- Jo Swinson defended the Liberal Democrats’ decision not to stand aside in a key election seat in an interview with Business Insider.
- The party angered some of its own members by pressing ahead to challenge Labour’s Rosie Duffield in Canterbury at the December 12 general election.
- The Lib Dems’ preferred candidate withdrew from the contest on Tuesday to Duffield, who shares the Lib Dem aims of holding a second EU referendum and campaigning to remain.
- However, Swinson urged concerned party members to look at the “national picture.”
- She said she could not support Duffield because she is “standing on a platform of negotiating a Labour Brexit, which would be damaging for our country.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Jo Swinson urged Liberal Democrat members, and pro-Remain voters everywhere, to look at the “national picture” as she defended the party’s decision to not stand aside for the Labour Party in a key general election seat.
Some supporters of the anti-Brexit party are urging Swinson to not field a candidate in Canterbury after the Liberal Democrats’ chosen candidate, ex-journalist Tim Walker, decided to withdraw on Tuesday evening.
Walker said he was concerned that he would “divide the remainers” and inadvertently help the pro-Brexit Conservative candidate win. The seat is held by Labour’s Rosie Duffield, who likes the Lib Dems supports staying in the European Union.
Duffield’s majority is just 187 votes, with the Conservatives in second place. Anti-Brexit group Best For Britain urged the Liberal Democrats to stand aside in the seat to help Duffield defeat Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.
However, speaking to Business Insider in north London on Wednesday, Swinson said that she would oppose the Labour party even in situations such as this, because the party under leader Jeremy Corbyn does not “share our values.”
She said: “I’d encourage people to recognise the national picture about us being the party to stop Brexit.
“I appreciate that people can have a positive view of a Labour candidate. On a personal level, I like Rosie and I’ve enjoyed working with her in parliament, as I have with MPs from lots of different parties.”
Guy Kiddey, a Lib Dem candidate in Derbyshire, said on Wednesday he would withdraw as a candidate and resign his membership unless the party apologised to Walker and decided against running a new candidate.
However, Swinson told Business Insider that her party could not support Duffield, as she is “standing on a platform of negotiating a Labour Brexit, which would be damaging for our country… and a manifesto of putting Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10 and making him prime minister.”
Swinson added: “I would encourage them [Lib Dem members and supporters] to look at some of the comments of people in the Jewish Community. Look at the front page of the Jewish Chronicle this week, which expressed fear that a section of our community has.
“If you look at what he stands for as leader of the Labour Party, and his failure to tackle anti-semitism, that’s not someone who shares our values.
“That’s why we have got Liberal Democrats standing in these seats, standing up for liberal values.”
Swinson confirmed that the party hopes to find a candidate to replace Walker before the deadline on Thursday.
She also said that the party would field a candidate in South Hertfordshire, where former Conservative minister David Gauke is standing as an independent. Gauke is a strong opponent of Johnson’s handling of Brexit and on Wednesday came out in support of holding a new referendum.
Swinson’s party has agreed to work together with the Greens and Plaid Cymru in 60 seats, under the terms of an electoral pact brokered by anti-Brexit campaign Unite to Remain.
However, the Liberal Democrats are refusing to stand aside for Labour candidates, after senior Labour figures refused to do the same for them and other opposition parties.
Swinson visited a boxing club in Hornsey, north London on Wednesday, where she discussed the Liberal Democrats’ plan to invest £500 million in youth services, in the hope of stopping young people being draw into crime.
The Liberal Democrats finished second in the Hornsey & Wood Green constituency in 2017, around 30,000 votes behind the Labour Party.
Swinson insisted that the party could overcome Labour’s large majority and regain the seat it last won in 2010. The Liberal Democrats won more votes than any other party in Hornsey & Wood Green at the European elections earlier this year.
She told Business Insider: “There are plenty of places in London and across the country where we have previously had great Liberal Democrat MPs and where I am sure we will be able to make gains.”