The British public : the true test of politicians' electoral mettle

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Pensioner Malcolm Baker confronts Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron in Kidlington - Sam Lister/PA Wire

The Parliament that ended on Wednesday was the shortest since 1974, which lasted just eight months because there was no majority, and the first since 1966 to be curtailed by a Prime Minister seeking a bigger mandate.

The dissolution saw the departure of familiar long-serving or senior Parliamentarians such as Peter Lilley, Alan Johnson, George Osborne and Eric Pickles. It also marked the beginning of the election campaign proper, kicking off with one of those moments that politicians dread: a clash with an angry voter.

Theresa May asks the Queen to dissolve Parliament Credit: FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/EPA

Every general election campaign produces such confrontations despite the best endeavours of the party machines to keep the public at bay behind a phalanx of placard-wielding activists.

So it was that Tim Farron, campaigning in Oxfordshire, came face to face with Malcolm Baker from Kidlington, a Leave voter who does not take kindly to the Lib Dem leader’s attitude towards those who favour Brexit.

Mr Baker pointed out that he knew what he was doing and resented the implication that he and others like him were racists.

Mr Farron denied ever saying any such thing; and unlike Gordon Brown, who came unstuck in 2010 after a similar set-to with Gillian Duffy in Rochdale, he was sensible enough to avoid making his opinions public by leaving his mike on. But one of the Lib Dem leader’s followers was overheard describing Mr Baker as an “f-ing idiot”.

Despite being the only party in favour of stopping Brexit, the Lib Dems are stuck in the polls on about 10 per cent of the vote. Since 48 per cent of voters in the June 23 referendum supported Remain, it is hard to understand why the Lib Dems appear becalmed. Maybe we should ask Mr Baker.

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