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Sat, 11 July 2020

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Lib Dem row erupts as party candidate steps aside for Labour to avoid splitting Remain vote

Lib Dem row erupts as party candidate steps aside for Labour to avoid splitting Remain vote
2 min read

A furious row has erupted in the Liberal Democrats after the party's candidate in a key marginal seat announced he was stepping aside to boost Labour's chances of winning it.

Tim Walker - who had been due to stand for the Lib Dems in Canterbury - said he was making way because he wanted "no part" in allowing a Brexit-supporting Conservative to claim the seat.

But the decision was not signed off by his party bosses - who have now vowed to find another candidate, despite opposition from local Lib Dems.

Mr Walker announced his decision in an article for The Guardian, as he spoke of his fear of letting in Conservative rival Anna Firth and defeating Labour's Rosie Duffield, who won the seat by just 187 votes in 2017.

He said: "I don't trust Corbyn on Brexit, but 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."

Mr Walker, a journalist who writes for the New European, added: "Politics does not always have to be grubby and small-minded; sometimes it's possible to acknowledge that what's at stake is more important than party politics - and personal ambition - and we can do what's right.

"In this invidious situation, both standing and not standing could be interpreted as weakness.

"But 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."

While the Lib Dems have signed up to a 'Unite to Remain' pact with the Greens and Plaid Cymru in a string of seats across the country, they are not involved in any tie-up with Labour.

A Lib Dem spokesperson said: “We will be announcing a candidate in due course to contest the seat of Canterbury.”

The party now has until Thursday to find another candidate for the seat.

But it is understood that Mr Walker's decision has been supported by local party members, who are not willing to take his place on the ballot paper.

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