Heidi Allen threatened to quit as Change UK leader over Lib Dem row

MP says she wanted remainers to vote tactically for rivals in some areas but was overruled

The Change UK leader, Heidi Allen, has said she threatened to resign during an internal party row over whether to endorse voting tactically for the Liberal Democrats in the EU elections.

In a Channel 4 News interview, Allen said she had wanted to advise remain supporters to vote for the Lib Dems outside of London and the south-east but she was overruled by other party members.

“Had it been left to me, I would have absolutely advised tactical voting,” said Allen, the MP for South Cambridgeshire. She said that while her colleague Sarah Wollaston agreed with her, others did not.

“I respect the views of my fellow group members and the majority was that they didn’t want to go that way, but it is something that still troubles me. I have no doubt that the British public will look at the tactical voting websites out there and make their own decisions.”

Asked by the journalist Cathy Newman whether she had threatened to resign, she said: “Yes. I did.” Allen denied her party was in disarray and said the D’Hondt electoral system used in the EU elections was “inherently complex”.

“Necessarily putting all the votes in one direction doesn’t always necessarily create the result that you want. If the next party further down in the polls isn’t still big enough to win a seat, you can end up, if you’re not careful, giving more votes to the Brexit parties,” she said.

“So it isn’t straightforward and I understand there’s complexity there, but ultimately, do I think we have reached an acceptable balance point? Yes I do, and we’ll have to wait for the results in the polls on Thursday.”

Allen was one of three Conservative MPs to join eight Labour MPs in resigning from their parties over their respective Brexit polices and shifts away from the centre-ground of politics. They formed their own pro-EU political party.

Polling for YouGov on Wednesday had Change UK on 4% of the vote, well behind the Lib Dems in second place on 19%. Nigel Farage’s Brexit party was in the lead with 37% of the vote, while Labour was third on 13%. The Conservatives were in fifth place on 7%, behind the Green party on 12%.

The Lib Dems have urged remain supporters to vote tactically for them, claiming they are the “biggest and best organised of the remain parties”.

Last week Change UK’s lead European election candidate in Scotland said pro-remain voters who also opposed Scottish independence should back the Lib Dems.

David Macdonald, an independent councillor in East Renfrewshire, said he believed Change UK was splitting the remain vote, which he said would allow Farage’s Brexit party to win one of Scotland’s six European seats.


Frances Perraudin

The GuardianTramp

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