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Guildford MP Reports Meeting PM on Planning as By-Election Sounds ‘Warning Shot’ to Tories

Published on: 19 Jun, 2021
Updated on: 19 Jun, 2021

Lib Dems celebrating their Chesham & Amersham by-election victory. Image BBC

By Martin Giles

Local Liberal Democrats are hailing a stunning victory in the Chesham and Amersham by-election and insisted: “If it can happen there it can happen here in Guildford too.”

The Lib Dems secured a huge swing of 25 points to snatch the previously safe Conservative seat on Thursday (June 17).

It brings the total number of Lib Dem MPs at Westminster to 12.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Tory co-chairman Amanda Milling said voters’ concerns were “loud and clear”. She wrote: “I am in no doubt that Thursday’s result is a warning shot and we are listening.” The HS2 railway project and planning issues were by common consent major factors affecting the result.

Angela Richardson MP

Guildford’s Conservative MP Angela Richardson also recognised that unhappiness over planning policies in traditionally Conservative South East constituencies had been a factor in the shock result. But she insisted her meetings with government ministers, including the Prime Minister, were more likely to deliver desired changes to planning policy than opposition, “fear-mongering and stone-throwing”.

Ms Richardson said: “In the Chesham and Amersham by-election, the Liberal Democrats focused their campaign on opposing HS2, opposing building homes and creating their own project fear around the genuine concerns people have about development and infrastructure.

“But the Liberal Democrats stood on a manifesto in 2019 that included building 300,000 houses every year. They pledged to hold the government to account on HS2 despite their party leader voting in favour of HS2 five times.

“In this by-election, the Lib Dem candidate said whatever she needed to say to win the seat, regardless of whether it reflected Lib Dem policy or previous commitments. But in opposition, you only have to worry about what to say; not what to do.

“In Guildford, I am working to make sure that we build the homes people need – but also to retain local influence within the planning process so we can prevent inappropriate development and protect our built heritage.”

Ms Richardson did not confirm whether she would be supporting or opposing the planning bill that will further restrict local authority control of development, instead saying: “This is about achieving a balance and I’m proactive about ensuring any planning bill that comes forward has regard to that.”

And in a clear sign of her concern over the issue she revealed that she had even met with the Prime Minister on the subject.

She said: “I have a meeting with the Secretary of State on Monday to make the case again for strengthening local planning. This is in addition to the meeting I had with him last week and with the Prime Minister the week before. It is this constructive representation – not fear-mongering and stone-throwing from the opposition – that will deliver the results we all want to see.”

Zoe Franklin

Asked what different planning policies the Lib Dems would propose, Zoe Franklin, the Lib Dem candidate for Guildford in the 2019 general election, sidestepped the question. She said that dissatisfaction on planning had not been the only issue in the Buckinghamshire seat considered too safe and the Conservatives too strong.

Ms Franklin added: “To win this seat in the Conservative heartlands we did what our party does best; we listened to people, we spoke to thousands of residents.  What we discovered was that many felt taken for granted.

“The Conservatives assume that people will just keep on voting for them – so why would they bother to speak to them regularly outside of elections or ask about their concerns? The Lib Dems take a completely opposite approach: we work hard all year round. We win because we earn people’s trust and then we work hard to keep it.

“Chesham and Amersham is by no means the only constituency facing the reality of being represented by a Conservative MP who only pays lip service to caring about their local community, one who toes the party line and who promotes the actions of the current dishonest, uncaring and incompetent government. We have one such MP in Guildford.

“I truly believe that what we saw on Thursday is the start of the light at the end of the tunnel, when people will use their vote to show they will no longer put up with the Conservative’s dishonest and uncaring leadership.

“Voters are demanding better, demanding honesty, demanding to be heard – and the Liberal Democrats are the party that is answering that call.”

See also: The Conservative Label, For Me, Was Fatal

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Responses to Guildford MP Reports Meeting PM on Planning as By-Election Sounds ‘Warning Shot’ to Tories

  1. Stuart Barnes Reply

    June 19, 2021 at 7:38 pm

    The loss of the Amersham by-election was surprising in some ways but not in others.

    First, the Conservative party is no longer Conservative. If anything it is on the extremes of the “woke” left. There are some Conservatives remaining in the party but probably not a majority and the PM is not a Conservative.

    Second, it says one thing but does something quite different. For example, virtually no genuine Conservative wants HS2; and who wants the concreting over of what is left of our “green and pleasant land”?

    The main reason for more and more houses on our green countryside is the uncontrolled levels of immigration.

    If the so-called Conservative party is to go further and further to the left then there must be a place for a genuine patriotic right-wing party. Can we hope that the great Nigel Farage will come back to assist the English?

    Clearly, the Starmer Socialist party is a busted flush and the ridiculous Liberals are just a dumping ground for those who want to express their disgust for the fake Conservatives.

    • Andrew Calladine Reply

      June 21, 2021 at 3:38 pm

      I notice Stuart Barnes uses that lazy far-right term “woke”. Does he even know realise what that the term means?

      His opinion that the Conservative party has moved to the left is utterly hilarious. If anything, it moved to the right in an attempt to deal with Nigel Farage and his far-right buddies.

      As someone who studied political science, it’s amazing to see how wrong people can be in terms of where parties sit on the political spectrum.

      The Conservatives are no more a socialist party than the East German Democratic Republic was democratic.

  2. Wayne Smith Reply

    June 19, 2021 at 8:35 pm

    “Voters are demanding better, demanding honesty, demanding to be heard – and the Liberal Democrats are the party that is answering that call.”

    So perhaps Ms Franklin will actually answer the question: what different planning policies do the Lib Dems propose?

  3. David Roberts Reply

    June 20, 2021 at 9:56 pm

    Only Mr Barnes would consider the Tories under Boris Johnson left wing!

  4. David Wragg Reply

    June 21, 2021 at 1:21 pm

    Very well put, Mr Barnes, and I agree entirely. Boris Johnson is a farcical PM, incapable of mastering detail and incapable of a coherent set of policies.

    The Conservatives need a change of leader before the next general election, and in time to master the role.

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