The Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru have established a ‘Remain pact’ allegedly to boost the number of pro-Remain MPs – but 77% of Labour-held seats on their list are already represented by strongly pro-Remain MPs.
The three parties have made an agreement to step aside for each other in the upcoming general election in 60 seats across England and Wales, with the intention of having one pro-Remain candidate in each seat.
Launching the plan on Thursday, despite not standing again as a candidate, Heidi Allen claimed that “with a single Remain candidate in 60 seats, we will return a greater number of Remain MPs to parliament”.
But LabourList analysis has found that many of the seats targeted by the ‘Unite to Remain’ plan will see a candidate from the ‘Remain alliance’ stand against strongly pro-Remain Labour candidates.
Candidates in ten of the 13 Labour-held seats targeted by the alliance – 77% – have selected strongly pro-Remain Labour candidates to stand in the constituency.
Defector MP Angela Smith’s seat, Penistone and Stocksbridge, is also targeted by the Remain pact. Labour won the seat in 2017 with a slim majority of 1,322 votes and the Tories in second place. The Lib Dem candidate secured just 2,042 votes, coming in fourth behind the UKIP candidate.
Eight of the Labour candidates in ‘Remain alliance’ seats have already signed up to a pledge promoted by campaign group Remain Labour, which states: “Labour is committed to a confirmatory referendum, to give you a final say on Brexit. If elected as your Labour MP, I pledge to campaign to Remain in the EU.”
51 Labour candidates have signed up to this pledge in total so far, with more expected to add their names. The candidates who have made the commitment include 15 new candidates and 36 former MPs seeking re-election.
On the ‘Remain pact’ list, there are a number of Labour strongholds, such as Bristol West, Dulwich and West Norwood, Exeter, and Cardiff Central, plus Tory-held Chelsea and Fulham, Rushcliffe and South Cambridgeshire.
Portsmouth South was won from the Tories by Labour’s Stephen Morgan in 2017, with a majority of just 1,554. Morgan voted against Theresa May’s deal as well as Boris Johnson’s proposal, which he described as one that “sells out Portsmouth people’s jobs, rights and our city’s communities”.
There are concerns that the ‘Remain alliance’ decision to target marginal Labour seats, such as Portsmouth South, could allow the Tories to regain more constituencies. This would boost the chances of Brexit taking place.
Thangam Debbonaire in Bristol West, Helen Hayes in Dulwich and West Norwood, Ben Bradshaw in Exeter and Jo Stevens in Cardiff Central – all on the Remain pact target list, and all signed up to the Remain Labour pledge – voted against triggering Article 50.
Neil Coyle in Bermondsey and Old Southwark and Rachael Maskell in York Central have not yet signed the pledge but both also voted against triggering Article 50 and are being targeted by the Remain alliance.
Key target seats for Labour are also on the Remain pact list. Ross Houston in Finchley and Golders Green, where Labour needs to gain just 1,600 votes on the 2017 result to take the seat from Leave-supporting Mike Freer, is one.
Referring to the Remain pact, Houston told LabourList: “It is ridiculous in a constituency where there is a Remain candidate that is 1,600 votes behind Mike Freer. It is absolutely ridiculous because all you will do is let Mike Freer back in.”
Stroud is another seat targeted by the pact. Incumbent David Drew has called Brexit “one of the biggest domestic policy disasters this country has known”. In 2017, Stroud was a marginal seat, with the Tory candidate falling short by just 687 votes. The combined Lib Dem and Green votes came to 3,476.
Below is the full list of Remain alliance target seats.
Bermondsey and Old Southwark
Brecon and Radnorshire
Bury St Edmunds
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Dwyfor
Chelsea and Fulham
Dulwich and West Norwood
Esher and Walton
Finchley and Golders Green
Forest of Dean
Harrogate and Knaresborough
Hitchin and Harpenden
Isle of Wight
Oxford West and Abingdon
Penistone and Stocksbridge
Romsey and Southampton
South East Cambridgeshire
South West Surrey
Thornbury and Yate
Vale of Glamorgan
Westmorland and Lonsdale