Femi drops out of by-election saying he did not want a Nigel Farage victory

PUBLISHED: 09:41 10 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:03 10 May 2019

Pro-EU campaigner Femi Oluwole. Ollie Millington/Getty.

Pro-EU campaigner Femi Oluwole. Ollie Millington/Getty.

2018 Ollie Millington

Femi Oluwole has defended his decision to drop out of the Peterborough by-election, after anti-Brexit parties had hoped the campaigner would be the Remain "unity" candidate.

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The Our Future Our Choice champion was alleged to have pulled out at the eleventh hour amid allegations he came under pressure from senior Labour figures - including supporters of the People's Vote campaign.

Labour dismissed the claims as "bizarre" accusing the breakaway Change UK party of trying to cover up for its own incompetence, who now do not have an official candidate.

The Lib Dems and the Greens have both now said they will be fielding their own candidates.

Change UK indicated it would be supporting the Renew candidate after the party - which has no MPs - said last month it would be backing Change UK candidates in the European elections.

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, Green party co-leader Sian Berry, and Change UK leader Heidi Allen. Photograph: TNE.Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, Green party co-leader Sian Berry, and Change UK leader Heidi Allen. Photograph: TNE.

Change UK MP Gavin Shuker said the setback came after the four parties had been working hard on a joint approach to the by-election triggered by the recall petition for the former Labour MP Fiona Onasanaya.

"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," he said.

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"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."

Oluwole dismissed claims that there had been heavy pressure put on him not to stand in Peterborough, and released a video on Twitter defending his decision to drop out of the race.

He said he did not want to hand Nigel Farage's party a victory in Peterborough, and said he was willing to give Labour the benefit of doubt over its backing for a People's Vote.

He added that trying to juggle the European elections, Brexit and a by-election was a lot for one person to do, and the MP for Peteborough should be from Peterborough.

A Labour source dismissed claims from Change UK that it had been responsible for Oluwole dropping out of the race.

A spokesperson said: "This is a bizarre and transparent attempt by Change UK to justify their own incompetence. Clearly they don't like by-elections."

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