Conservative London Assembly candidate quits over ‘direction the party is taking’

Conservative London Assembly candidate quits over ‘direction the party is taking’

The Conservatives must find a new candidate to contest the North East London Assembly constituency after the one they had chosen resigned from the job and the party yesterday, saying he “can no longer support the direction the party is taking”.

Ben Seifert had faced an uphill task in next May’s election in a seat, comprising the boroughs of Islington, Hackney and Waltham Forest, which Labour won in 2016 with 59 per cent of the vote, but had been campaigning energetically both for himself and for Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey.

Before making his announcement on Twitter yesterday, Seifert had shown his disquiet over former London Mayor Boris Johnson’s performance as Prime Minister by retweeting the resignation comments of Johnson’s brother Jo and a description of the PM by former Conservative and now Independent MP Nick Boles, who worked with Johnson at the start of his first City Hall term, as “cowardly, weak, vindictive and without morals“. On Friday, Seifert re-tweeted People’s Vote footage of ex-Tory Brexit rebel Dominic Grieve calling for a second EU referendum.

Seifert’s decision underlines the Conservatives’ difficulties in London as Johnson faces accusations that he is effectively turning the Tories into the Brexit Party. In London, which voted by 60 per cent to 40 to Remain in the EU in 2016, the Tories performed disastrously in May’s European elections and opinion polls have indicated that Bailey has been struggling to make an impact on the mayoral race so far.

Labour, which is expected to retain the North East seat, is in the process of selecting its candidate, following the decision of Jennette Arnold AM to step down in 2020 after representing North East for 16 years.

Hopefuls include Hackney Councillor Sem Moema, an adviser on housing to Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville who has announced she has secured nominations from the Co-operative Party, the Jewish Labour Movement and Walthamstow Constituency Labour Party, and Islington Councillor and cabinet member for environment and transport Claudia Webbe, who is a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and a member of Labour’s governing national executive committee and London region board.

Webbe, who also has ambitions to become an MP, is said to have secured nominations in her home borough. On London is seeking confirmation of this. Nominations close at midnight today.

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