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“I could no longer vote for the conservatives”: the sleazy and the parties put off the conservative voters | Boris Johnson | Today Headlines

“I could no longer vote for the conservatives”: the sleazy and the parties put off the conservative voters | Boris Johnson

| Today Headlines | Local News

Christmas lights twinkle and there’s even an energetic fiddler playing a cheerful folk tune in the heart of Yeovil – but voters in this Somerset town have little festive joy for Boris Johnson’s beleaguered government.

Alison Johnstone, 60, can no longer bring herself to vote Conservative. The last straw was seen by dozens of Conservative MPs voting against the government’s proposed public health measures last week. “It was so bad,” says Johnstone, who is a physiotherapist at Yeovil Hospital. “I’m NHS, and it doesn’t make sense not to take all the extra precautions – and you can’t help but think: is it because they wanted to keep partying?”

Alison Johnstone at Yeovil last week.
Alison Johnstone: “Boris sees himself as a different Churchill, and I don’t think he’s up to it.” Photograph: Tom Wall / The Observer

She doesn’t know who she would vote for now, but the newly reinvigorated Lib Dems are an option. “Hand on my heart, I don’t think I could [vote Conservative]. Boris thinks of himself as another Churchill, and I don’t think he’s up to it, ”she said, adjusting her face mask. “If we had someone like Paddy Ashdown again, I could very well vote for him.”

Yeovil, who was once the stronghold of Ashdown, which helped establish the Lib Dems as the third force in British politics, became Conservative in 2015, electing Marcus Fysh. The region voted almost 60% Brexit the following year, and the majority for Fysh increased in every general election. But damaging scandals over parties breaking Covid rules and MPs with second jobs are pushing some Tory voters back to Lid Dems, who are again seen as serious challengers in many Tory seats after the party’s spectacular election victory. partial last week in North Shropshire.

The Lib Dems caught the attention of Jane Dart, a Conservative voter. She lives in the same village outside of town where Ashdown died in 2018. “I could be influenced. I am one of those people ripe for change, ”she says in a decorated pedestrian mall. “I would like to be a staunch Conservative, but I’m starting to question their viability and leadership now.”

Dart, 51, who teaches at a private school, also highlights the vote on the government’s Plan B Covid rules, which required Labor support to pass. “How viable is it? [Boris Johnson] as a leader if he cannot control his own party? I will never vote Labor but I could be persuaded [to vote for another party] if there was a viable alternative.

Other traditional Conservative voters are more outspoken. Lee Benneworth, 42, is praying for someone from the group to take over from Johnson. He mentions the Prime Minister’s hesitant speech on Peppa Pig to the CBI and the doomed attempts to change the rules of parliamentary lobbying to save Owen Paterson from suspension. “I have no confidence in [Johnson]. He’s just a prankster, ”he said, on a shopping trip with his family. “He’s a liar. He’s used to lying.

Victoria Benneworth in Yeovil last week
Victoria Benneworth: “I know several people who could not see their loved ones before they died in hospital.” Photograph: Tom Wall / The Observer

Victoria Benneworth, 35, cannot forgive the alleged lockdown Christmas parties at No 10 and elsewhere in government. “I know several people who could not see their loved ones before dying in the hospital,” she says. “I certainly wouldn’t vote conservative. It would be either Labor or Liberal Democrats.

There is also revulsion at the rhetoric displayed by Fysh last week against the latest public health restrictions. “I would not vote for [Fysh] after declaring that the passports for the vaccines were the same as those for Nazi Germany, ”said one buyer, who generally votes Conservatives. “He’s vile.”

There are, however, pockets of support for the Conservatives. Annie Price, 48, equestrian coach, is more sympathetic. “Their job is quite difficult,” she said, browsing a real estate agent’s window. “Everything they do is wrong. Parties here and parties there… that doesn’t interest me. We’ve all been through so much. Does it really matter that they have crooked rules, if they did? “

Karl Shortland at Yeovil last week.
Karl Shortland: ‘When I discovered [about the parties] I was furious. Photograph: Tom Wall / The Observer

But they outnumber the angry and disillusioned Conservative voters who seem to care. “I was very careful going out. I missed seeing most of my family last Christmas. My father worked in a nursing home so I hardly got a chance to see him, ”says Karl Shortland, 29, as his children play on benches near the poppy-covered war memorial in the city. city. “When I discovered [about the parties] I was furious. Absolutely smoking. “

Some in the city are relieved that the political tide finally seems to be turning against the Tories. Gillian Hoskins, 60, is haunted by images of the Prime Minister’s former press secretary Allegra Stratton joking about a lockdown party.

“I had my mother in a house. I couldn’t say all I wanted [to her]. It was sickening not to be able to see her [when visits were banned] and then only see her for half an hour a week. I lost it this year, ”she said, tears in her eyes. “And this woman was laughing… it was hurtful.”

The shock of the by-elections in North Shropshire has changed the perception of what is possible in Yeovil. Hoskins, who raised his family in the area, could imagine the city electing a Lib Dem again. “I think things will change,” she says, as a gentle twilight falls through the streets. “I think Boris has most likely had his day.”

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