Peterborough by-election: Bungled attempt by parties to select single Remain candidate revealed

Details of the bungled attempt by four political parties to select a single Remain candidate for the Peterborough by-election have been revealed.

Thursday, 9th May 2019, 8:15 pm
Change UK MPs. Photo: Getty

It was disclosed yesterday that the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and Change UK had been in talks field a single candidate, only for the deal to break off.

Today, it has now been disclosed that another anti-Brexit party, Renew, were also involved in the talks which would have seen all four parties back an independent candidate in June’s by-election.

This was despite the Lib Dems and Greens having publicly announced their candidates and Renew indicating it was planning to field its own candidate.

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However, despite putting their backing behind a single, unnamed candidate talks fell through, with Change UK now blaming Labour.

ITV political editor Robert Peston said Femi Oluwole of our Our Future Our Choice, a group of young people campaigning for a second referendum “came within a whisker of being the single pro-referendum candidate in the Peterborough by-election. He was a candidate until just two hours before the official deadline for registering - and as a consequence none of the Change UK, the Lib Dems, the Greens or Renew would have fielded independent candidates.

“However, he pulled out at the last moment, because - he tells me - he became concerned that if he had run, Labour’s vote would have been significantly reduced and that might have led to electoral success for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.”

Change UK – previously known as The Independent Group – is made up of former Conservative and Labour MPs who support remaining in the European Union.

Change UK MPs. Photo: Getty

One of its MPs, Gavin Shuker, said this evening: “Change UK, the Green Party, Lib Dems and Renew have been working hard these last few days on a joint approach to the Peterborough by-election, recognising we need to put the country’s interests first, securing a People’s Vote and remaining in the European Union.

“We all agreed to stand down any candidates we might field in favour of a genuinely independent, pro-People’s Vote and pro-Remain candidate who had expressed an interest and intention to stand.

“However, senior Labour figures, including senior figures campaigning for a People’s Vote, made it clear that they would strenuously disrupt the campaign and obstruct an independent candidate, driven by fears that it would harm their party in Peterborough.”

The Green Party tweeted: “The Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, Change UK & Renew have been working hard these last few days on a joint approach to the Peterborough by-election, recognising that we need to put the country’s interests first, securing a People’s Vote and remaining in the European Union.

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable with candidate Beki Sellick

“We all agreed to stand down any candidates we might field in favour of a genuinely independent, pro People’s Vote and pro Remain candidate who had expressed an interest and intention to stand. However, it has now become impossible for this to proceed.

“The Green Party are therefore standing a candidate who is pro remain, who is serious about tackling climate chaos, and who wants to work hard for the people of Peterborough.

“The Green Party will always put the country before party and explore options which might best benefit its strong call for a People’s Vote and remaining in the European Union #VoteGreen2019.”

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “The Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, Change UK and Renew have been working together to put forward a joint approach for the Peterborough by-election, understanding the need for a collective effort in securing a People’s Vote and stopping Brexit.

“We had all agreed to put our support behind an independent and pro-Remain candidate. Unfortunately, this effort has not been successful, and as the strongest Remain party the Liberal Democrats will be fielding a candidate ready to represent Peterborough.

“We have therefore selected local businesswomen and campaigner Beki Sellick as our candidate, having previously fought the seat for the party in the 2017 election.

“With over 100,000 members, 2,500 councillors across the country and an active team in Peterborough, the Liberal Democrats are the strongest Remain voice. If you want to stop Brexit then vote for the Liberal Democrats.”

Ms Sellick, a sustainable transport expert, said: “As someone who lives and works in Peterborough I look forward working with others to campaign on the issues that matter.

“I know local people are concerned about cuts to bus services, the NHS and social care. I know too that they are also worried about the mess the Tories and Labour have made of Brexit. It doesn’t need to be this way. People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better.

“The Liberal Democrats are a party of 100,000 members, 2,500 councillors across the country and an active team in Peterborough. We are the strongest Remain voice. My message is clear: if you want action on local services and to stop Brexit then vote for the Liberal Democrats.”

The Green Party has selected Joseph Wells to contest the seat, while Renew has selected Peter Ward.

The by-election is being held on Thursday, June 6 after Fiona Onasanya became the first MP to be removed by her constituents under a Recall Petition.

The petition was signed by 19,261 of her constituents (27.64 per cent), passing the 10 per cent threshold needed to trigger a by-election.

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