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Liberal Democrats to field general election candidate in Canterbury seat

The Liberal Democrats are facing a backlash about its decision to contest the super-marginal seat of Canterbury with even some of its own supporters predicting that it will hand victory to the Conservatives.

Tim Walker, a journalist who once worked alongside Boris Johnson and currently writes for The New European, was unveiled yesterday as its candidate for the December poll.

Tim walker
Tim walker

But the party's decision to field a candidate in a marginal seat where Labour has a wafer thin majority has prompted concerns it will split the anti-Conservative vote.

The party has been criticised on social media for fielding a candidate with many saying it should have allowed Labour MP Rosie Duffield a clear run to enhance her prospects of retaining the seat.

In a statement announcing his nomination, Mr Walker said: "We are all sick to death of the mess the Tories and Labour have got us into with Brexit.

"We talk more about Brexit than we do about issues such as homelessness or climate change.

"Any form of Brexit will clog up the government and parliament for years.

"The best Brexit deal is the membership of the EU we currently have.”

But there was a mixed reaction on social media, with some party supporters saying they were disappointed the party had decided to contest the seat:

Some said the party should have sought a deal with Labour:

However, there was support from others:

Mr Walker said he hoped to ensure the election was not just a two-way fight between the Conservatives and Labour.

He said he would focus on key local issues, such as the future of the hospital, which he said the Conservatives were spreading fake news about.

The candidate said the Liberal Democrat's position on Brexit would appeal to remain supporters confused by Labour's stance.

"It is much easier for me to look people in the eye and say that we want to bring an end to Brexit - Labour's position is ambiguous," he said.

Mr Walker added if Boris Johnson was elected with a massive majority it would lead to a right-wing government "which would do great damage to society".

The selection of a candidate had been in limbo after national party chiefs suspended the process but gave no explanation for why.

ANALYSIS

The length of time it has taken the Liberal Democrats to select a candidate to contest Canterbury might indicate that it was aware there could be criticism of the potential for the anti-Conservative vote to be split.

But it is a situation in which the party would have been damned if it had let Labour have a free run and damned if it hadn't.

The misgivings of many about the strategy of contesting the seat and running the risk of handing victory to the Conservatives are understandable.

Especially so given the party leadership has openly acknowledged it is in discussions over "non aggression pacts" and alliances with others.

The results of the 2017 general election in Canterbury
The results of the 2017 general election in Canterbury

And it has decided not to contest the seat held by the former Conservative minister Dominic Grieve.

It is worth noting the party did reasonably well in the recent council elections doubling its number of councillors to six so it is not a spent force.

And it has a much more explicit and unequivocal position on Brexit than Labour.

Either way the outcome is in the balance and if the Brexit party candidate chooses to stay in the race, there is the intriguing prospect of a four-way contest.

How is Brexit going to affect Kent? For all the latest news, views and analysis visit our dedicated page here

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