Tony Blair remains very much a Labour member, but it was in keeping with the collegiate, cross-party brainstorming approach of the former prime minister’s Future of Britain conference he held in London last week with the Britain Project that Lib Dem candidate Monica Harding should be the first keynote speaker.
Both Labour and the Lib Dems were well represented at the event, as well as disaffected Tories like Rory Stewart, Tobias Ellwood and Ruth Davidson, but, as Harding can attest, press talk of electoral pacts is wide of the mark. “I am anticipating Labour will field a candidate against me in Esher and Walton,” she said. “It’s going to be a tough fight to unseat Dominic Raab, but what the last two byelections show is that it’s the voters who are now thinking tactically.”
She felt the country was “crying out” for some great ideas in politics and saw Blair’s conference as a timely reminder of the bigger picture in our politics. Still, she was brought back to earth with a bump when she left. “After all the idealism of that day, I learnt of the latest groping scandal and how Boris Johnson wasn’t going to do anything about it,” she sighed. “We have to be better than this.”