Labour Will Run a Candidate in Richmond

Guido is told Labour will be running a candidate in Richmond, shooting down the suggestion from Clive Lewis, Lisa Nandy and Jonathan Reynolds that they should give the LibDems a clear run at Zac. The Corbynistas are not short of potential candidates: what about Richmond resident Seumas Milne, or leadership campaign chief Sam Tarry, who says “intellectually bankrupt” Labour MPs need replacing?

pull-out

Lewis, Nandy and Reynolds are essentially saying that if you vote Labour, you get Zac. Clearly they should give up in the entirety of the South East outside London, because they are just wasting their money. In Scotland they’re now in third place. To be honest, looking at the polling, they should just focus on defending their seats in the North against Nuttall’s coming purple hordes…

Zac to Stand

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Guido sources confirm that Zac intends to be a candidate in the by-election he is triggering in protest at the decision to build a new runway at Heathrow.

Richmond is traditional LibDem territory and may be receptive to a Remain/LibDem by-election putsch. CCHQ is worried that a post-Brexit LibDem revival would put Richmond and neighbouring constituencies back in the hand of the LibDems. Could we see the return of 73 year-old Vince Cable?

Will the Conservatives even put up a candidate against Zac and split the right-of-centre vote?

By-Election Results in Full

Witney

Robert Courts (Con) – 17,313 (45.02%)

Liz Leffman (Lib Dem) – 11,611 (30.19%)

Duncan Enright (Lab) – 5,765 (14.99%)

Larry Sanders (Green) – 1,363 (3.54%)

Dickie Bird (UKIP) – 1,354 (3.52%)

Easy Tory hold though a big swing to the LibDems, very bad result for UKIP.

Batley and Spen

Tracy Brabin (Lab) – 17,506 (85.84%)

Therese Hirst (Eng Dem) – 969 (4.75%)

David Furness (BNP) – 548 (2.69%)

Garry Kitchin (Ind) – 517 (2.54%)

Labour uncontested in Batley and Spen.

Open Britain Endorse LibDems in Witney

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Open Britain, the zombie campaign of ex-BSE Remoaners, claims to be non-partisan. Odd, then, that they’ve tweeted to their followers telling them to vote LibDem in the Witney by-election today. Do Open Britain’s vocal Tory backers Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan endorse this message? Surely former Clegg spinner turned Open Britain chief James McGrory didn’t accidentally tweet from the wrong account…

UPDATE: The tweet has now been deleted.

UPDATE II: Guido is told the tweet was not sent by McGrory, it was sent accidentally by a current LibDem press officer who has access to the account. He deleted it and then tweeted it from the LibDem press office account. Doesn’t exactly disabuse us of the notion that Open Britain is just a LibDem front…

UPDATE III: Open Britain are at pains to point out that their co-director Joe Carberry worked for Labour for ten years and that they also have Tories in their top team.

Dave Fails to Fix It For Final Crony

Fair to say 37 year-old barrister Robert Courts is a surprise choice as the Tory candidate in Witney. Just 48 hours ago he was a 6/1 outsider with the bookies – at one point they were offering 20/1 – so how did this humble underdog secure the seat? Grumbles from West Oxfordshire suggest CCHQ attempted to stitch up the selection for David Cameron’s chosen successor, his aide Natasha Whitmill. The party blocked the general candidates list from applying for the seat, then blocked the two local bookies’ favourites, James Mills and David McFarlane, from the final shortlist. Whitmill should have comfortably beaten the remaining lower profile candidates and become the MP. However, Witney Tories rejected Dave’s choice and plumped for Courts, a military history fan and lover of Game of Thrones, instead. A tale of the unscrupulous methods of Tory selections and the brutality of local politics, and how Dave failed to fix it for his final crony…

Multiple Witney Stitch Up Claims

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Yesterday Guido revealed how most Tory candidates had been blocked from standing in Witney to ensure a local candidate took the seat. It looks like even more of a stitch up this morning. Here are your new runners and riders:

  • James Mills – The bookies’ favourite and leader of the local district council.
  • David McFarlane – The local association chairman. A letter has gone round from old Etonian Lord de Mauley telling members to vote for him. They’ve been accused of trying to “ram raid” the process.
  • Natasha Whitmill – Worked in Cameron’s constituency office since she was 22. Dave is reportedly helping her win the selection and there’s growing anger that she might win. The final crony? 
  • Robert Courts – Deputy leader of the district council.
  • John Cotton – Leader of the neighbouring district council. Semi-local.

So CCHQ, McFarlance and Whitmill are all being accused of their own separate stitch ups. Decision tonight…

Local Witney Selection Upsets Tory Hopefuls

witney

Things are moving quickly in Witney. Guido hears a Tory Parliamentary Assessment Board meeting to vet candidates was rushed through over the weekend and a decision could be made as soon as Thursday night. The word is it will be a local candidate and that the party has not opened selection to the main candidates list, excluding the likes of Dan Hannan and Esther McVey. There are a lot of upset Tories who wanted to put their names forward and now believe they’ve been blocked from running. Will they direct their anger at David Cameron, who is highly influential in the Witney selection, CCHQ’s head of candidates Gareth Fox, or Theresa May? Baroness Jenkin will also be unhappy after she just yesterday called for the new MP to be a woman. A shortlist of local candidates is likely to be very male and pale…

Witney By-Election Runners and Riders

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Dave is off and a by-election has been called, as ever Guido gives you your (early) runners and riders:

  • Dan Hannan – Got his wish of being sacked as an MEP, surely it’s time for this hero of the revolution to come to Westminster?
  • Syed Kamall – The Tory MEP leader is another one looking for a job. Helped broker Dave’s unsuccessful EU renegotiation. Cameron told Kamall he was “finished” after he backed Brexit. Fitting replacement then.
  • Ruth Davidson – Touted as a future Tory leader, Ruth will have to come down from Scotland one day if she’s to succeed Theresa. Has however repeatedly said she’s happy north of the border. UPDATE: Spokesman says “That won’t be happening.”
  • George Osborne – His Tatton seat is disappearing under the Boundary Review. Could he do the chicken run down to Witney?
  • Toby Young – Still on the candidates list, has made positive noises about partial selection in schools. If he gets in now he could be in Boris’ Cabinet.
  • Esther McVey – Lost her seat in 2015 and is sniffing round any seat she can find. Never off the telly as she tries to mount a comeback.

A quick back of a fag packet list, stay tuned for more names as and when they come…

Labour Hold Tooting

Labour comfortably hold Sadiq Khan’s Tooting seat:

Rosena Allin-Khan (Labour) – 17,894 (55.9% +8.7%)

Dan Watkins (Tory) – 11,537 (36.1% -5.8%)

Esther Obiri-Darko (Green) – 830 (2.6% -1.5%)

Alexander Glassbrook (LibDem) – 820 (2.6% -1.4%)

Elizabeth Jones (UKIP) – 507 (1.6% -1.3%)

Turncoat Tolhurst ‘Claimed to Be Pro-Leave’

kelly

Oh dear… according to Quentin Letts, newly converted Remain supporter Kelly Tolhurst personally told him she was a Brexiteer:

Kelly says she is “surprised” by Quentin’s tweet because she “only finally decided last week”. Oh really…

When she was fighting Mark Reckless in Rochester last year, Tolhurst included an anti-EU immigration pledge as one of the six pillars of her campaign, promising “action – not just talk”. She said she wanted the time from which EU migrants can claim benefits “extended to five years… immediately”. More than the PM achieved in his renegotiation. Now she says the renegotiation has secured the immigration changes she desired. What was that about “Action – not just talk”?

Back in 2012 she even supported Reckless’s campaign against the EU:

Kelly Tolhurst 1

She campaigned and won her constituency as an avowed Eurosceptic. She told journalists she was a Leaver. What possibly could have changed Kelly’s mind?

Crick Reveals More Tory Expense Fiddles

Channel 4 News last night exposed more allegations about Tory overspending in South Thanet. Michael Crick’s investigation revealed:

  • More hotels booked that were not declared.
  • CCHQ Campaign Specialist Marion Little personally booked hotel rooms in her name, registered to her home adress in Hertfordshire.
  • Allegedly over 770 nights of hotel room bookings made, covering all three by-elections, were linked to Little.
  • An email in which Little coordinated moving equipment and activists between undeclared hotels.
  • The Tories legal agent for the whole campaign, Victoria Goff, signed off on an election declaration that omitted hotel overspends. This is despite her staying in a room at one of the undeclared hotels.
  • Local Conservatives working for the Tories in Clacton have now demanded an inquiry into potentially illegal by-election spending.

That’s plenty for the Electoral Commission to investigate then…

Man Who Lost to Clegg Running Again

Readers will remember how, just weeks before the election, Tom Watson diverted campaign resources away from key marginals in a doomed attempt to oust Nick Clegg. Now Labour’s loser candidate Oliver Coppard is running again in the Hillsborough by-election. That’ll go down well with Labour MPs who lost their seats while Coppard and Watson wasted resources on a humiliating vanity project.

Guido has the selection timetable:

Thurs 18 Feb: Applications open.

Wed 24 Feb 12noon: Close applications

Mon 29 Feb: Short-listing interviews.

Wed 2 Mar: Selection meeting in Sheffield.

Labour are inheriting a 14,000 majority from the late Harry Harpham. Even Coppard couldn’t throw that away…

Robert Jenrick Gets Cricked Over By-Election Expenses

The boys in blue are investigating the Tories.

The allegations are not going away…

Cops Called on Tory Hotel Overspend

Labour’s defeated Newark candidate Michael Payne has called the police in to investigate the Tories’ apparent by-election overspend. Watch Michael Crick’s report and read Guido’s story from this morning to see what they will be looking at. Now to see if this actually goes anywhere…

How Tories Hid Hotel and Transport Bills in Newark

Guido can shed some more light on how the Tories hid their by-election hotel bills in Newark. On 31 May 2014, over 350 young Tories boarded coaches and minibuses up to Newark for a day of campaigning. At the end of the day’s door-knocking, they needed something to eat and somewhere to stay. Paying for travel and hotels for that many people would rack up thousands in by-election expenses. So, the Tories ferried their activists to the Crowne Plaza hotel in Nottingham, outside of the constituency. There, Tory donors treated them to curry at an event named the “first annual RoadTrip dinner” – pictured above – where Rob Halfon and Eric Pickles gave speeches. After that they boozed at the Coco Lounge and NG1 bars, before returning to the hotel, where they made contributions to their room bills. The transport costs of ferrying the activists up to Newark and around Nottingham were apparently undeclared.

A source present says the meal and hotel were deliberately booked outside of the constituency, under the pretence of an “annual RoadTrip dinner”, to avoid appearing on the Newark by-election expenditure. They say this was by no means the only time this happened. A nifty little way of dodging the rules…

Labour Ogmore By-Election Bunfight

Labour MP Huw Irranca-Davies is stepping down from parliament after 14 years to run in the Welsh Assembly elections in May. Guido has been passed the timetable for the selection process to find Labour’s candidate in his Ogmore seat:

  • Self-nomination deadline: February 1, 12 noon
  • Shortlisting interview with NEC in London: February 2
  • Selection meeting: February 13
  • Expected by-election date: May 5

The local Labour party is up in arms over the rushed selection process and the decision to host the short-listing interview in London. One source describes this as a “good old fashioned stitch up” and another as “an absolute disgrace”.

Who will be the new MP? Local councillor Ceri Reeves is the wife of Irranca-Davies’ election agent and has been canvassing members for weeks. Corbynista sources say she is “very anti-Corbyn” and blame her for promoting the rumour that the leader’s office was attempting to parachute left-wing ex-MP Katy Clark into the seat. Corbyn’s team say the rumour is untrue. Other local councillors are considering making a formal complaint to Corbyn about the situation. Whether Reeves secures the nomination is seen as a proxy for the battle between Corbyn and the PLP…

Could South Thanet’s Result Be Overturned?

Crick is alleging that the Tories smashed the spending limits in an effort to defeat Nigel Farage.  It was treated by CCHQ like a by-election.  Even if UKIP prove it, would the Electoral Commission do anything about it? 

UPDATE: A legal source reminds Guido

The South Thanet misspending a not an Electoral Commission matter. It is a police matter and a criminal offence under sections 81, 82 and 84 of the representation of the people act 1983. If only someone could get the police to take it seriously.

Botch-erby: Labour Lose Seat Corbyn Visited Last Month

Three weeks ago Jeremy Corbyn was up in Cumbria, visiting flooded properties in the village of Botcherby with his Shadow Environment Secretary Kerry McCarthy. They clearly made a lasting impression. In the first local by-election of 2016 yesterday, independent candidate Jack Paton gained the Botcherby seat from Labour with an 11% swing. Will the floodgates open on May 5?

UKIP Attack “Security Risk” Corbyn

This is the UKIP window poster being put up in homes ahead of the Oldham by-election. Do not approach…

UKIP’s No Answer Campaign in Oldham

Nigel Farage and John Bickley launched UKIP’s by-election campaign HQ up in Oldham this morning, telling potential voters to give them a ring on a freephone 0800 number. Yet if you call the number advertised, budding ‘Kippers are told: “The 0800 number you have dialled is unfortunately no longer available”.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Alan Sugar on Jeremy Corbyn:

“It’s clear you alluded to students refunds to get votes from young impressionable people. You are a cheat and should resign.”

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