Leader of the Wales Green Party, Anthony Slaughter, says that the decision of local Green Parties in the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency to not stand a candidate in order to avoid splitting the Remain vote in yesterday’s (1 August) by-election has been “absolutely vindicated” and was “key” to the victory of the Remain-backing Liberal Democrats.
Yesterday’s by-election in the mid-Wales constituency, which had been called after its Conservative MP Chris Davies had been recalled by voters after a conviction for a false expenses claim, saw the Liberal Democrats overturn an 8,000-vote Conservative majority to deal Boris Johnson an early electoral blow to his premiership.
The Liberal Democrat candidate Jane Dodds won back the seat the party lost in its 2015 collapse with 43.5 per cent of the vote, an increase of 14.3 per cent on 2017, to establish a 1,425-vote majority after Chris Davies, who was selected to run for the Conservatives despite his conviction, won 39 per cent of the vote, a fall of 9.6 per cent.
The by-election, which saw a 59.6 per cent turnout, the highest for a by-election since Winchester in 1997, saw the Green Party and Plaid Cymru decline to field candidates in a bid to unify the Remain vote behind one party and have a greater chance of taking the seat from the ruling Conservatives, thus further reducing their parliamentary majority.
The Liberal Democrat victory means Boris Johnson’s working majority in the House of Commons – which includes the 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs supporting the government since the 2017 general election in a confidence and supply arrangement – is currently down to one, giving Johnson less margin for error in the impending parliamentary battles over Brexit in the run up to the 31 October deadline.
Brecon & Radnorshire, result:— Britain Elects (@britainelects) August 2, 2019
LDEM: 43.5% (+14.3)
CON: 39.0% (-9.6)
BREX: 10.5% (+10.5)
LAB: 5.3% (-12.5)
MRLP: 1.0% (+1.0)
UKIP: 0.8% (-0.6)
Greens’ decision ‘absolutely vindicated’
Reducing the government’s majority as it presses ahead with Brexit – and seemingly a ‘no-deal’ Brexit – was key to the decision of Plaid Cymru and the Green Party to step aside in Brecon to avoid splitting the Remain vote.
Commenting on the by-election results, Anthony Slaughter, Leader of the Wales Green Party, said: “The local Green Parties in the constituency made a decision, in the light of the critical circumstances of this moment, with the finely balanced parliament in Westminster, to withdraw in order to maximise the chances of a Remain MP.
"That decision is absolutely vindicated by this result. The people of Brecon and Radnorshire have taken the opportunity to cut Boris Johnson's majority in Westminster to a highly unstable one, reducing further the risk of a disastrous crash-out Brexit.
"And the Green Parties’ decision was key to that: the Liberal Democrat majority was 1,400 votes. We got 1,300 votes in the seat in 2015, while Plaid Cymru, who also withdrew from the by-election, also got that many votes.”
Slaughter recognised that future cooperation may be necessary in order to turn the parliamentary tables on the Conservatives in a bid to arrest a damaging march towards Brexit, given the nature of the UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system. He continued: "Of course what we need is a change to the undemocratic voting system, to ensure that everywhere, in every nation, voters can express their political preferences, vote for what they believe in and get it. But until we elect a parliament in Westminster that will reform our system and bring our politics into the 21st century, we have to work within the system we have."
Unifying the Remain vote may be key in any eventual general election, especially if Boris Johnson calls one to try and get a mandate from the electorate to pursue a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. With the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the Scottish Nationalist Party, Plaid Cymru and, to a lesser extent, Labour, all calling for a People’s Vote, denying Johnson a majority at an election may be crucial to achieving that.
Reiterating the Green Party’s support for a People’s Vote, Co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales Sian Berry said: “The crash-out Brexit that Boris Johnson seems to be pushing for would be a disaster, but there is no deal that is better than being a member of the EU.
“Remaining means enjoying the huge benefits of free movement, the environmental, workers’ rights and human rights protections of membership, and working together with the peoples of the continent to make multinational companies pay their taxes and stop trashing the planet.
“As we have since 2016, the Green Party is calling for a People’s Vote – the only democratic way forward, giving the people the final say on the way out of this Brexit chaos.”