General Election 2019: Unite to Remain fails to deliver seats but Green support surges in Dulwich and West Norwood

Katherine Johnston (13 December, 2019) Politics

'We’ve thrown most people under the bus and it’s our fault' - Simon Hughes

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The Unite to Remain alliance failed to make gains for the Liberal Democrats in Southwark but did contribute to the Green’s biggest national swing in Dulwich and West Norwood.

The Greens came a respectable second to Helen Hayes’ huge Labour majority in Dulwich and West Norwood, where the Lib Dems had stood aside to give the co-leader of the party, Jonathan Bartley, a clear run.

He increased the party’s voter share significantly but it wasn’t enough, with the most Remain seat apart from Gibraltar staying loyal to their Remain-supporting incumbent.

But this was the biggest surge for the Greens in the whole country. And to achieve it in one of Labour’s safest seats is no mean feat.

The Greens increased their vote more than any other party – including the Brexit Party – in what they say was still a climate election, more than a Brexit election.

Across the country the once minority party increased its votes by a whopping 60 per cent with more than 850,000 supporters turning out for them at the ballot.

This result has only intensified their calls for voting reform and proportional representation.

However, when it comes to seats, the Unite to Remain alliance seems to have had the opposite of its intended effect allowed the Conservatives to take target seats.

In Camberwell and Peckham Green candidate Claire Sheppard had tried to spin the fact the Lib Dems hadn’t stood aside as a positive for her campaign, saying anything could happen. But realistically it was always going to be a safe seat for mother of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman.

That leaves Bermondsey and Old Southwark, a key constituency for the Lib Dems who hoped they could find some of Simon Hughes’ former success and claw back votes, especially from Remainers, and capitalise on Neil Coyle’s seemingly tenuous position in the party. But Coyle proved more popular than his detractors claimed, and he pulled through a ‘trigger ballot’ and was not deselected.

Speaking on Sky News this morning, Lib Dem stalwart Simon Hughes, who retired from politics after a second defeat to Coyle in 2017, was uncharacteristically critical of the party’s election campaign and direction taken under Jo Swinson.

Swinson, who has lost her East Dunbartonshire seat, has stepped down as leader. Hughes said: “Every single decision since Jo became leader and Ed Davey became deputy leader has been the wrong decision.”

He added: “We’ve thrown most people under the bus and it’s our fault.”

Labour defectors Chuka Umunna or Luciana Berger won their seats – Cities of London and Westminster, and Finchley and Golders Green – for the Liberal Democrats, instead losing to Tory majorities. Both came second place – bypassing the Tories.

If the vote hadn’t split three ways, a contender could have beaten the Conservative candidates.

 

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