CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

The Remain alliance? More like the remainers at war

Lib Dems invest in Hampstead and Kilburn campaign but Labour MP warns they risk 'splitting the remain vote'

14 November, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Matt Sanders is helped by Lord Brian Paddick

LIBERAL Democrats are deep into a campaign to unseat one of the most pro-Remain MPs from the last parliament.

While the party is involved in a “remain alliance” with the Greens and Plaid Cymru, which has seen candidates step aside elsewhere in the country in favour of those most likely to beat the Tories or the Brexit Party, local members say they are fixed on unseating Labour’s Tulip Siddiq at the December 12 election.

The gusto behind the bid to win in Hampstead and Kilburn has surprised some remainers, who believe the party should target all campaigning to seats where Brexit-­supporting MPs are vulnerable. While polling by Best For Britain suggested the Lib Dems were in contention, this contrasted with calculations by Remain United, founded by Gina Miller, which said Labour still had the lead and the Tories were projected to be in second place. The battle of the bar graphs was continuing this week amid warnings that the remain vote could split itself.

Ms Siddiq said last night (Wednesday): “I don’t get carried away by polls even if they favour me, they’re unreliable, especially when extrapolated to individual constituencies. Historically, the Lib Dems have come third in every general election in this constituency. At the height of Cleggmania, all it achieved locally was to put the Tories within 42 votes of winning.”

Gina Miller has endorsed Tulip Siddiq again

She added: “By voting for anyone else in this election but me, there is a very real threat that the Remain vote could split and a Tory MP could be elected.  The Lib Dems know this and – just like in Canterbury – they are running candidates against anti-Brexit MPs, splitting the Remain vote. They’re prioritising party politics ahead of their Brexit policies. The Lib Dems need to ask themselves why they are campaigning aggressively against a Remain MP like me with a track record of opposing Brexit at every opportunity.”

She was referring to the party’s decision to find a new challenger in Canterbury after their selected candidate dropped out to make it easier for a pro-remain Labour MP to hold her seat.

For the second election in a row, Ms Miller, the businesswoman who took the government to court to ensure MPs had to have a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal, is endorsing Ms Siddiq.

“As we face uncertain and challenging times, both domestically and internationally, we need people in Parliament with  honesty, integrity and courage,” she said. “Tulip has shown this not just through her words but actions.” While the Conservatives want to win a majority to push through Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, Labour says it will hold a second referendum, albeit after negotiating new withdrawal terms.

The Lib Dems, would stop Brexit altogether. without a second vote. Ms Siddiq, whose election literature so far has largely been based on her personal record rather than her party nationally, won a majority of 15,560 votes in 2017, which would normally be regarded as a safe seat.

With the election framed through the lens of Brexit however, Lib Dems are pointing to the fact they won in nearly every ward at May’s European elections – figures that have also been put into leaflet bar charts. As doorknocking continued this week, the Lib Dems were helped by Lord Brian Paddick, the former police commissioner and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here contestant.

Matt Sanders out in Hampstead

He said: “There is a real possibility that however remain Labour MPs say they are, they will be forced to vote for Brexit if Labour get it in. It doesn’t seem to make any sense to me that if Jeremy Corbyn gets in, they are going to go to Brussels and get the best possible deal and then he’s going to come back and say to people not to vote for it.” Lord Paddick added: “We asked Labour would they join a remain alliance and they refused – and you have to ask yourself why.”

The Lib Dems say the idea that a split among remainers would lead to a Tory win is a scare tactic, as they calculate that the Conservatives cannot advance much beyond the 25 percent of residents in Camden who did want to leave the EU. “Soft” Tories concerned by Mr Johnson’s Brexit push are more likely to support them, they believe, while they also think some votes are being transferred from Labour due the anti-semitism controversies.

The New Journal witnessed some of these doorstep conversations in Hampstead this week, with some ‘lifelong’ Labour supporters suggesting they could change. Campaigners from both Labour and Lib Dems have indicated to the New Journal some voters will not make their choice on Brexit, and that long doorstep conversations about withdrawal agreements are not so common among residents with urgent concerns about health and housing.

The Conservatives, insist they remain the real challengers to Ms Siddiq and can even win over remain voters who believe the Brexit stalemate must end.

Candidate Johnny Luk said: “Let’s get off the Brexit roundabout. A second referendum can only come under a Corbyn-led government, potentially propped up by the Lib Dems.” He added: “It’s a binary choice between us or Labour and I don’t trust Labour’s plans on the economy.”

David Stansell is the Green Party candidate.

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