A guide to the Remain pact between the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens

The full list, how it works – and what it means.

The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens have unveiled a list of 60 seats in England and Wales where they won’t stand against each other in the coming general election.

Heidi Allen, the former Conservative, then Change UK, now Liberal Democrat, who chairs the Unite to Remain group, said that at the next election: “the single most important thing is that we return as many pro-Remain MPs as possible”. This, she explained, was an opportunity to “tip the balance of power”.

Allen, who has announced she will be standing down at the next election, added that this sort of cross-party alliance is “unprecedented”: the last such pact, she is “reliably informed”, was in a 1918. She added that she is “proud that the final piece of work I’ll be doing before I give my pass back… is to work cross-party like this. This is exactly what I thought politics was about.”

How did it happen?

The pact follows a similar deal earlier this year in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, when Plaid Cymru and the Greens agreed not to put forward a candidate but instead gave way to the Lib Dems’ Jane Dodds. Dodds went on to defeat the Conservative incumbent, Chris Davies. Following that, the parties began discussing a broader agreement for the coming election. They tackled the issue of incumbency first (in most cases, the other parties are standing aside for the incumbent), then moved onto other target seats.

Some obvious Liberal Democrat targets aren’t on the list. How were these seats picked?

Heidi Allen and Peter Dunphy, the former Lib Dem treasurer who is a director of Unite to Remain, were keen to emphasise that this list is the result of careful polling and a targeted pooling of resources.

Second, the decision for parties to step aside depends on the consent of the parties’ local branch. In some places, the will was there, and in others, smaller parties were still keen to stand a candidate.

Privately, however, the Liberal Democrats still feel that this alliance will benefit them more broadly in their target seats, even when the Greens aren’t standing aside. They hope that Green voters will look to the broader national picture and their party’s tactical cooperation with the Liberal Democrats elsewhere, and take it as their cue to back the Liberal Democrats in seats even without a formal pact.

What impact will it have on the election result?

Unite to Remain are confident that this could make a difference. “We have done some comprehensive polling on the question if there is a unified Remain alliance candidate standing,” said Peter Dunphy, and “ the vote adds up to more than the sum of the parts [of the three parties’ typical vote share].”

“That boost is real, it’s there in the polls, and it makes a big difference in very many seats.”

Was there any prospect of involving Labour?

Unite to Remain confirmed that they approached Labour early on in these discussions, but were “very heavily rebuffed” by senior figures on the front bench. This is partly because of the Labour Party’s own rules, which preclude pacts.  

What is their attitude towards pro-Remain Labour candidates?

Their attitude is simple – for all that, privately, many of the politicians involved in this pact have sympathy with pro-Remain Labour candidates, they argue that a vote for Labour simply isn’t a guarantee of stopping Brexit, because of Jeremy Corbyn’s personal position, and because the Labour position includes renegotiating a deal.

How will it work on the ground?

There are tight rules regarding electoral campaigning, which mean that, even though the group organising this is “Unite to Remain”, they won’t necessarily wear much “Unite to Remain” branding, nor will the candidates who are stepping aside necessarily share their party resources. It is expected, however, that local party activists might help with canvassing for the united Remain candidate.

Why does it not include Scotland or Northern Ireland?

There is a feeling that any Remain pact wouldn’t be effective or necessary in Scotland, where the SNP is also pro-Remain, and where the question of independence also divides voters, meaning that a pact could play into the Conservatives’ hands because of their unionist position.

The agreements between some pro-Remain parties in Northern Ireland happened separately to these discussions.

Isn’t this slightly cheating the electoral system?

All of the parties involved in this pact want electoral reform. They argue that this is the only way under the first-past-the-post system to ensure smaller parties’ votes are fairly represented.

The full list:

England

The Green Party will be given a clear run in:

Brighton, Pavilion

Isle of Wight

Bristol West

Bury St Edmunds

Stroud

Dulwich and West Norwood

Forest of Dean

Cannock Chase

Exeter

The Liberal Democrats will be given a clear run in:

Bath

Bermondsey and Old Southwark

Buckingham

Cheadle

Chelmsford

Chelsea and Fulham

Cheltenham

Chippenham

Esher and Walton

Finchley and Golders Green

Guildford

Harrogate and Knaresborough

Hazel Grove

Hitchin and Harpenden

North Cornwall

North Norfolk

Oxford West and Abingdon

Penistone and Stocksbridge

Portsmouth South

Richmond Park

Romsey and Southampton North

Rushcliffe

South Cambridgeshire

South East Cambridgeshire

South West Surrey

Southport

Taunton Deane

Thornbury and Yate

Totnes

Tunbridge Wells

Twickenham

Wantage

Warrington South

Watford

Wells

Westmorland and Lonsdale Wimbledon

Winchester

Witney

York Outer

Wales

The Green Party will be given a clear run in:

Vale of Glamorgan

The Liberal Democrats will be given a clear run in:

Brecon and Radnorshire

Cardiff Central

Montgomeryshire

Plaid Cymru will be given a clear run in:

Arfon

Caerphilly

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

Dwyfor Meirionnydd

Llanelli

Pontypridd

Ynys Mon

Getty Images

Heidi Allen
Author: Ailbhe Rea | Source

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