Friday, October 04, 2019

Nicola Horlick: Jo Swinson is in talks with lots of Labour and Conservative MPs

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Nicola Horlick, at one time Britain's best-know businesswoman and a Conservative, has just been adopted as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Chelsea and Fulham.

In an interview with the i newspaper she gives us a glimpse of what Jo Swinson is up to:
“A lot of MPs from both Labour and the Tories were talking to Jo Swinson about defecting, but the trouble is we’ve got all our candidates already.”
The answer seems to be for the existing Lib Dem candidate to stand down:
It does seem unfair that someone who has worked so hard at a local level to get to be our candidate may be moved aside for a more well known candidate. It really has to be their decision whether to step aside for a better known figure, someone who may have a better chance of winning the seat. 
“It comes down to whether or not an existing candidate is willing to be gracious and step aside in the interest of the party.”
The trouble is that, after the debacle (hem hem) of the last two elections, there are few winnable seats for the Lib Dems - even though we hope our emergence as England's only major Remain party has changed that.

And the other trouble is that high-profile defectors are rarely such vote-winners as they like to think.

I remember (though I have forgotten his name) that the existing Liberal candidate stepped aside to allow the Labour defector and former minister Chris Mayhew to fight Bath, which even then was a good Liberal prospect, in the February 1974 general election. Mayhew failed to win it.

Equally, everyone expected Bill Pitt to step aside in favour of Shirley Williams when a by-election was called in Croydon North West in 1981. But he insisted on being the Alliance candidate and won the by-election.

I suppose I should be outraged that defectors from both sides threaten to turn the Liberal Democrats into a centre party, but it is hard to be too dogmatic about a party that has so little ideology to begin with. And I am rather pleased that people now want to join us.

Instead, I am excited by the discovery, made in the course of writing this post, that Nicola Horlick's father Michael Gayford was a Liberal candidate.

He fought the Wirral constituency three times: at the two general elections of 1974 and the 1976 by-election caused by the resignation of Wirral's MP Selwyn Lloyd.

Lloyd was Speaker of the House of Commons between 1971 and 1976, which mean that in the two 1974 elections both the Liberals and Labour broke the convention that the Speaker should not be opposed.

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