Jonathan Tod is one of five candidates chosen to stand under the banner of Gina Miller’s True and Fair Party in the next General Election – in his case, in the newly-formed constituency of Fareham and Waterlooville in Hampshire. He contacted Sussex Bylines as the nearest regional Bylines title to the constituency, keen to highlight what the party stands for, and what he believes he can achieve were he to win.
An uphill struggle
He is up against a formidable opponent; Suella Braverman, ex-Home Secretary and the sitting MP for Fareham, who has been chosen by her local Conservative Party to run as a candidate for the combined constituency at the next election. Fareham, as Tod himself points out, has never voted anything other than Conservative since the constituency was first formed in 1885, and Braverman was elected with a whopping majority of 26,000 at the last General Election. The change in constituency boundaries to include Meon Valley and Waterlooville has, however, somewhat changed the odds in favour of her opponents. Tod believes that the majority to be overcome is likely to be closer to 6,000 in 2024, an eminently winnable proposition.
But how much chance does a True and Fair candidate really stand against the main parties, who have much greater resources, both financial and human, to call upon? Even getting the local media to cover his campaign is proving to be an uphill struggle. The challenge that he faces is one that is shared by every candidate from a smaller or newly-formed political party under our current First Past the Post electoral system.
Tod is realistic about his chances. “It’s going to be a tough old run, I realise that”, he says. “But what I’m finding on the doorstep is that people are deeply unhappy with the present lot and with the extreme policies that are coming through. Those who I call Conservatives with a heart really don’t like Braverman’s pronouncements about living in a tent being a lifestyle choice, not least because a significant number of homeless are ex-military.”
Local issues of vital importance
Tod himself is passionate about getting rid of the Conservatives and damning about their record in government. “In my lifetime I’ve never seen anything like the scale of corruption, the lack of decency and the willingness to brazenly and openly lie”, he says. His worst fear is that Braverman manages to scrape back in with a much-reduced majority and then plays on the populist vote. “I think that she is dangerous. The risk is that if she is re-elected, she might take the Tories to an even more extreme territory, and getting her voted out is vital.”
An easy accusation to level at Tod is that he represents exactly the sort of ‘metropolitan establishment elite’ that Braverman and the right-wing of the Conservative Party fulminate against. A London barrister practising in family law – with some impressively big-name clients – he is aware that he needs to spend as much time as possible in the constituency, learning about local issues, and talking to people about their key concerns. He feels that he has a big advantage in not being a politician and never having previously belonged to a political party, which might well resonate with a public so deeply disillusioned with professional politicians and Westminster.
“What people care about is not what gets Westminster and the media so exercised,” he says. “They care about hyper-local issues like access to doctors and dentists, the rundown state of their high streets, pollution of their rivers, the number of potholes in their roads – and, of course, the cost of living crisis.”
A different kind of politician
Tod is refreshingly non-partisan, enjoying Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell on their podcast The Rest is Politics and praising the Green MP Caroline Lucas for everything that she has achieved during her Parliamentary career. So, what would he hope to achieve in the unlikely event, as he acknowledges, of his being elected in 2024? “I would really go after all the corruption that we have seen in public life in the last few years, and I would encourage the limitation of number 10’s power which has grown exponentially ever since Blair.”
Tod is a great fan of the cross-party committee system and would extend their powers to co-opt experts and to take some major policy decisions that would then be put to Parliament. “I also think that Brexit was the worst decision that this country has taken in a generation, and we need to keep the issue of rejoining the EU very much alive.”
Key concerns if elected
Tod credits his son, who studied at SOAS, with shifting his own opinions towards the centre-left – “We had daily diatribes from him over the dinner table’ – and believes passionately that the levels of poverty that currently exist in the UK are profoundly wrong. “Why does it take a United Nations envoy to tell us that seven million people are living without proper heating, or that fourteen million are living below the poverty line?”
He holds much of the media responsible for not exposing the inequalities in the country: “The press has effectively been bought out by the right wing – it’s toxic and divisive. I used to be able to just about read the Daily Mail, but not any longer.”
The True and Fair Party has developed a wide-ranging manifesto, covering such key policy areas as governance, the economy, education, justice and the NHS. In spite of the uphill struggle that the party faces to get those policies widely discussed in the national media, Tod is optimistic about the role that he and the other candidates can play at the next election.
“True and Fair will become a better-known voice in politics in the future but there’s a reality to this first election. I’m going to try my best, and if we can put a little kindness and compassion and care back into politics, then we will have achieved a very great deal.”
By the same author