The Green Party will not stand a candidate in the upcoming Richmond Park by-election to maximise the chances of defeating independent candidate Zac Goldsmith, it has announced.
Activists in the Richmond and Kingston local Green parties voted not to field a candidate, arguing they had a “chance to seriously dent the Conservatives’ majority” by uniting anti-Tory opposition.
Mr Goldsmith’s controversial London mayoral campaign earlier this year was branded “racist” and “disgusting” by critics, including some Conservatives. He resigned as an MP after Theresa May confirmed the Government would go ahead with plans to expand Heathrow airport – a major local issue.
“This is no normal by-election. A regressive alliance of the Tories and Ukip are working together to re-install a pro-Brexit MP who just ran a racist campaign to be Mayor of London,” said Jonathan Bartley, the party co-leader in a statement.
“Of course we have big policy differences with the Lib Dems – and I joined many others in marching against the coalition government – but they are simply the only chance we have at this moment to narrow the Conservative’s majority.
“I’d now urge Labour to join us in forming a progressive alliance against the forces of Conservatism and narrow-mindedness. Chances like this don’t come about very often – so let’s use this opportunity to kick back against the Tories.”
Three Labour MPs – Lisa Nandy, Jonathan Reynolds and Clive Lewis – called on Labour to stand down at the by-election as well. The party is planning to stand a candidate, however.
The Liberal Democrats are the most likely challenger to Mr Goldsmith, having held the seat until 2010 when they lost it to the Tory, who is now standing as an independent.
A poll by BMG at the start of the campaign showed Mr Goldsmith far in the lead, but the Liberal Democrats significantly up on their 2015 general election showing.
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