The Liberal Democrats has taken the unusual step of urging supporters of three major political parties to back an Independent candidate in Thursday’s Collington by-election.
The Bexhill and Battle Liberal Democrats have decided not to field a candidate in the by-election in Collington ward, triggered by the resignation of Tony Mansi.
Instead they are urging their supporters, as well as Labour and Green voters, to back the Independent candidate Deirdre Earl-Williams.
However the suggestion has not gone down well with the local Labour Party, which is fielding a candidate.
In a letter distributed in Collington Ward, Jeremy Field, chairman of the local Liberal Democrats, said that Rother District Council, which has 31 Conservative councillors, three Lib Dems and four Independents, has a ‘very serious democratic deficit’ and needs an ‘effective opposition’ to hold it to account.
The flyer says the Liberal Democrats are ‘fighting back’ nationally, but adds: “However we recognise that we are not at present in a position to win in Collington.
“Accordingly we want to encourage all Liberal Democrat supporters, as well as Labour and Green voters, to lend their support to Deirdre Earl-Williams as we believe she is the best candidate.”
Roger McCarthy, Secretary of the Bexhill and Battle branch of the Labour Party, said: “The people of Bexhill are best served by electing a Labour Party candidate rather than just anybody who is not a Conservative.
“The Labour Party has never had as many members in the town as it has now. We are campaigning actively and have generally received a great reception from people on the doorsteps of the town. Why would we deny people in Bexhill the chance to support our policies on fair housing, decent public transport and saving the NHS?
“If other parties are deciding they have not got the numbers, or enthusiasm for a by-election, then that is a decision for them. But we are not in a place where we want or need to make electoral pacts with anybody else, so come polling day the residents of Bexhill will have the opportunity to elect a Labour Party member.”
The Green Party is not fielding a candidate in the Collington by-election.
The leader of Rother District Council criticised the Liberal Democrats over the leaflet distributed to Collington residents.
Conservative Councillor Carl Maynard said of the leaflet: “I think it’s bizarre and desperate because I think clearly if I were a Liberal Democrat voter in Collington, I would be both surprised and disappointed that there was not a Liberal Democrat candidate in the Collington by-election, bearing in mind they put a full slate of candidates up a year ago.”
He added: “Quite clearly there has been a deal done between the Liberal Democrats and Independent group on Rother District Council and I think that voters need to be asking themselves are they voting for a Liberal Democrat or an Independent.
“Is this a formal alliance?”
Cllr Maynard concluded: “The Liberal Democrats need to be a bit more open - if there is an alliance, then they need to come forward and admit that.”