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In the former Tory stronghold of Witney, it is all too clear why loyal supporters shunned the party | Politics News

It’s a gloomy and grey morning in Witney town centre.

Raindrops pour down Cotswold stone and bounce from the pavements.

This dismal July scene provides the perfect metaphor for Conservative sentiment here.

Witney, in Oxfordshire, has been a Tory stronghold for 102 years – and was also the constituency for former prime minister Lord Cameron – but it is now officially no longer a safe seat.

A “Liberal Democrats Winning Here” sign, visible from the roadside, is a nod to the town’s newly elected MP.

Charlie Maynard took the seat from the Conservatives, winning 20,832 votes to Robert Courts’ 16,493.

Finding someone who voted Conservative in the election, who wants to talk about it, isn’t easy.

Starmer hits out at ‘mess’ left by Tories – follow latest


The first willing to chat is Mark Doig, standing outside the butchers, who describes the Tories as “in a bit of a mess”.

“Too many prime ministers”, he tells me. “Boris Johnson, Liz Truss – they all did their bit to put the nail in the coffin.”

He also says he “might vote Lib Dem” next time.

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He adds: “I think the Tories have really blown it, it’s going to be difficult to get back.”

Another Conservative voter, on her mobility scooter outside Waitrose, is Joan White, who again has always, mostly, voted blue.

“They’ve got a lot of work to do haven’t they?” she says. “Immigration – they all need to work on it.”

And then: “I liked Rishi Sunak – he’s a gentleman of politics – but perhaps not tough enough.”

It’s something a few people have said here – that they like Mr Sunak, but he wasn’t a leader.

Patricia Harvey-Thompson

“Rishi Sunak was too weak,” Patricia Harvey-Thompson agrees. “Decent but weak.”

She goes as far as to say she felt sorry for him, so gave him “one vote”.

“I should have voted Lib Dem”, she adds, “but I thought well, at least get one vote”.

I ask her how she feels as a Conservative voter right now.

She replies simply: “Disappointed.”

Beyond that, she admits that she will “never forgive them for partygate” after her relative died of COVID.

It seems, for Patricia, and others I speak to, that the Conservatives have failed on most fronts.

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Jack Treloar, a 19-year-old Conservative councillor for Witney, agrees people “wanted change… nationally and locally”.

Jack Treloar
Jack Treloar

That’s why, he says, they voted tactically against the Tories.

Read more:
Uneasy voters hand Labour a ‘loveless landslide’
Who is in running to replace Sunak as Tory leader?

So where do the Conservatives go from here in Witney?

Jack says the Reform party “split the vote” and that’s where the Tories will need to work hard to convince people to return.

But there’s clear disenchantment with the Conservatives in this town and the ballot box was ultimately their protest.

The next Tory leader will need to do something significant to bring back voters.

Even those who remained faithful this time around appear to be slipping away.

Christian Horner: Formula 1 boss’s accuser appeals decision to clear Red Bull boss of misconduct | UK News

The female employee suspended by Red Bull has appealed against the decision to clear team principal Christian Horner of misconduct following allegations of inappropriate behaviour, according to the PA news agency.

After an investigation, Red Bull dismissed the complainant’s grievances in February, meaning Horner was allowed to remain in his role within the team.

But the employee has now lodged a formal appeal with the F1 team’s Austrian parent company Red Bull GmbH.

Sky Sports News reported the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) – which governs F1 – is also evaluating an inquiry relating to allegations by Horner’s accuser.

The employee, who is believed to have reported in for work in Milton Keynes, was told she acted dishonestly and is understood to have been suspended on full pay.

She also received a legal letter, which gave her five working days to appeal against the outcome of the investigation.

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Christian Horner hand-in-hand with wife Geri

Horner, 50, who has always denied the claims made against him, was allowed to continue in his role when GmbH cleared him of any wrongdoing.

When questioned about it on 7 March, ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah, Horner said: “There’s been a lot of coverage surrounding this.

“One has to go back to the basis. A grievance was raised, it was fully investigated and it was dismissed. We move onwards.”

“It has been of great interest in different elements of the media for different reasons,” he added.

“I think it’s time to draw a line under it. And to focus on what is going on the track.”

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He said the investigation had been a “very trying period” for him and his family, including his wife, former Spice Girl Geri Horner.

“My wife has been phenomenally supportive through this, as has my family, but the intrusion on my family is now enough, and we need to move forward and focus on what we are here for,” he said.

Sky News has contacted Red Bull Racing for comment.

Post Office scandal: Scottish sub-postmaster who tried to take own life still battling to clear name | UK News

A former Scottish sub-postmaster who attempted to take his own life after being convicted in the Post Office scandal has told Sky News he has no faith in government plans to pardon victims. 

Rab Thomson, who lives in Clackmannanshire, is one of around 100 people in Scotland wrongfully given a criminal record after bogus shortfalls appeared in the faulty Horizon IT system.

Prosecutions north of the border were managed by Scotland’s independent public prosecution service, the Crown Office, as opposed to internal criminal investigations led by the Post Office in England and Wales.

Four people have had their convictions quashed in Scotland to date.

Read more stories from victims of the scandal

The 64-year-old told Sky News that trouble started brewing in the year 2000 when the newly installed IT system began generating apparent shortfalls.

The father of two said: “As the time went on, it kept going up and up to £10,000, £15,000, up to £60,000. Panic set in.”

He said he tried to take his own life, adding: “I came and told my wife that I was finished. I said ‘I can’t live with this’. Depression is a really serious thing.”

He says when his case came to court he was told to confess to the allegations minutes before appearing in front of the judge to make life “easier” for his family.

“I said: ‘No, no, no. I don’t want to plead guilty. I’ve not done anything wrong. I’ve told you this from day one.'”

‘It’s disgusting’

It has emerged the Crown Office first became aware of possible concerns around the reliability of Horizon in 2013 but it failed to halt cases based on evidence from the system until 2015.

Louise Dar began running her local Post Office in Lenzie on the outskirts of Glasgow in 2014.

The former sub-postmistress lost everything after being hounded over claims she had stolen £44,000.

The 41-year-old was never convicted and told Sky News she believes that is because the Crown Office knew the Horizon system was flawed.

Gillies Lead - Louise Dar
Louise Dar accrued debts after being accused of stealing £44,000

Ms Dar, who is seeking compensation, still had to pay back every penny and has racked up debts that she and her family are still tackling today.

She said: “They must have known. It’s disgusting. We sold our car to help things.

“We were just lucky we had family that have supported us. My husband and I have just battled through all of it, and we’re still fighting to get there”.

The scandal dominated discussion at the Scottish parliament on Thursday with First Minister Humza Yousaf reaffirming his commitment to exonerate victims in a joined-up UK-wide approach with Rishi Sunak.

The issue remains a devolved matter and would require a “legislative consent motion” to grant Westminster permission to pass any legislation.

Read more:
What is the Post Office scandal?
Investigators ‘offered bonuses’ to prosecute sub-postmasters

Battling for vindication

Mr Thomson is still fighting to clear his name. The former sub-postmaster is due in court on Friday for a hearing in his long-running quest to overturn his conviction.

He said: “I was at the doctor’s yesterday and they have upped my tablets again because I’m getting thoughts of it all.

“I’m getting thoughts because the pressure is really mounting on me now, especially with the government coming out and saying that they are going to look into and overturn them.

“But I’ve still got to go to court. Until we get an answer to say everything’s abolished, I’ve got to live with it. I’m still under that pressure.”

Rab Thomson
Mr Thomson is still fighting to clear his name.

The head of the Crown Office, the Lord Advocate, is in talks to appear in front of MSPs in Holyrood to make a statement on the scandal.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK

Rishi Sunak vows to clear immigration backlog – but dodges questions on leaving European Convention on Human Rights | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has repeatedly refused to say whether the UK would have to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to deliver his government’s plan for removing asylum seekers who arrive illegally.

Making his debut appearance at the Commons Liaison Committee, the prime minister was asked by the SNP’s Joanna Cheery whether the UK would have to derogate from the ECHR to fulfil his proposals to curb immigration.

“You will see the legislation next year and no doubt we will have the opportunity to debate it then but I wouldn’t want to speculate on that now,” he said.

Mr Sunak said he welcomes the High Court’s ruling on Monday that the government’s policy of removing asylum seekers to Rwanda is lawful.

He told MPs he believes the plans will help tackle the problem of small boats crossing the Channel.

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But the PM refused to be drawn on whether the government’s Rwanda policy would require changes to the Human Rights Act or the UK’s commitment to the ECHR.

Both Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab have said the government may have to consider withdrawing from the ECHR to press ahead successfully with the government’s plans.

“We expect further legal challenge. We will continue to pursue that as necessary,” he said.

“I believe the Rwanda scheme represents an important part of our plan to tackle illegal migration and stop small boats. It is not the only part of it but it is an important part of it. That is why I welcome the court decision yesterday.

“We will introduce legislation in the new year that will achieve the aim I set out. I am confident that we can deliver on that plan and it will make a difference and reduce the number of boats arriving.”

On Monday, Lord Justice Lewis said in his ruling that the controversial policy, introduced under Boris Johnson, was “consistent with the refugee convention”.

However, he said the home secretary should look at people’s “particular circumstances” before deporting them to the central African country.

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Braverman defends Rwanda plan

Making a statement in the Commons after the judgment, the home secretary said the Rwanda policy is a “humane” and “practical alternative” for those who come to the UK through “dangerous, illegal and unnecessary routes”.

“Being relocated to Rwanda is not a punishment, but an innovative way of addressing a major problem to redress the imbalance between illegal and legal migration routes,” she told MPs.

The government announced its Rwanda policy back in April, which would see some asylum seekers who had reached the UK via small boat Channel crossings deported to the country to have their cases processed.

Ms Patel said it would help deter people from making the dangerous journey, but human rights campaigners, charities and opposition parties condemned the plan as inhumane.

PM evasive as he faces questions on immigration

The PM avoided directly answering questions about immigration.

Diana Johnson asked how many small boat crossings he expects next year, whether anyone will be waiting more than 6 months for an asylum claims and how many will be sent to Rwanda, but the PM wouldn’t set specific targets, saying the issues “can’t be solved overnight”.

While the court decision yesterday that the Rwanda plan is legal was a win for the government, the plan being workable relies on swift action.

The home office being potentially dragged to court over every Rwanda deportation case makes it very hard for the policy hard to work as a deterrent.

Rishi Sunak knows it’s an issue that chimes with many voters and Tory MPs, something he said is a personal priority.

He pledged last week to “abolish” the immigration backlog, to achieve something his predecessors tried and failed to.

The PM may not be setting himself any targets today, but images of small boats arriving on the Kent coast will speak for themselves.

The first flight was set to take off in June with four people on board, but was halted after a number of legal challenges and the European Court of Human Rights ruling the plan carried “a real risk of irreversible harm”.

However, both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss insisted they would push ahead with the policy when they took the keys to Number 10.

Meanwhile, the PM also told the Commons Liaison Committee that he was committed to abolishing the backlog of 92,000 asylum claims – as it stood at the end of June 2022 – by the end of the year.

However, the current backlog stands at 117,00.

“I think it would represent one of the most significant reductions in the backlog we have seen. If we can go further I would absolutely love to,” he said.