The Tory candidate, Anna Firth, won the Southend West by-election overnight with 86% of the vote. None of the main parties – Labour, LibDems, Greens, Reform – put up candidates in light of Sir David Amess’s murder. Turnout was 24%, just below that seen in Batley & Spen in 2016.
Turnout: 14,858 (24% of the electorate of 66,462, if spoilt ballot papers are added)
The Conservative Policy Forum – the Tories’ official in-house grassroots think tank – boasts the opportunity for ordinary party members “to discuss and design solutions to the policy challenges facing Britain today”. It appears the party has a limit to how much free policy discussion they’ll allow though, as waves of criticism over Boris’s Christmas cancellation and fresh lockdown led to the CPF Leaders’ Whatsapp group being locked down this weekend. This came after repeated warnings from elected leader Anna Firth to stop criticising government policy…
Messages sent in the 90-strong CPF Leaders’ chat accused the government of “hypocrisy”, not caring for businesses, no longer being the party of Thatcher, and having “lost its way”. One member, to agreement from others, went so far as to claim Boris has “no chance of being re elected in 2024″.
Firth repeatedly warned members, “this group is NOT for debating the Government’s policy on ANYTHING” and pointed out that Whatsapp groups “are not secure“, going as far as to say:
“If anybody took screenshots & leaked some of this evening’s comments we would be seriously embarrassed as a Party & CPF would be to blame”
A few hours later, Anna changed the settings of the group after her “countless warnings” had gone unheeded, so only admins can send messages.
Perhaps Anna’s questionable comments earlier in the year – celebrating the social change seen after the black death and claiming Covid provides the same opportunities – changed her attitude towards party members shooting their mouths off…
National Director of the Conservative Policy Forum Anna Firth has rather stuck her foot in in this week, promoting her organisation with a message that commends the positive after-effects of the black death. Guido would have thought politicians would avoid making positive comparisons about one of the most destructive pandemics the world has seen after the reaction UKIP’s General Secretary provoked comparing his own party to the devastating disease. In a less than well judged Twitter video, Firth says…
“Just like the Black Death which swept through Europe and killed a third of the population, but ended serfdom and ushered in a new era of prosperity and opportunity; I believe that we are on the cusp of profound social change and unprecedented innovation.”
Thank you all 💥@ConservativePF 💥groups across the Country who are debating 🦠Covid-19🦠 please tell us:— ANNA FIRTH 🌏🦁🦋 (@anna_firth) April 22, 2020
👉who is falling through the cracks & needs more support
👉when should lockdown be lifted
👉how society can improve post Covid-19 pic.twitter.com/UMZeqlgsZn
Anna Firth clearly means well, putting on a brave face in the face of a crisis and finding that silver lining in the Black Death. This is not quite the happy-NHS-clappy vibe the Government is going for…