Fresh blow for Change UK as top Scottish candidate quits and backs Lib Dems

Posted On: 
15th May 2019

Change UK’s top European election candidate in Scotland has defected to the Liberal Democrats in a major blow for the fledgling party.

Change UK's Chuka Umunna described the move as "disappointing".
Credit: 
PA

David Macdonald announced he was stepping down and instead urging people to vote for the Lib Dems, as he argued that the party was “now the most likely” outfit to stand a chance of getting an MEP elected north of the Border.

The defection is a fresh headache for Change UK, which only selected Mr Macdonald as its lead candidate for Scotland after another contender was forced to pull out over controversial social media posts.

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In his resignation letter, Mr Macdonald said he was quitting the party “without animosity or rancour” and dubbed Change UK a “force for good”.

But he said: “After a long personal deliberation and reflection on the current political landscape that confronts us in Scotland, I have decided to do what I believe is in the best interest of the country and resign as lead candidate for Change UK, lending my support to the Scottish Liberal Democrats for the upcoming election.

“They share many of the values of Change UK and are now the most likely party in favour of both remaining in the EU and of Scotland remaining in the UK, to have a chance of being elected.

“It is for this reason that I have decided to lend my support and voice to them in the hope that they will be successful in electing an MEP who will be a clear, clarion voice for Scotland and the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union.”

Responding to the shock move, Change UK spokesperson Chuka Umunna said: "It is obviously disappointing that this candidate has chosen to pledge allegiance to another party - he has let down his fellow candidates and activists.”

But the former Labour MP said the new party would keep “focusing all our efforts on adding to the Remain vote in the UK and challenging the pro-Brexit Tory, Brexit and Labour parties”.

He added: “In the past 24 hour’s Labour’s former head of campaigns for the North of England has come out for Change UK, as have many former Labour voters.

“Winning voters over from the main parties and growing the Remain vote across the UK will continue to be our focus."

A Change UK source meanwhile warned that pro-Remain voters would be “dismayed that the Lib Dems are reinforcing the sense that Remainers are squabbling amongst themselves and not taking the fight to Farage, May and Corbyn” and warned that the defection would “do absolutely nothing” to help the anti-Brexit cause.

The source also pointed out that if he does campaign for the Lib Dems, Mr Macdonald will be in breach of the Representation of the People Act as he is still offficially a Change Uk candidate.

'UNITE THE REMAIN VOTE'

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie said: "This will have been a difficult decision for David as he clearly admires those in Change UK as do I.

"David has recognised the emerging political landscape and rightly felt he had to act to unite the remain vote behind the Liberal Democrats."

And he added: "I invite each and every person across Scotland who wants to stop Brexit, no matter where their political loyalties have lain before, to lend their vote to the Liberal Democrats and fight for a positive future inside the EU."

Mr Macdonald’s move comes just weeks after Joseph Russo stood down as Change UK’s lead candidate in Scotland after just a day at the top of the party list for the EU elections.

Mr Russo quit after party bosses spoke to him about "several offensive Twitter posts", including reported comments about Catholics, black women, and police pursuit of sex offenders.

The latest polls suggest Change UK is struggling to cut through with voters. A YouGov study published this week found that just 5% plan to back the party in the EU elections on 23 May.

The Liberal Democrats, who enjoyed a strong local elections showing, are meanwhile on 15%, according to the poll.

Meanwhile, a ComRes poll of Scottish voting intentions put the Lib Dems level-pegging with the Brexit Party on 17%, with Change UK on just 3%.