The Lib Dem PPC for Canterbury, Tim Walker, stepped down as the candidate last night. Many Remainers were overjoyed that Walker had decided to stand aside to help Rosie Duffield, a Labour Remainer, keep the seat. Then, LD HQ announced it was putting in a new candidate. Cue outrage from Remainers across social media.
This is unfair on the Lib Dems. They are expected to maintain some ridiculous standard and stand aside for Labour MPs and PPCs to help make the next parliament more Remainery, when Labour aren’t held to a standard anywhere close to this. Labour aren’t standing aside in any seat for anyone at all, let’s remember, besides having Brexit McBrexit Face as their leader. I get all this; more than most.
Yet I still think the Lib Dems shouldn’t put up candidates in Canterbury or Uxbridge. Not this late in the show. For a start, none of the approved candidates want to run; the local parties also don’t want to deliver the leaflets. The Lib Dems weren’t going to win with new candidates, no matter how gung ho – now, they have zero chance in either seat.
The real argument for standing aside is this: it’s good PR with Remainers. The Lib Dems need to be seen as the good guys within Remain circles; Labour just need to exist. Unfair, but that’s politics. Running doomed campaigns in either seat will just be a negative. As for the possible PR blowback to worry about, that the Tories will use the Lib Dems standing aside in these places as proof they want a Corbyn government, the party should be able to manage this. The Liberal Democrats had candidates in both seats who dropped out late. They felt that parachuting in someone from outside the area this late in the game was a bad idea. They could mention the fact that they are standing in Jeremy Corbyn’s seat and have a good chance of unseating Emily Thornberry as proof they are not going to install Corbyn in Number 10. Better yet, the party could say that they simply didn’t have enough time to stand anyone in the two seats given the late drop outs of the PPCs in question.
I see a lot of the “vote tactically” stuff out there as a way of saving the Labour Party, so I’m hardly the most likely person to suggest the Lib Dems standing aside for Labour almost anywhere. But given the circumstances, I don’t see what choice the Lib Dems have here.