Labour dismisses 'collaboration talks' with Liberal Democrats in upcoming Stoke by-election

It comes after reports the Labour leader’s team had informal discussions with the Lib Dems to avoid the possibility of Paul Nuttall, the Ukip leader, gaining ground in the election

Ukip's leader Paul Nuttall is contesting in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election
Ukip's leader Paul Nuttall is contesting in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election

Labour has dismissed suggestions the party has been exploring a collaboration with the Liberal Democrats in an up-coming by-election to avoid Ukip’s leader gaining ground.

It comes after a report in The Guardian claimed a senior figure from Jeremy Corbyn’s office had asked an intermediary to probe a potential pact between the parties in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election.

But a spokesperson for the Labour leader told The Independent: “It is untrue that Jeremy Corbyn’s team or the Labour Party have been exploring collaborating with other parties in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election, informally or otherwise.”

The by-election follows the resignation of senior Labour MP Tristram Hunt last month to become the director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. At the 2015 general election Mr Hunt, the former shadow Education Secretary and well-known critic of the Labour leader, held onto the seat with a majority of 5,179. Ukip came second in the constituency, just 33 votes ahead of the Conservatives.

The 40-year-old Ukip leader Mr Nuttall was confirmed as the party’s candidate last month and has promised to raise issues the “establishment parties would prefer to brush under the carpet”.

A Liberal Democrat source added that no one from the leader’s office had been in touch. “No informal discussions, no texts, no emails," the source said.

“As far as I understand there’s a row going on in Jeremy’s team,” they added.

In an interview with The Independent at the end of 2016, Mr Corbyn also dismissed the wider concept of a so-called progressive alliance with the Democrats, saying the “world should be reminded” the party entered a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.

“What’s progressive about alliances with a party that spent six years slashing welfare spending in Britain?” the Labour leader said. “So when people say to me you should form a progressive alliance with the Liberal Democrats, I just ask, what is progressive about them?

“I will work with opposition parties in Parliament to try and defeat this Government, but the idea that the Labour Party should throw in its lot with the parties that support austerity Britain I think is not really credible”.

Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, has also made clear he has no intentions to enter an electoral pact with Labour, particularly after the party’s decision to back the Government’s Brexit Bill – the legislation needed to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and exit the European Union. He has previously claimed the party is “electorally toxic”.

The contest will take place on 23 February, the same day as another crucial by-election in Copeland following the resignation of Labour MP Jamie Reed – a persistent critic of Mr Corbyn.

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