A Liberal Democrat candidate in the Labour marginal of Canterbury has stood down, after criticism he could split the Remain vote and lead to the election of a pro-Brexit MP.
Tim Walker, who writes The New European’s Mandrake column, had been selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Canterbury – a seat won by Labour’s Rosie Duffield from the Conservatives in 2017 by just 187 votes.
Duffield is a Remain campaigner in favour of a People’s Vote, and pro-Europeans in the area had expressed concern that Walker’s candidacy could take votes from her and allow in Anna Firth, who is standing for the Tories.
Writing for this week’s newspaper, he said: “The thought of me standing at the count beside a vanquished Rosie as our common enemy raised her hands in triumph is what had been keeping me awake and eventually decided me upon this course of action.”
He said it had been a personal decision to step aside and he did not yet know if the Lib Dems would select another candidate.
He added that there had been a “concerted attempt” by the Lib Dems to forge a “reciprocal deal” with Labour, which would see them stand down a candidate elsewhere, but that it had come to nothing.
He defended his initial decision to standing, saying voters wanted a pro-Remain alternative to Labour. “Local Tory voters who had turned away from their party could never in a million years vote Labour so long as Corbyn led it and they contacted me to say they wanted a Lib Dem candidate as palatable alternative,” he added.
He also highlighted the European election results where the Lib Dems received more support than Labour and the Tories.
He added: “We have, of course, a right – if not an obligation – to field candidates wherever we can.”
But the Lib Dem said the decision had been keeping him awake at night, and said the concerns expressed on Twitter showed “a great deal about the respect that Rosie Duffield commands locally”.
He added: “I don’t know if my party might yet choose to field another candidate – that is their right and if they chose to do so I would respect it – but I personally want there to be as many decent, independent-minded people in the Commons after this election as possible. I want no part in depriving even one of them of a seat.”
Pick up a copy of The New European this week for the full story.