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Mon, 21 September 2020

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Change UK left red-faced as plan to run pro-Remain unity by-election candidate collapses

Change UK left red-faced as plan to run pro-Remain unity by-election candidate collapses
2 min read

Change UK have been left red-faced after a plan to join forces with other Remain-backing parties in the Peterborough by-election collapsed.

The party had been in talks with the Lib Dems, Greens and Renew about standing a single candidate in the vote on 6 June.

But in farcical scenes, the plan collapsed after the unnamed would-be MP - who is understood to be a member of the People's Vote campaign - pulled out just hours before the deadline for submitting nomination forms.

And while the Greens and Lib Dems will still run their own candidates, Change UK will not be putting anyone forward in the seat.

Change UK's Gavin Shuker, who quit Labour in February to help establish the new grouping, accused his old party of planning to "strenuously disrupt" their campaign.

He said: "Change UK, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats and Renew have been working hard these last few days on a joint approach to the Peterborough by-election, recognising that we need to put the country's interests first, securing a People's Vote and remaining in the European Union.

"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.

"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." 

A People's Vote source said: "A potential candidate for the Peterborough by-election decided not to stand for their own reasons. We understand this is because it would have opened up a range of potential legal issues to do with electoral law, as well as the obvious logistical difficulty of organising an effective operation at such short notice.

"We are a cross-party campaign and will continue to be supportive of all parties and candidates who back a People’s Vote."

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

The by-election is being held after enough local voters backed a petition to recall sitting MP Fiona Onasanya.

Ms Onasanya, who won the seat for Labour in the 2017 general election, was jailed last year for perverting the course of justice.

A total of 15 candidates will stand in the by-election, with Labour the bookies' favourites to hold on to the seat.

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