Election 2019: Candidates switched, spared and restored as parties gear up to contest London seats

Election 2019: Candidates switched, spared and restored as parties gear up to contest London seats

The biggest political parties are switching into campaign mode across London following parliament’s decision that a general election will be held on 12 December, with as many as one third of the capital’s 73 seats potentially up for grabs.

The Conservatives are likely to be on the back foot in some of the 21 seats they won in 2017, though their chances of retaining Wimbledon look to have been improved by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to restore the Tory whip to incumbent MP Stephen Hammond, who was among the 21 Tory MPs expelled from the party’s parliamentary group in September after rebelling to prevent a no deal Brexit.

Hammond, who had hinted that he might run as an Independent, is expected to face a strong challenge from Labour, while Liberal Democrat hopes have been buoyed by a recent Merton Council by-election gain at Labour’s expense.

Labour, which increased its number of London seats to 49 two years ago, has reportedly “paused” the re-selection contests set in train by the local members of Edmonton MP Kate Osamor and Ealing Southall’s Virendra Sharma, both of whom command large majorities.

Labour candidates have still to be chosen for Streatham, currently represented by Chuka Umunna who left the party earlier this year, or for the Tory-held Labour target Cities of London & Westminster, where a replacement must be found for Steven Saxby, who had to stand down after being suspended.

The Tories too have yet to announce who their candidate for the “Two Cities” seat will be, following the decision by Mark Field not to defend the seat. Umunna, who initially defected to the Independent Group for Change, is now the Liberal Democrats’ candidate there.

The Lib Dems yesterday announced another major recruit from a rival party, with erstwhile Tory Sam Gyimah being unveiled as their candidate for Kensington, which Labour’s Emma Dent Coad took from the Tories against expectations in 2017 by just 20 votes.

Gyimah, another Brexit rebel, will hope to attract support from the seat’s pro-Remain majority thanks to his party’s unalloyed opposition to leaving the EU. The Lib Dems won only three London seats in 2017, but say their stance on Brexit and high profile candidates in some other constituencies mean they can improve on that total this time.

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