More United joins Greens and Women’s Equality Party in endorsing Lib Dem Sarah Olney for Richmond Park

More UnitedEarlier this week, More United consulted its members on whether to endorse Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Olney in the Richmond Park by-election.

The result was pretty conclusive. From More United’s email email to supporters:

The result was overwhelming. 10,000 of you voted, and 96% said we should campaign for Sarah.

We think this is an amazing chance for us to have a real impact on the result of this by-election. Sarah has said she supports our principles and has put opposition to a hard Brexit at the centre of her campaign.

Sarah is facing a tough fight against Zac Goldsmith, but if she wins it will send the Government a clear message that millions of people believe in a more united, less divided Britain.

More United seeks to support candidates who support their five key principles:

A fair, modern, efficient market based economy that closes the gap between rich and poor and supports strong public services

A modern democracy that empowers citizens, rather than politicians

A green economy that protects the environment and works to reverse climate change

An open and tolerant society where diversity is celebrated in all its forms

A United Kingdom that welcomes immigration, international co-operation and a close relationship with the EU

The Greens and Women’s Equality Party are not fielding candidates in the contest The Greens’ co-leader Jonathan Bartley said this earlier this month:

This is no normal by-election. A regressive alliance of the Tories and UKIP are working together to re-install a pro-brexit MP who just ran a racist campaign to be Mayor of London. The decision not to stand has been made because a majority of local party members believe that a win for a non-Conservative backed candidate would be a blow to the Tory’s hard brexit, and dent their damaging plans for post-referendum Britain. Ultimately we think Britain is better off with fewer Conservatives in Parliament but that doesn’t mean for a second that we won’t be fighting to win local elections in the area in 2018, or that we won’t stand in the constituency in future elections.

“Of course we have big policy differences with the Lib Dems – and I joined many others in marching against the coalition government – but they are simply the only chance we have at this moment to narrow the Conservative’s majority. I’d now urge Labour to join us in forming a progressive alliance against the forces of Conservatism and narrow-mindedness. Chances like this don’t come about very often – so let’s use this opportunity to kick back against the Tories.

The Women’s Equality Party backed Sarah as the challenger to Zac Goldsmith’s racist politics:

Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party said: ‘In Richmond, we’re confronting a by-election called by a candidate who earlier this year put his name to a deeply racist campaign to be mayor of one of the most diverse cities in the world. And let’s be clear: racism seldom travels alone. It travels with its counterparts, sexism, misogyny and homophobia. We cannot allow a proponent of racist politics to take centre stage again.’

Walker continued: ‘We are standing down to give way for Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Olney, to stand together in opposing the re-election of Goldsmith. It’s time to take a new approach to politics.’

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  • Ruth Bright 19th Nov '16 - 1:25pm

    Grown-up stuff.

  • paul barker 19th Nov '16 - 1:25pm

    Richmond Park is an easy start for MU. Zacs campaign for Mayor got criticised from all directions, The Libdems are the clear challenger & its a pro-Remain area.
    Sleaford is going to be a much harder decision with Libdems in a poor 4th in 2015 & Labour the main “Progressive” (?!) challenger in a pro-Brexit region.

  • Grown-up, but how many votes do More United have in the by-election?

  • John Littler 19th Nov '16 - 2:27pm

    Of the four political groupings just identified by Yougov, the smallest grouping is the Liberal Centre Right on 15%, which could encompass Clegg and the Orange group of Liberals, but would also be split into Cameron/Osborne and Ann Soubry territory.

    This confirms my view that there is no point in the LibDems getting predominantly into Centre right free market Tory lite territory, as that space has been taken by what is unfortunately, the natural party of government.

    That liberal free market space was taken in Germany by the Free Democrats, but they have declined to below the 5% threshold to get into the Bundestaag and I would argue that the coalition under Clegg, to most people, re-defined the LibDems as being the almost non existent territory of free market liberal centre right.

    The LibDems can only prosper as a Liberal Centre left party and Farron has taken them back to that area, mostly voting with Labour recently.

    There needs to be a broad centre left alliance with single candidates in winnable seats. Labour are the big hold outs but they could be the big losers if they don’t and their northern English seats go the way of Scotland’s.

  • Ruth Bright 19th Nov '16 - 4:48pm

    tpfkar – point taken, I was thinking more of the Women’s Equality party endorsement

  • Andrew McCaig 19th Nov '16 - 6:33pm

    I notice that the anti runway group HACAN is upset that people are trying to turn the by-election into a vote on Brexit.

    We should emphasise at every opportunity that Theresa May has explained the U-turn on Heathrow by her self and the Tory Party in terms of Brexit.. Apparently it is necessary to send a message that Britain is “open for business”. If Zac Goldsmith and his father had not put their money and influence behind Brexit, the third runway would not be happening.

  • paul barker 19th Nov '16 - 6:36pm

    We can never know how many votes MU can mobilise, unless someone pays for very detailed (& thus expensive) polling. It would be surprising if have much effect in Richmond Park, its just too soon, they only have 60K supporters (less than The Libdems) & they havent started the process of organising local groups yet. They are having a Day of Action in RP a week today which should give some idea.
    I dont think we should be forming opinions about MU till they have developed a lot further.

  • The Lib Dems need to get their act together on cross-party cooperation, and start thinking about where they will return the favour to the green party and the WEP.

    A party that believes in proportional representation and has no chance of winning 600 or so seats in 2020 ought to have plenty of scope for standing down.

  • Probably, though HAVING MU’s endorsement is better than the opposite, where what media coverage there is would keep re-emphasising the fact that they have backed someone else (by implication, Lib Dems are too insignificant to be backed!)

  • Having the support of MoreUnited, as well as the Greens and WEP should encourage floating voters and ditherers to at least consider voting for Sarah. It’s a bit of extra attention on her campaign and that she’s the one in the best position to beat Goldsmith. The value is limited by how much coverage that decision gets in the local community, and so far I’ve seen very little about it in the online media, which is a shame.

    There’s supposed to be a day of campaigning for Sarah by their supporters next Saturday, which will at the very least provide added attention on the campaign and the general principles, which can only be a good thing for us.

    We’re biased, but it’s hard to fathom that they could pick any candidate other than Sarah, especially after the Greens and WEP withdrew, and there was no surprise that the organisers recommended her. However, it’s reassuring that when put to an admittedly leading vote, the overwhelming majority of those who voted, voted for Sarah. My biggest fear for the group would be that it would be filled with deliberate entryists who want to undermine the cause, or those who do at least agree with the overall principles, but refuse to see those qualities in candidates from any party other than their own.

    Some people have pointed out that members didn’t have a real choice, and who were they to say that only the LibDems had a chance of beating Goldsmith? My understanding is that the model for movement when it is up and running is that local groups will have more control over these choices, so the non-tribal and pragmatic credentials of members will be more of a challenge.

    To those LibDems who are worried that Labour party supporters will take over, and always vote for their person, I suggest that you get involved to provide some balance. I just hope that LibDems will have the grace to admit when their candidate is the better choice.

  • @ John Bicknell – well it’s a change from Clegg where all by-elections were written off and seats we held were written off, and where the more money was poured into a seat the worse the result. It is vital that we ‘write off’ (ie don’t pretend we will win) huge numbers of seats and still have a relevant message for voters in them. What is alarming is that Witney has had no impact on the national poll rating and there is no reason to think a win in Richmond will be any different. Chasing a by-election win is a tactic, not a strategy.

  • Richard Underhill 20th Nov '16 - 12:47pm

    We won Eastleigh, Tories third.

  • David Evershed 20th Nov '16 - 12:54pm

    Caracatus is right to say “Chasing a by-election win is a tactic, not a strategy.”

    The latest YouGov poll shows Lib Dems at 7%.

    Lib Dems need to be clearer and more distinct about their liberal ideology. Too many policies are not liberal or encourage government intervention instead of siding with people and businesses on freedom.

    As a result our message is confused. No one knows the Liberals stand for being liberal. Now that’s a strategy to get national support.

  • paul barker 20th Nov '16 - 1:46pm

    Given that many in The Media have already “priced in” a Libdem victory, we have to win.
    That said, The Tories cleverly chose to have RP 3 weeks before Xmas so we wont neccesarily get that much benefit from winning or be hurt much by losing, we will have to wait & see.
    I dont think anyone has written Sleaford off yet but it would be a much tougher fight & we cant throw “everything” at two places at the same time.

  • The YouGov poll published yesterday has us on 9% while the Ipsos Mori one is 10% although Opinion is down at 7%

    Coming 2nd in Witney did get certain people taking notice, and IMO is one of the reasons the Greens and WE Party were able to convince their local members to stand down, and it’s why some Labour supporters recommended similar. The problem is that not that many people really paid attention to the result. Winning a by-election would create a much bigger positive impact.

    @ David, I’m not convinced that just shouting “We’re liberal” is particularly persuasive. Most people think the UK is already a liberal country, and while most people are happy with this, they don’t feel the need for more of it, or think it is automatically a good thing.

    It’s a similar situation to the one Labour finds itself in. We are no longer in a country where we have mill owners and workers with no rights. The trade union movement has had sufficient success that a lot of people think there’s no more need for it.

    You can argue that the battle for more liberty, and more workers’ rights is not over, but there’s enough people who have the benefit of LibDem/Labour policies now thinking “well I’m fine, so I’m voting Tory because they won’t raise taxes”. I’d also point out that for many people, they see policies for business to be contrary to policies for the people. It’s always going to be essential to demonstrate that policies for small businesses are not the same as favours for amazon.

  • John Littler 20th Nov '16 - 2:09pm

    If we ask Labour and the Greens and others to stand down in favour of the LibDems in winnable seats, we have to be ready to stand down to Labour, probably in larger numbers.

    The LibDems are 2nd in only 62 seats out of 650 and many are poor seconds. There cannot be many good 3rd or 4ths, although there are many seats where Labour never could win, while the LibDems could conceivably come through, such as in Witney.

    Only be clubbing together on broad progressive terms such as MU will the anti Tory majority win, to beat the 3-4 way split in the centre left vote, as well as first past the post voting.

  • paul barker 20th Nov '16 - 2:40pm

    @John Littler
    The whole point of MU is that no-one stands down or is encouraged to stand down. The Local MU group would decide if they want to back a single Candidate in each Seat; if they did then that Candidate could describe themselves as “Party X with MU backing” if they wanted. Mostly its a way of channeling extra funding & volounteers to the “best” Centre-Left or Progressive Candidate in each Seat.
    This is all theory, so far – next Saturday will be the 1st chance to try the model out in practise.

  • The Richmond case isn’t typical, and the Greens had already made their own decision to stand down, following the decision of UKIP and the Tories not to stand their own (official) candidate.

    For members of MoreUnited, people who might normally vote LibDem, or Green, or Labour would be asked to put their X next to a specific candidate. Many voters do this anyway, so you could argue this is a process that aids tactical voters do so more cohesively. The next challenge is to get those people who might prefer the LibDems, or the Greens or Labour to actively support a specific candidate, either financially or through campaigning.

    In Richmond, it looks as if the MoreUnited campaigners will be doing their own thing, rather than joining the LibDem campaign, and it will be interesting to see what sort of person turns up, and how the public reacts to it.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Nov '16 - 5:38pm


    Your common sense is very obviously appreciated by any of us who can see that words are all well and good , it is moods and mood music that is harder to discern for some.

    The mood music is we are too liberal as a nation, because many do not know what liberal is , or Liberal or even Liberal Democrat ! We must be what we are , or could be if we are not fully, the party that knows what freedom is ,and what authoritarians , of government or corporation or even ,puffed up individual people, can do to trample on it.

    It is time we recognised the second word in our party name as much as the first.Democrats !

    The stance of this party on Brexit ,cannot , as the otherwise excellent Paul Barker keeps saying , be ” stop Brexit ,” a recipe for disaster, and charges of being undemocratic!Tim is advancing our policy as ask people if they want the deal when there is one ! That is democracy .

    Has anyone thought of the irony that we would do better to ask and share , what “your” Liberal and Democratic Britain might be . I can think of many ways we would thus win !

  • simon hebditch 21st Nov '16 - 10:28am

    The arrangements for fighting the Richmond Park by-election is a positive start for the progressive alliance which is going to be vital in confronting the current government. The Greens and Womens Equality Party standing down is to be applauded. The failure of Labour to follow suit is disappointing to say the least.

    Bu there is much more to be done. There must be detailed political discussions over the next year in which a potential progressive alliance policy programme is produced which all participants are able to reflect in their own policy proposals and manifestoes.
    Creating such a programme, on a limited but centrally important range of issues, will be hard work and must involve Lib Dems, Greens, WEP, Labour and the SNP.

    Any wide agreement will need to be adopted well before the next GE as the debates needed to identify where various parties either fight or stand down must be based on such an agreed programme and not just ad hoc developments. Are the Lib Dems up for this work?

  • John Littler 21st Nov '16 - 2:56pm

    Simon, I’m not sure if you could get the SNP on board, as they will pull any stunt to get the only prize they are interested in. They and Labour would never work together, as it is a fight to the death and neither has an interest in throwing the other a potential lifeline.

    However, SNP in parliament are not going to support the Tories.

    The Welsh Nationalists and Mebyon Kernow could work.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Nov '16 - 11:43am

    When Green MP Caroline Lucas moved a ten minute rule bill she was supported by all the SNP MPs and opposed by one, rather irrational, Tory MP. As soon as this was over large numbers of Labour MPs entered the chamber for the next business.
    As Charles Kennedy MP said on Question Time “Speaking as a Scot, they hate each other.”

  • John Littler 25th Nov '16 - 1:06pm

    Geoffrey re: “So now we already owe the Green, More United and the WEP. But what we can give them in return I am not sure.”

    We could give Caroline Lucas a clear run in Brighton and there is one additional seat they came close to winning I recall….Norfolk or Bristol perhaps?

  • It would definitely be in our own interests to give Lucas a free run in Brighton, and at least one other constituency. There will be a number where we have little chance of winning anyway, and the goodwill will stand us in good stead elsewhere, as well as setting a good example on how we want to work within the House of Commons. That’s not to say that the local LibDems shouldn’t campaign, but they should campaign specifically on what we are about, and why it’s OK to stand down this time.

    I take the point that if we start to enter too many pacts it could impact on national polling, but presumably for every polled vote lost in Brighton, there would be one gained in another area where the Greens are voting for us! More importantly, the only polls that really count are the ones using ballot boxes, and if a handful of tactical deals means we get some extra MPs, then it’s worth it.

    I maintain that if handled correctly, these sorts of deals can bring attention to our shared goal of electoral reform, which I think would bring us benefits in areas where no deals have been done.

    As for the Women’s Equality party, while they are technically a party, I see them more as a lobby group, who are simply using the platform of a political party to bring attention to their ideas and principles, one being more women in Parliament. The best ‘payback’ for them is to ensure we are working to achieve equality within the party, and put forward sufficient female candidates. In Richmond, the Labour candidate, and the one supported by the Tories and UKIP are men, so if we’d also selected a man, I’m guessing they’d have stood their own candidate.

  • I see that Mr Geldof is endorsing Lib Dem Sarah Olney for Richmond Park. His cries of “Zac is ****” should sway many an undecided voter.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Nov '16 - 8:37pm

    I remember someone in Bath clarifying my thinking by saying “Chris Patten is a s h i t.” The voters thought so to. He did not stand for election again.

  • Patten was one of the more civilised Tories……maybe that might just clarify your thinking a bit more.

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