were rather undercut by the re-hiring of Suella Braverman as home secretary and the return of Gavin Williamson to the Cabinet Office. Both had previously resigned over breaches of the Ministerial Code and both appointments scream of deals with the devil to keep a fractured party together rather than moves to enhance good government.

Rishi Sunak faces a horrendous winter. Next week he and his chancellor have to convince the party, Parliament markets and the wider UK they can balance the books after the Truss/Kwarteng fiasco.

More mis-steps between now and then may see the party plunge further in the polls”

A trade war with the EU looms over the Northern Ireland Protocol, while real war in Ukraine hoovers up international capital and thousands continue to die. China is flexing its autocratic muscles and the US is likely to be little more favourable to the UK than it was to either of Sunak’s predecessors. The energy cap controls finish in April and then the Conservatives face a major slap in the face from voters in the May local elections.

More mis-steps between now and then may see the party plunge further in the polls to a point where they can’t hold off a General Election any further. If that’s the case, Angela Richardson will have a large Lib Dem gold target on her back and Guildford will be a tough seat to defend.

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test 3 Responses to Comment: Where Does the Latest Political Upheaval Leave Guildford’s MP?

  1. J Holt Reply

    October 26, 2022 at 2:49 pm

    This is yet another article in The Dragon which blows the Liberal Democrat trumpet.

    I would expect a university professor, if he does not state a political preference, to present a more balanced view.

    My own viewpoint is “a plague on all your houses”.

    One might well say that as a new candidate in contentious circumstances the current MP did fairly well in the 2019 general election. The author might have pointed out there were an additional 4,356 votes for Anne Milton which were probably from Conservatives suggesting that the “Conservative” majority was more than 7,000.

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    October 27, 2022 at 10:17 am

    I would suggest that since the much-regretted removal of Lady Thatcher, our only choice as ordinary electors has been to vote against the potential MP we hate the most.

    The prospect of having someone to vote for at present seems a bit of a pipe dream.

  3. John Perkins Reply

    October 27, 2022 at 12:28 pm

    Mark Shanahan clearly displays his prejudice in peppering his letter with sly insults.

    His association of Brexit with “hard right” is a petty attempt to smear more than 16 million people with his invention.

    Then there is the pathetic suggestion that the colour of the Lib Dems is “gold”, when they themselves describe it as yellow. All that glisters…

    Finally, if he so strongly believes in “approval of the markets”, why does he ever bother to vote? Surely it should be left to money-men in the City.

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