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Video interview – Lib Dems smell Blue blood as they launch Stratford general election campaign

THE Liberal Democrats can smell blood. Blue blood.

Dr Manuela Perteghella launched her campaign to become Stratford-on-Avon’s new MP last Wednesday by saying the Lib Dems have shown the Conservatives can be beaten in this area and that could be repeated at the general election.

In front of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Dr Perteghella, who lives in Welford with her husband, an environmental economist, and their three children, said: “In May 2023, the people of Stratford-on-Avon district returned a Liberal Democrat council with a large majority after an historic victory. This stunning result shows that we are the only real challengers to the Conservatives in Stratford-on-Avon.

“My team and I have been speaking to thousands of people around the constituency. Again and again, we are hearing from Conservative voters who are disillusioned with our MP, have lost confidence in this government, and now want change.

“I am reaching out to all voters across the constituency to have the confidence to vote for me this time. So many people have been telling me they want a fresh start for our area and in Westminster after years of controversy, disappointment and a failure to speak up for, and to represent, all residents in this constituency.

“I want to restore trust in politics, after years of scandals and sleaze.”

Dr Perteghella, who was originally from Rome but has lived in the UK all her adult life, works in higher education and the arts, including many years as a university lecturer.

A Stratford district councillor, she believes it’s a two-horse race for the constituency – her against Nadhim Zahawi, who has been the MP since 2010 and has been, controversially to some, reselected to fight for the seat again.

That decision has angered some traditional Tory voters and sparked the setting up of Stratford Can, a political group that wants to offer an alternative for Conservative voters, but has yet to reveal its candidate.

Dr Perteghella believes Labour and Greens have no chance of winning in Stratford, leaving the straight fight – blue v gold.

Liberal Democrat candidate Cllr Manuela Perteghella was joined by supporters on Waterside yesterday (Wednesday) as she launched her general election campaign. Photo: Mark Williamson
Liberal Democrat candidate Cllr Manuela Perteghella was joined by supporters on Waterside yesterday (Wednesday) as she launched her general election campaign. Photo: Mark Williamson

But let’s look at the numbers: Mr Zahawi’s majority in the 2019 election was 19,972. Dominic Skinner, the Lib Dem candidate back then, gained 13,371 votes, but that was dwarfed by Mr Zahawi’s 33,343. With Labour getting 6,222 and the Greens 2,112, Dr Perteghella would need all the Lib Dem, Labour and Green votes as well as another 6,000-odd votes to prise the seat away from the Tories.

So how will she convince enough voters to back her and the Lib Dems and send her to Westminster as the constituency’s first female MP?

“There has been a lack of investment in the NHS by the government. The Lib Dems will reduce waiting times for cancer patients and those with serious illnesses and who need to see a doctor,” she promised.

“We need to have a proper infrastructure to reduce the traffic congestion and queues in Stratford and we have to stop polluting our beautiful rivers, which are full of sewage.

“We also have to listen to what residents want. It means listening to, and working with communities in Alcester, Bidford, Henley, Shipston, Stratford, Studley and all of the villages across this constituency.”

She added: “This is history. These are hugely exciting times and there’s never been a better opportunity for real change in Stratford. It’s looking very positive for us and I urge people to vote for me this time for a fresh start because I will represent the residents and businesses of Stratford with passion and fairness and I will fight tooth and nail for them.”

Dr Perteghella stood on a bench outside the RSC to launch her Westminster bid. Choosing to do it on Valentine’s Day may be seen as the Lib Dems looking for a love affair with the Stratford-on-Avon electorate in the run-up to the general election and beyond.

However, the large task in front of them will be persuading more traditional Conservative voters to divorce the Tories and to try a date-night with the Lib Dems.

That’s usually a lot easier at a parish and district level, but many voters conform to type when it comes to the general election when the old love affairs hold firm.

However, this area has had a Liberal MP before, in 1906.

The Lib Dems will say the wait for another has been far too long.

The Herald will carry interviews with other candidates when they launch their campaigns.

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