Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson was facing a swingeing attack today – from her own party, as she moved to replace an election candidate who has withdrawn in order to allow a ‘Remain’-supporting Labour representative a stronger chance to beat a Brexiteer Tory.
The decision to replace Tim Walker with another candidate has opened Ms Swinson to accusations that she wants Tory Anna Firth, a former “Vote Leave stalwart” to take the seat from incumbent Rosie Duffield, in a move that would support Boris Johnson’s plan for a ‘hard’ Brexit.
Mr Walker made his feelings clear in a comment piece for The Guardian. He wrote: “In the last election, she [Ms Duffield] 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. That would allow in our common enemy, Anna Firth, the Tory candidate and an avowed hard Brexiter and former Vote Leave stalwart.
“I share with many members of my party locally a visceral dread of the Commons being filled with people like Firth. Trying to stop that happening is now more important than ever given Nigel Farage’s unholy alliance with Johnson.
“I’ve therefore asked that my local party withdraw my nomination papers to stand for Canterbury… The nightmare that kept me awake was posing awkwardly at the count beside a vanquished Duffield as the Tory Brexiter raised her hands in triumph. I wanted no part in that.”
How sad that it seems his party leader does want a part in that.
Almost immediately after Mr Walker made his announcement, the Liberal Democrat leadership announced that Mr Walker would be replaced with another candidate – indicating a willingness to create exactly the situation he wanted to avoid.
Now, local party sources have said all four members approved to stand as MPs have said they will not. And if a candidate is parachuted in by Ms Swinson, they are unlikely to receive any support – and may even be met with negativity.
Genuinely unbelievable. Canterbury’s Lib Dems are literally refusing to stand and the national party is threatening to impose someone on them. It would be hard to imagine a more damaging or counter-productive move from a party which claims to want to stop Brexit. https://t.co/Iml1Dyc38L
— Jonathan Lis (@jonlis1) November 12, 2019
I cried with joy when I heard that Tim Walker had stepped down to give Labour's Rosie Duffield a clear run. My faith in politics was restored for 10 whole minutes.Such a selfless action. Now I hear that Lib Dems are going to replace him. Crying again, but not with joy….
— Mandoline 🍄 (@Mandoline_Blue) November 12, 2019
The decision to replace Mr Walker has created an opportunity for Ms Swinson’s political opponents – and they have seized it:
Jo Swinson says Labour are a Leave Party.
The #LibDems candidate in Canterbury stood down to allow a Labour Remain candidate beat the Tories.
Jo Swinson immediately demanded a new LibDem candidate.
Against the wishes of all local LibDem party activists.
Do you trust her?
— Mountain (@sharpeleven) November 12, 2019
Jo Swinson stands against Brexit with all the conviction Nick Clegg stood against tuition fees.
Trust this feckless, fickle party at your peril. https://t.co/EiRPovx5V6
— Kerry-Anne Mendoza 🏳️🌈🏴 (@TheMendozaWoman) November 13, 2019
Ultra remainers need to ditch Swinson & get behind Corbyn.
Lib Dem candidate Tim Walker stepped aside to give Labour a clean run & stop the Tories.👏👏👏 What did Swinson do? She vowed to stand another Lib Dem in his place.
Swinson wants Johnson to be PM. She wants Tory Brexit.
— RD Hale (@RDHale_) November 12, 2019
And this is not the only problem the Liberal Democrats are facing.
Kevin McNamara has withdrawn as candidate for Thurrock after a series of images emerged purporting to show tweets posted by him that included racial and homophobic slurs.
It seems the Liberal Democrat campaign is falling apart, before it has properly got started.
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