Oxfordshire Election Diary: Week 1

Oxfordshire Election Diary: Week 1
Statue of Queen Victoria, Belfast. We are channeling her vibe right now. (Pic by K Mitch Hodge at unsplash.com.)

Like Queen Victoria, we are very much not amused.

The Clarion had plans for this summer. Articles we wanted to write (the FOIs are in). Bike rides we wanted to go on. Events we wanted to attend. The plan was not to be slaving over a hot laptop while the sun shines.

But the PM has spoken. A swift Clarion editorial meeting was convened. How should we report this? What might our readers want? And this is where we've ended up: we’ll report the big stuff on a daily basis, but not a blow-by-blow account of every campaign event attended. We’ll then post a weekly roundup of what we’ve seen and heard across Oxfordshire.

If you’re a candidate or politically active and have seen something you think we might need to report on, send it to us. Our inbox is open: news@oxfordclarion.uk. Think of this as crowd-sourced election coverage for Oxfordshire.

To set the scene, these are the candidates declared so far:

Our election preview from earlier this year is here, and though everything is subject to change (maybe the East Oxford Conservatives might select a candidate one day?), we think it broadly holds up so far.

The starting gun

There was a scrap to see who got the first stakeboards up:

And in a fairly heady national climate of MPs standing/not standing, a few councillors quietly went indie. First former Conservative councillor Jane Murphy from Oxfordshire County Council which we reported on here; then Kevin Bulmer from Goring (more of that here). Debra Dewhurst, new (one-year) LibDem councillor for Blewbury & Harwell in the Vale of White Horse also announced she'd be sitting as an independent in a long Facebook post.

But the national campaigns were just getting going with many pictures of politicians on the doorsteps – in the rain, sun and everything in between. (Public service reminder to all activists: remember to wear sunscreen. It’s been a while since there was a summer campaign!)


Sitting MP Victoria Prentis (Conservative) launched her campaign with a video setting out her stall as a local candidate, and positioning the choice as one between higher taxes from Labour or stability with the Conservative Party. (We’ve heard that somewhere before.)

Labour challenger Sean Woodcock launched his campaign with a visit from Anneliese Dodds, who as well as being Oxford East MP is the Labour Party national chair. He also referenced Compass Oxfordshire, who are supporting tactical voting for Labour in Banbury.

Our Clarion correspondents in Banbury report their Facebook feeds lighting up with Labour ads as soon as the election was called. This is clearly a high-priority target for Labour and campaigners are being drafted in from across Oxfordshire.

It isn’t a target seat for the Liberal Democrats or the Green Party. LibDem candidate Elizabeth Adams has been helping out in Bicester & Woodstock (see below) as well as campaigning locally, while the Greens’ Arron Baker has made a plea to vote for a move away from divisive politics and slogans.

Bicester & Woodstock

This is a new seat and already being keenly fought.

Conservative Rupert Harrison, former chief of staff to George Osborne and a portfolio manager at $10 trillion investment company Black Rock, is putting the hours in with lots of canvass sessions on his twitter feed and visits from neighbouring candidates.

(Note the careful portrayal of this as a “three-way marginal seat” – it suits the electoral interests of the Conservatives for the opposition vote to be divided between LibDems and Labour.)

Liberal Democrat Calum Miller is county councillor for Otmoor and was Oxfordshire’s cabinet member for finance before stepping down to fight this seat, which is a top target for the party. He launched his campaign with a video, asking voters to vote for a better, greener, fairer Britain on July 4th.

Labour’s Veronica Oakeshott asked people to vote for change to save the NHS:

Didcot & Wantage

Sitting MP David Johnston (Conservative) has perhaps the most energetic online presence of any Oxfordshire candidate: he has been doing a video diary each day of his campaign, hosted on Facebook. This week he talked about energy bills, VAT on private school fees, state school GCSE pass rates, and the state of the county's roads.

LibDem challenger Olly Glover has been wheeling out tactical voting recommendations in an area where local council seats LibDem-dominated. The tactical.vote site endorsed voting LibDem in this constituency, and the New Statesman projection predicts a LibDem win.  He set out his stall thus:

Didcot councillor Mocky Khan has been selected for Labour: we haven’t seen activity from him just yet. Early days! Are you Team Mocky? Do feel free to send us press releases.

Henley & Thame

This seat is Conservative-held but incumbent John Howell is standing down. New candidate Caroline Newton was selected in February this year and has been busy doing the rounds of Whitchurch Fete and Henley’s weekly market. We’d usually embed a tweet, but she’s chosen Facebook ahead of Twitter for her campaigning updates:

She also volunteered a defence of the National Service policy:

I woke this morning to headlines that the next Conservative Government will reintroduce conscription for all 18 year olds. The reality, of course, is very different. The proposal is for a weekend a month (for a year) in a civilian volunteer role; or - for 5% of the cohort - a year’s military service or in cyber security. My Gen Z’er (teenager to you and me) says she welcomes it (tho NOT in the military!) and says it’ll do wonders for toughening up those younger, softer Gen Alphas. 🤔😂

Meanwhile, LibDem challenger Freddie van Mierlo this week rolled out the big guns of Carol Vordeman to convince voters to vote tactically in this constituency:

(He’s also been active on the topics of national service, sewage and the NHS, but how could we not pick this tweet to show you?)

There was an abrupt switcheroo of Labour candidates this week. Ally Aldridge-Gibbons was initially announced as the candidate, but it was pointed out that as a civil servant (an HM Inspector of Schools), she’d have to resign her job to become a candidate. She’s been replaced by Nanda Manley Browne, who’s a councillor in Brixton.

Oxford East

Sitting Labour MP Anneliese Dodds was in Gairloch – seriously, look at a map, it is so far away – for BBC Any Questions:

Somehow she made it back for the Clean Rivers Festival which the Clarion reported on here. And then on to Labour Women’s Network, highlighting that “Labour has a plan to deliver the change women need, tackling violence against women and girls, fixing women's healthcare and working to close the gender pay gap.” She also made it to Banbury to help Sean Woodcock. A lot of miles going on there, clearly. Still, at least it's a short campaign!

The Conservative Party have not yet selected a candidate.

The Liberal Democrat candidate Theo Jupp also attended the Clean Rivers Festival. He called for reform of the industry to end sewage dumping, calling it “a festival that shouldn't have had to be organised”, and asking residents to sign up to a citizen science project to monitor water quality.

Despite excellent Green results in the recent City Council elections in Oxford, we have not yet seen a Green campaign kick into gear for candidate Sushila Dhall. Independent Amir Steve Ali launched a crowdfunder, as did Jabu Nala Hartley, referencing David and Goliath. David Henwood is also standing once again but has not appealed for funds.

Oxford West and Abingdon

Sitting Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran launched her campaign for re-election saying it had been the 'privilege of her life' to be the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, and she hoped to be re-elected. She also explained she had been recovering from hospitalisation but hoped to be “back on the doors” very soon.

Conservative challenger Vinay Raniga has been seen out and about in Abingdon, but also in neighbouring constituencies with visits to Horspath and Bicester. He launched his campaign setting out his stall as an advocate for the NHS:


Formerly the constituency of then Prime Minister David Cameron, Witney has been trending orange and red in recent local elections.

The sitting Conservative MP is Robert Courts, whose current ministerial role is Solicitor General but was previously Aviation Minister – the Witney constituency includes RAF Brize Norton. As such he has taken the time to highlight the tragedy at RAF Coningsby while the campaign gets underway. Local activity has included a visit to Bampton garden centre and a meeting with Vodafone on coverage in South Leigh (population: 336) and Standlake (1,497).

LibDem challenger Charlie Maynard talks about tactical voting a lot, with the various tactical voting websites naming him as the de facto challenger to the Conservatives. (Carol Vordeman pops up on his twitter feed too. We did not have “Carol Vorderman unleashes tactical voting hellfire” on our bingo card for this decade.) He also went to Witney Pride and had his mum out delivering for him.

Labour has defined Witney as a non-battleground seat. Their candidate Georgia Meadows has also been out and about at Witney Pride:

Green candidate Andrew Prosser was speaking at the Clean Rivers Festival in Oxford at the weekend. (Given what seems to be universal agreement about the importance of clean rivers in Oxfordshire right now, surely something can be done?)

We are no longer channelling Queen Victoria. That was a long one. (Pic by Christian Erfurt at unsplash.com.)

Many Oxfordshire residents will have already made up their mind which way to vote – sometimes for candidates with a real chance of getting elected, others for those unlikely to win this time. But whether your candidate gets in or not, tracking the local campaigns shows which issues matter to the people of Oxfordshire – not just the national picture. We’ll be posting one of these each week (we may regret this) as the campaign develops, and as a clearer picture emerges of the battleground in each seat.

If you're reading this you probably don't need reminding, but just in case: do remember to register to vote.

Vote. Just vote. Pic by Nick Fewings at unsplash.com.