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Missed opportunity to kick Kate Hoey out

by Hugo Dixon | 10.05.2017

Kate Hoey is the most vocal Labour Brexiter standing in this election. She famously posed with Nigel Farage on a boat on the Thames during the referendum. The MP also represents one of the most pro-European constituencies in the country, Vauxhall in south London, where 78% of the public voted Remain last year. So there is, one might have thought, a golden opportunity to kick Hoey out on June 8.

But this will not happen if the anti-Brexit vote is split four ways, as seems only too likely. As well as the Greens and the Liberal Democrats, who fought the seat in 2015, there is a Women’s Equality candidate. A former Labour MP is also considering standing on a pro-European platform.

In order to break this deadlock, I proposed an online primary. Voters in Vauxhall would have been able to choose which of the four candidates they wanted to fight Hoey. The losers would have stood down and endorsed the winner. I was working with OpenVote, which had developed software to run such a primary for last year’s Richmond Park by-election, in association with CommonGround, a campaigning group I helped found.

Sadly, I was unable to get any of the candidates in Vauxhall to go for the idea, partly because there was so little time – one consequence of Theresa May calling a snap election having repeatedly promised that she wouldn’t. This is a great shame. Not only would a primary have meant the pro-European vote wasn’t split; it would have generated media interest. That publicity would, in turn, have increased the chances of beating Hoey.

As well as pushing a primary in Vauxhall, I considered a similar scheme in Kensington. This seat voted 69% for Remain last year, but is represented by Victoria Borwick, a Tory Brexiter. There was a further twist: I thought of standing there myself on a pro-European platform.

A poll had been conducted suggesting that a Stop Brexit candidate might just win Kensington. The results were: Tory 32%, Stop Brexit 28%, Labour 23%, Lib Dems 9% and Greens 5%. Indeed, if the pro-Europeans’ votes were combined, they would have got more than Borwick. My plan had been to invite the Lib Dems and the Greens to a three-way primary. Unfortunately, time pressure, among other things, defeated this plan too.

So there won’t be any primaries in this election. There will, however, be non-aggression pacts in some seats. For example, the Lib Dems will not be standing against Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Greens, in Brighton Pavilion. Such deals are welcome, but not as transparent or democratic as primaries.

In future elections, I hope the primary idea will take off. But for now, it looks like divisions in the pro-European camp will let Hoey, Borwick and other Brexiters back into parliament. If so, that will be a crying shame.

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Edited by Quentin Peel

2 Responses to “Missed opportunity to kick Kate Hoey out”

  • As one who is still licking his wounds after the AV referendum of 2011 I strongly welcome this — it’s a way of bringing AV (or rather not quite exactly AV, but at least a multi-round process) in by the back door. But if we can’t have primaries, we can at least vote tactically, which basically means guessing which parties would be eliminated in earlier rounds and voting for one of the remaining two. It was great to see today that the Lib Dem candidate in Bury North, a Tory/Labour marginal, has urged voters in that constituency to vote Labour. Perhaps there is still time for a gesture of that kind in Vauxhall.

  • Kate Hoey’s majority at the last election was over 20k. Absent any cooperation by opposition parties this year, we must get out there and knock on doors to persuade people to vote for the Liberal Democrat, George Turner, the candidate most likely to take votes away from Kate Hoey. Not one representative of ANY political party has knocked on my door. I’m going to get out there and do it myself and I urge every other anti-Brexit voter to do the same. We must get anti-brexit candidates into the Commons. Writing isn’t going to do it, we need to act now.