Liberal Democrats in Canterbury are in open rebellion against party HQ as they attempt to force a new candidate to stand in the constituency, the first choice having stood down to allow Labour a free run at the seat.
Tim Walker announced yesterday that he would be stepping aside to allow Labour’s Rosie Duffield a free run, realising that his candidature would split the Brexit Remain and anti-Tory vote as Duffield has a majority of just 187. The seat is set to be contested by Anna Firth for the Conservatives, with Walker describing her as the “common enemy” of the Lib Dems and Labour alike.
“In Canterbury, where I’d been chosen as our parliamentary candidate in opposition to the incumbent Labour MP, Rosie Duffield, we have what might be called a little local difficulty. In the last election, she won the traditionally Tory seat on the slimmest of margins – fewer than 200 votes – and, while I was confident I could substantially increase the Lib Dem vote on the back of my party’s national resurgence, it was clear there was a danger I’d divide the remainers.”– Tim Walker, The Guardian
The move was widely applauded amongst both Lib Dem and Labour voters alike.
However, in a move that has now led many to now question the motivations of Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats as a party, they have announced that a replacement candidate will stand in Walker’s place.
The local Lib Dems had supported the decision of Walker to stand down and voted to not field another candidate, a decision that was overruled by party HQ. The local party is now said to be refusing to cooperate and four local Lib Dems who were approved candidates are refusing to stand.
Members have pledged to not go out and campaign for any new candidate imposed by party HQ and are backing Rosie Duffield.
Lib Dem voters were furious at the decision
Some are now openly questioning whether Jo Swinson wishes to ensure Boris Johnson government and hard Brexit.
Brexit has certainly been good for the Liberal Democrats and Jo Swinson, pushing the Lib Dems back into the spotlight following the post-Coalition wilderness years. Swinson too has hugely benefited from Brexit, positioning herself as a leader of the Remain campaign and receiving press not seen since the days of Nick Clegg.
Should Britain remain in the European Union, the Lib Dems would likely once more fade into obscurity as the global backlash against neoliberal centrism continues, Jeremy Corbyn and Labour being the likely recipient of any defecting voters. In the event of Brexit, the Liberal Democrats can position themselves as a “rejoin the EU” party and continue the process for years to come.
The criticism of the Lib Dems refusing to stand aside for Labour is amplified by the fact that the party have stood down in Beaconsfield against the former Conservative Dominic Grieve and in Broxtowe against the former Tory Change UK leader Anna Soubry.
The Lib Dems position on Grieve has come under particular criticism with the ex-Tory having once said that “corruption in parts of the Pakistani community is ‘endemic’”, the party standing accused of putting Brexit before any efforts to effectively fight the Conservative Party, with whom Grieve and Soubry remain ideologically aligned.
Dominic Grieve has gone on record to state that he is “Conservative to [his] fingertips”
Given that five ex-Tories already make up the 21 of the Liberal Democrat MPs, its not hard to wonder if they’re courting two more.
The actions by the Liberal Democrats only enforces the belief that the party has shifted ideologically to the right under Jo Swinson and now sees stopping Jeremy Corbyn, Labour and a socialist government as being just as important as their campaign to remain in the European Union.