Change UK's Chris Leslie dashes hopes of anti-Brexit pact with other parties and attacks Lib Dems

Posted On: 
19th April 2019

Change UK's Chris Leslie has all-but ruled out forming an electoral alliance with other anti-Brexit parties and trained his fire on the Liberal Democrats.

The former Labour MP took aim at fellow pro-EU party the Liberal Democrats.
Credit: 
Parliament

In an interview with Business Insider, the former Labour MP hit out at the fellow pro-EU party - and said a formal pact had never been "on the agenda".

The comments came as the newly-formed centrist bloc prepared to field candidates in next month's planned European elections.

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A YouGov poll released this week put Change UK - also known as the Independent Group - on 6% support ahead of the Europe-wide vote.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable - whose party garnered 9% in the YouGov study - has previously hinted at an official pact between his party and the fledgling group.

But Mr Leslie told Business Insider that the Lib Dems had "fallen below a critical mass" and "haven't had the drive to get out of that for a long time".

He added: "We [Change UK] are starting afresh and don't come with that baggage.

"They don't have any MEPs apart from one in the southeast, so everyone is starting on a fairly level playing field. It is not as though they can say they are in a particularly more advantaged position than anybody else."

The ex-frontbencher was among 11 MPs from both Labour and the Conservatives who quit their parties earlier this year to form the new group.

He said a tie-up with other pro-EU parties "wasn't ever on the agenda", adding: "I don't think it will ever be likely because we are starting something new. We are not joining the Liberal Democrats or the Green Party."

Instead, Mr Leslie urged Lib Dem members to switch allegiance and join Change UK, saying the "emergency situation" of Brexit required "a completely fresh overhaul of the centre-ground".

Britain's electoral watchdog this week approved Change UK's bid to become a formal political party in order to run in the European elections, which are currently slated to take place on 23 May.

But, in an embarassment for the new party, the Electoral Commission rejected its choice of emblem for ballot papers, saying it was "likely to mislead voters" and dismissing its chosen acronym - 'TIG' as not "sufficiently well known".

Mr Leslie said: "Emblems and things like that are nice to have, but we will get there.

"We are more focused on our policy offer and I think people will understand that this is still in its early days."