The Best for Britain campaign founded by Gina Miller to support general election candidates opposed to a “hard Brexit” has named six London politicians among the 16 across the land* they have initially decided to assist. All are seeking to hold seats they won by narrow margins two years ago, rather than hoping to gain them for their parties. Four are Labour and two are Liberal Democrat. Unsurprisingly, none are Conservatives.
The six selected have met three criteria. One: supporting “real choice” of the final Brexit deal and showing readiness to “fight extreme Brexit”. Two: fighting a seat deemed “winnable but not a dead certainty”. Three: “Have an immaculate track record”. It also helped if candidates are opposed by “a leading contender in favour of extreme Brexit” or endangered by Ukip not standing candidates in order to help Tory Brexiters.
Best for Britain, which has raised £400,000 through crowdfunding so far, will give give direct financial support to some of their “Best for Britain champions” and run its own support campaigns for them through local advertising and campaigning, Facebook ads and so on. Let’s have a look at the chosen half dozen.
Tom Brake, defending Carshalton and Wallington. The only Lib Dem in town to survive his party’s meltdown two years ago, Brake has told On London he believes he faces an even bigger challenge from the same candidate, Conservative Matthew Maxwell Scott, this time. He’s in the anomalous position being solidly Remain in one of just five London boroughs out of 32 where a majority voted Leave. Ukip are not standing a candidate here in order to help the Tory prise Brake out of a suburban marginal he has tenaciously hung on to ever since first winning it in 1997. Current majority: 1,510.
Rupa Huq, defending Ealing Central and Acton. With a tiny majority of 274, the former university lecturer gained this seat for Labour last time round. She was one of the London Labour MPs who voted against her party line on Article 50. The presence of European Union flags among her Labour campaign placards has been noticeable for a while. Ealing as a borough voted 60.4% to Remain, though the margin was tighter within the constituency itself. Ukip have stood down to help Huq’s Tory challenger, Ealing councillor Joy Morrissey, who voted Leave. The Greens have stood down to help Huq. The Lib Dem vote in 2015 was 6%. In 2010 it was 25%. Will it recover and, if so, what might that mean for Huq?
Sarah Olney, defending Richmond Park. A replay of December’s sensational by-election which saw the Lib Dem eject Conservative Zac Goldsmith, running as an independent. Local Tories, to their shame, have again selected the man whose equally disastrous London mayor campaign last year so soiled the Tory brand in London. “Zac is Back” their literature proudly proclaims. Astonishing. As before, the Greens and Ukip have opted out. Olney’s majority is 1,872.
Tulip Siddiq, defending Hampstead and Kilburn. This is an interesting pick (geddit?) as the Conservative challenger is a Remainer. Ukip have, nonetheless, absented themselves. They long for Siddiq’s defeat because she was one of Labour’s London Article 50 rebels. She’s also a close ally of Gina Miller, which won’t have softened their hostility. The Greens, meanwhile, have decided to run. Siddiq’s majority is 1,138.
Andy Slaughter, defending Hammersmith. Slaughter consolidated his position as Labour MP to 6,518 last time, which makes him look relatively safe in what had previously been a top Conservative target. The Leave vote in the seat is put at just 31.3%. There’s no Ukip candidate this time. However, the local Tories are thirsting for a comeback in these parts after their shock loss of Hammersmith and Fulham Council three years ago and Slaughter is by no means certain to hold on.
Gareth Thomas, defending Harrow West. Thomas is pretty straightforwardly threatened by the Conservatives narrowing the gap on Labour in London in recent times. His 2,208 majority will be tough to defend. Conservative Hannah David will again be his main challenger. Intriguingly, Thomas voted in favour of triggering Article 50 but that hasn’t stopped him being made a Best for Britain champion.
*Andy Slaughter’s name isn’t included in the list of 16 on Best for Britain’s site, but he has confirmed reports elsewhere that he has the organisation’s backing.