The Lib Dems have the strongest chance of beating Zac Goldsmith
The left-wing think tank Compass have today called on Labour and the Greens to give the Liberal Democrats a free run in the upcoming Richmond by-election.
The by-election follows Tory MP Zac Goldsmith’s resignation yesterday over the government’s decision to allow a third runway at Heathrow to go ahead.
Goldsmith had previously promised he’d resign if the runway was given the green light – and will now run as an Independent, with the Tories conceding they will not put a candidate up against him.
Figures on the left are calling for left-of-centre parties to stand aside for the Liberal Democrats, who held the seat until 2005 and secured a surge in the recent Witney by-election.
In a statement released today, Compass said:
‘A progressive alliance isn’t something we build for the future, but something we can create right now. Zac Goldsmith has given us a chance in Richmond Park – we must take it.’
Labour’s NEC has reportedly already rejected calls from senior figures inside the party to not put up a candidate, according to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg:
Despite calls from Lisa Nandy, Clive Lewis and Jonny Reynolds, Labour NEC has decided this morning party will field a candidate in Richmond
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) October 26, 2016
However, the Greens remain open to standing aside in Richmond, with a source telling Left Foot Forward today:
“Jonathan and Caroline are longstanding advocates of progressives working together to beat the Conservatives, and they welcome the news that Labour is now having these discussion too. This by-election could be a real chance to reduce the Conservative majority in Parliament, and replace a candidate disgraced by his racist campaign to be Mayor of London.”
The call from Compass’ committee released this afternoon said:
“The Richmond Park by-election is a huge progressive opportunity. Zac Goldsmith ran a racially divisive campaign for the London mayoralty, and was staunchly in favour of the Leave side in this year’s referendum.
Now, his decision to trigger this latest contest – in which he is the de facto Tory candidate – offers a chance to reject the politics of division, reduce the Tories’ already slender majority, oppose “hard” Brexit in a seat that was overwhelming remain – and show what can happen when progressive parties work together, not against each other.
This is why we are calling on the progressive parties to get round the table and agree which has the maximum chance of defeating the Tories. The Lib Dems held the seat until 2005, and in 2010 won 43 per cent of the vote – and the result of the Witney by-election suggests they could win in Richmond Park, if other progressive parties agree not to run competing candidates that simply wastes votes and let the Tories in.”
The pluralist think tank also called for talks between the left-wing parties on a future ‘progressive alliance’:
“There now needs to be active negotiations between the Lib Dems, Labour and the Greens that includes a reciprocal alliance when the next appropriate local or national election occurs. This is the best way to ensure competing candidates do not run and let the Tories in.
There is a precedent. Such an alliance worked in Tatton in 1997 when the progressive parties put the national interest before party interest and stood down to defeat the Tories. It is such a moment once more.
We know this is tough on local parties that want to use by-elections to become more visible. The need to act this way is entirely the product of our toxic electoral system that ensures the majority of voters are now simply ignored. There are some occasions when bigger issues are at stake.”
Left Foot Forward will be covering discussions about any pact in the constituency over the coming few days.
Josiah Mortimer is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.