Clive could still lose seat over Labour's Brexit policy, claims Farron
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis could still be punished by Norwich voters over Labour's policy on Brexit, the Liberal Democrat leader has claimed. Tim Farron said he sensed the East was a region where his party could make a comeback.
Mr Lewis resigned as shadow business secretary last month over the three-line whip imposed by leader Jeremy Corbyn, who ordered MPs to vote to trigger Article 50, even though the party’s amendments on a final meaningful vote and the rights of European citizens were rejected by the government.
But Mr Farron claimed this may not save Mr Lewis in the marginal seat, which was held by the Liberal Democrats between 2010 and 2015, Mr Farron pointed to MPs who had lost their seats over Labour’s backing of the Iraq war and his own party’s election annihilation after it broke a manifesto pledge not to raise tuition fees.
“Let’s put it bluntly. Generally speaking parties that have done something that offends their electorate tend to take MPs out whatever. There were loads of MPs who voted against the Iraq War in 2005 and still lost because they were the Labour candidate.
“There were Liberal Democrat MPs who voted against tuition fees and it didn’t stop them losing. I think Clive’s problem, the Labour Party’s problem, is bigger than Corbyn. They are seen accurately to have missed the opportunity to lead the opposition at Britain’s most important moment.
He said they had basically “held Theresa May’s hand as she takes us to a hard Brexit”.
“That is very hard for any Labour candidate under any Labour banner. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect what Clive did by the way,” Mr Farron added.
Norwich was the only area of Norfolk where the majority of voters backed remain.
Mr Farron said he was pitching to fill the space the Labour Party had vacated as the “decent progressive opposition that the country desperately needs” as he party meets in York for its spring conference.
His party has come under fire for pledging to hold a second referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal. But Mr Farron claimed that half the electorate would make a decision depending on the terms of the deal.
“This is not about us saying no to Brexit, it is about us saying yes to democracy. At the moment Brexit is a white sheet of paper.”