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The Conservatives could be in danger of losing more than a dozen seats in their so-called “blue wall” heartlands, a new poll suggests.

YouGov found that voting intention in 53 such constituencies in the south and east of England currently held by the party stood at 44% for the Conservatives, 24% for Labour, 18% for the Liberal Democrats and 9% for the Greens.

“The Conservatives could be set to lose up to 16 seats in their ‘blue wall’ heartlands if an election was held tomorrow,” research manager Patrick English said.

He said the voting intention figures represent “a change of minus eight for the Conservatives from their 2019 performance in these constituencies, plus four for Labour, a surprising six-point drop for the Liberal Democrats, and a sizable seven-point gain for the Greens”.

Mr English added: “The Conservatives are falling almost twice as fast in the blue wall as they are nationally, with the latest YouGov poll showing them five points down on their 2019 general election showing.”

Those surveyed for the research expressed concerns about the government’s handling of Brexit and the need for people to have their say on local housing developments.

All of the seats voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum and have a higher-than-average concentration of university degree holders.

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Boris Johnson currently has a Commons majority of more than 80, with the Tories taking a number of traditional Labour “red wall” constituencies in 2019 on the way to the party’s best election result in decades.

That success means the party would have to lose a number of seats elsewhere, in addition to any “blue wall” reverses, in order to see its status as the largest party in parliament evaporate.

Some have suggested the prime minister has been preoccupied with shoring up Tory support in the former Labour heartlands it now holds, at the expense of traditional Conservative constituencies.

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Others say such talk is wide of the mark, but the result of the recent Chesham and Amersham by-election offers potential evidence there could be something in such claims of cracks in the “blue wall”.

YouGov said its findings suggest that particular result was “no isolated incident”.

The Conservatives won the seat at the last general election in 2019 with a majority of more than 16,000.

But this was overturned by the Liberal Democrats, who won the constituency by 8,028 votes in what was a stunning result.

“If the swings were uniform across all constituencies, Labour would be set to gain a total of nine blue wall seats and the Liberal Democrats three,” Mr English said.

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Liberal Democrats take by election seat

“While it would not be anywhere near enough to offset the party’s losses in the so-called red wall in 2019, Labour punching holes in traditional Tory foundations will send alarm bells ringing across Conservative Associations and MPs in the south.”

YouGov said its findings suggest that constituencies such as Chingford and Woodford Green (represented by former cabinet minister and party leader Iain Duncan Smith), Chipping Barnet (currently held by former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers) and Wycombe (represented by prominent Brexiteer and former minister Steve Baker) could change hands.

“A large drop in the Conservative vote share would also severely threaten four other Tory constituencies, including current Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in Esher and Walton as well as Cambridgeshire South, Cities of London and Westminster, and Guildford,” Mr English said.

YouGov polled 1,141 adults between 20 and 28 July.

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Police ‘reviewing information’ about ex-Tory MP Mark Menzies after alleged misuse of funds




Police 'reviewing information' about ex-Tory MP Mark Menzies after alleged misuse of funds

Police say they are reviewing “information” about former Conservative MP Mark Menzies after Labour asked for an investigation into claims he misused party funds.

Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds wrote to Lancashire Police asking for an inquiry after The Times reported he had made a late-night phone call to an aide asking for funds to pay off “bad people”.

Mr Menzies told the paper he contests the allegations against him.

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Mark Menzies, the MP for Fylde. Pic: UK Parliament
Mark Menzies, the MP for Fylde. Pic: UK Parliament

In a statement, Lancashire Police said: “We can confirm that we have now received a letter detailing concerns around this matter and we are in the process of reviewing the available information in more detail.”

Mr Menzies lost the Conservative Party whip in Westminster following the reports on Wednesday evening, while the party investigates the claims.

Losing the whip means Mr Menzies is no longer a member of the Conservative parliamentary party and will sit as an independent MP, rather than a Tory MP, in the House of Commons.

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A Conservative spokesperson said: “The party is conducting an investigation into the claims made and has been doing so for several months.

“We will of course share any information with the police if they believe it would be helpful to any investigation they decide to undertake. Suggestions the party has not been seriously examining this matter are demonstrably false.”

In the letter to Lancashire Police, the Labour Party chair is understood to have said Tory chief whip, party whip’s office, and headquarters may have information that could assist with an investigation.

The letter also argues there is a clear public interest in the matter being investigated by officers to ensure public confidence in politicians.

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Mel Stride, the government’s work and pensions secretary, told Sky News this morning the matter was being “thoroughly investigated”.

“Conservative HQ is looking now very closely into the circumstances around the various reports that have been made, and the whip has been removed from Mark Menzies in the meantime,” he added.

Labour shadow minister Matthew Pennycook told Sky News: “There are a series of questions about whether an offence has been committed in relation to fraud by false representation or misconduct in public office.

“They’re quite serious allegations. It’s right that the police investigate.”

Asked about the matter this morning, Rishi Sunak said: “It’s right that Mark Menzies has resigned the Conservative whip. He’s been suspended from his position as a trade envoy whilst the investigations into those allegations continue.

“For our part, I can’t comment on our ongoing investigation while it’s happening, and he’s no longer a Conservative MP.”

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Speaking to the Electoral Dysfunction podcast, Tory peer Ruth Davidson reckoned Mr Menzies would not last the week as a MP.

In a statement to The Times, Mr Menzies said: “I strongly dispute the allegations put to me. I have fully complied with all the rules for declarations. As there is an investigation ongoing I will not be commenting further.”

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Mark Menzies: Tory activist who reported MP over alleged misuse of funds disappointed by party response




Mark Menzies: Tory activist who reported MP over alleged misuse of funds disappointed by party response

A Tory activist who reported an MP over claims he misused party funds has told Sky News she is disappointed by the way her complaint has been handled.

Mark Menzies voluntarily quit the Conservative parliamentary party this week after a report in The Times claimed he called his ex-campaign manager Katie Fieldhouse, 78, early one day to say he was locked in a flat by “bad people” and needed £5,000 as a matter of “life and death”.

The sum, which rose to £6,500, was eventually paid by his office manager from her personal bank account and subsequently reimbursed from funds raised from donors in an account named Fylde Westminster Group, the newspaper said.

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But despite the incident taking place in December – and Ms Fieldhouse submitting her complaint in January – the Fylde MP had remained part of the parliamentary party and as a trade envoy for the government until the press reports surfaced.

He has now lost the Conservative whip and was suspended as one of Rishi Sunak’s envoys.

Mr Menzies strongly disputes the claims, which also include accusations he used campaign funds to pay his personal medical bills.

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Speaking to Sky News’ Frazer Maude, Ms Fieldhouse said: “I am feeling dreadful because I am a devout Tory and as I have said to everybody else, I reported his actions to the chief whip… it is now the middle of April.

“Come to your own conclusions [about] what is happening.”

Asked if she was disappointed with the way the complaint was being handled, she said: “Yes.”

And asked if Mr Menzies should step down, she added: “It is for his conscience and the party to deal with. I have put my faith in the party, it is for them to deal with it.”

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Mr Sunak was also asked by reporters on Friday whether his former colleague should quit the Commons, and why it had taken until now for the party to act, but he said he would not comment while an investigation was being carried out.

Instead, the prime minister said: “It’s right that Mark Menzies has resigned the Conservative whip. He’s been suspended from his position as a trade envoy whilst the investigations into those allegations continue.

“For our part, I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation while it’s happening and he’s no longer a Conservative MP.”

Meanwhile, the Labour Party has written to Lancashire Police to demand an investigation into allegations of fraud and misconduct in public office.

Leader Sir Keir Starmer told broadcasters that the Conservatives “seem to have sat on their hands” over the allegations.

He added: “If they thought they could sweep this under the carpet somehow they were obviously very mistaken and that is why I think there are very serious questions now that need to be answered – not just by the individual but also by the government on this.”

And the Liberal Democrats have called for the ministerial ethics adviser to investigate chief whip Simon Hart’s handling of the complaint.

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Government accused of U-turn after accepting Russian and Belarusian athletes at Olympics




Government accused of U-turn after accepting Russian and Belarusian athletes at Olympics

The UK government has been accused of a U-turn after accepting Russian and Belarusian athletes can compete at the 2024 Olympics.

Last year, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said athletes “funded by their states” or “who are in receipt of funding or sponsorship directly aligned to their states” cannot be considered neutral in the context of the invasion of Ukraine.

Britain is part of a coalition of like-minded countries which had called for a ban on such athletes due to this funding.

But the government has now confirmed it agrees with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that Russian and Belarusian athletes can compete under a neutral banner at the upcoming Paris Games.

Ms Frazer said on Friday those athletes will be taking part under the “strictest neutrality conditions possible”.

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After the position was revealed by The Times earlier this month, there were accusations of a government U-turn on the issue.

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Richard Caborn, who was sports minister between 2001 and 2007, said: “This is a humiliating U-turn by Frazer after her forceful speech one year ago to the Council of Europe setting out why Britain should support the total ban of Russian athletes participating in the Paris Olympics.”

In her speech last year, Ms Frazer said the IOC’s recommendations did “not go far enough”, and that a group of more than 30 nations had raised concerns.

Lucy Frazer, Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport, leaving 10 Downing Street, London, following a Cabinet meeting. Picture date: Tuesday January 30, 2024.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer. Pic: PA

The government has rejected the suggestion that it changed course following an IOC threat to prevent the UK from hosting Olympic qualifying events.

Ms Frazer said on Friday that she and sports minister Stuart Andrew are “personally committed to supporting Ukraine in the face of Putin’s illegal invasion”.

They said it was for each sporting body, like the IOC, to make their own determinations.

Ms Frazer added: “But our position is clear. Putin’s regime does not deserve to see its athletes line up on the starting blocks of races or stand on podiums during medal ceremonies as representatives of their countries.

“This has never been about punishing individual Russian or Belarusian athletes.

“What we stand against is athletes competing representing the states of Russia and Belarus.

“We continue to vigorously oppose Russian and Belarusian state participation. Our policy has never been a complete and total ban on neutral athletes from Russia and Belarus participating at all.”

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Inside Paris 2024 preparations

The minister pointed out Russians and Belarusians have been able to compete as neutrals in UK tennis competitions.

She insisted the efforts of the government and coalition have been focused on urging Olympic organisers to “change their approach, apply the strictest neutrality conditions possible and ensure they are implemented rigorously”.

“After two years of concerted lobbying, they have done that. And the result is that the number of athletes from Russia and Belarus expected to participate in the Olympics is in the tens, not hundreds.

“As a result, we have written to the IOC and International Paralympic Committee noting that their final neutrality rules for Paris achieve the widely accepted baseline of ensuring that Russia and Belarus are not represented as states in international sport.”

The IOC expects as many as 54 Russian athletes to compete in Paris.

They will not be able to compete in team disciplines, cannot compete in Russian colours or under the Russian flag and medals will not be included together in a table.

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The IOC is leaving it up to the individual sports to make decisions on whether to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete even as neutrals – World Athletics, for instance, has imposed an outright ban.

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