Peter Kyle knows fine Labour can’t win in Mid Beds

Labour’s new Shadow Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology showed that yesterday on the News Agents that he knows absolutely fine that Labour can’t win Mid Bedfordshire.

He made the bizarre claim, on the News Agents podcast that:

“If our candidate was gay, they’d be doing a family values campaign.”

He said that the we were running a “deeply personal” campaign against the Labour candidate in the by-election.

Labour can’t win there, but they can stop us. Is that really their aim?

Our response was:

People in Mid Bedfordshire are disappointed that Labour have chosen a London councillor as a candidate to represent their rural towns and villages. After Nadine Dorries, people want a local MP, not someone who has been parachuted in.

The Labour candidate resigned as a councillor on Waltham Forest Council last week, having been a Cabinet member there until 3 months ago.

Layla Moran took to Twitter to condemn Kyle’s comments:

Disappointing from @peterkyle. Lib Dems are proud to have brought in equal marriage ten years ago almost to the day and are allies of the whole LGBT+ community. To suggest we would weaponise equality issues is a utterly against our values.

And Tim Farron had news direct from the doorsteps in Mid Bedfordshire:

I was in Mid Beds today to support @EmmaMidBeds. On the doorstep, Labour voters were volunteering to me that they were going to switch to vote for Emma this time because she can beat the Tories and Labour clearly can’t. I’m even more convinced now that we can do this.

Of course my take from Mid Beds is partisan, but it’s based on solid evidence. 1) Labour voters are deciding for themselves to vote tactically for us. 2) Disillusioned Conservatives and others in this rural seat are keen to vote for Emma, but would never vote Labour.

The Lib Dem by election campaign team know what they’re doing. It’s by far the smarter, bigger and more engaging campaign. 4) Labour won’t win but they probably won’t lose their deposit and they could stop us winning. 5) Lib Dem activists need to go there en masse!

North Shropshire by-election winner Helen Morgan sent an email to party members:

I could barely believe my ears.
We all knew Labour were desperate but now they’re just making things up.

She continued with a call to action:

Let’s be clear.  This is nothing more than a desperate smear from a campaign that knows it can’t win.

But we cannot afford to be distracted by this.

With their attacks on the poor, the persecuted and the disenfranchised, this Tory government is beyond the pale.

Our fight is with them.

Emma Holland-Lindsay has a track record of beating the Tories in Bedfordshire.

As a local councillor, Emma is already hard at work campaigning for more GPs. She holds regular advice surgeries for residents who were ignored for so long under Nadine Dorries.

I was elected at a by-election in North Shropshire nearly two years ago. I came from third place to beat the Conservatives. I fight for my community every day.

But I only won because Liberal Democrat members from across the country answered our call and came to volunteer in Shropshire in their thousands.

We worked harder than we’ve ever worked. We listened to local people. We showed them things could be different – that they didn’t have to put up with being ignored. We gained their trust and we won their support.

The people of Mid Bedfordshire deserve nothing less.

Lib Dems have indeed been heading to Mid Beds from all over the country but the team are not known for unambitious work targets so this is another of these times when, if we can, we need to drop everything and go to do our best to elect our 16th MP.  You can find out all you need to know about how to help here.

Can I also put a word in for the Maraphones? There are sessions on Zoom om Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons to complete whatever missions the Campaign Team set us. You can also make calls outside those times.  Find out more here.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Peter Martin 13th Sep '23 - 11:58am

    “Labour can’t win there …..”

    This is very likely true but the remark underlines the fundamental problem that the Labour Party will have no matter how far they move to the right to try to woo Tory and possibly Lib Dem voters.

    Labour has come second in the last three general elections in Mid Beds and always with a significantly higher vote share than the Lib Dems. It was over four times higher in 2017, more than double in 2015 and not quite double in 2019. If the figures had been reversed, there is no doubt that you would be using them to justify calling on Labour voters to vote Lib Dem tactically to ‘get the Tories out’.

    Labour voters don’t have much problem doing this when the need arises. However, as your comment indicates, the favour isn’t going to be reciprocated by Lib Dem voters and still less will Labour attract disgruntled Tory voters.

    We can all have our theories of why this might be. Mine, FWIW, is that it’s a class identification issue. However, the reality is that there is much more in a Lib Lab pact for the Lib Dems than there is for the Labour Party.

  • The Labour campaign seems to be thrashing around in the dark half the time. For the life of me I cannot understand why their candidate had to resign his seat and Cabinet post at Waltham Forest, if he loses the by election as we expect, probably in third place, then he has no 37K to come from Waltham Forest residents, he will have nothing politically. He may even find some career problems back at the Bank of England.
    Many ex Councillors became MPs, then resigned their Council seat after their election, that seems to be the sensible approach and one that really everyone recognises

  • Chris Moore 13th Sep '23 - 2:12pm

    There is overwhelming psephological evidence that Lab/LD tactical voting goes in both directions.

    The last round of by-elections are a good example, in which the LD vote was down dramatically in the two Labour prospects. And Labour was down dramatically in the LD prospect.

  • Peter Martin 13th Sep '23 - 2:49pm

    @ Chris Moore,

    If you’re saying it works equally well both ways, why aren’t the Lib Dems allowing that Mid Beds should also be a “Labour prospect” in October?

    After all, and as previously said, the Labour party has a more consistent record of being the main challengers to the Tories!

  • Peter Martin 13th Sep '23 - 3:06pm

    @ theakes,

    “For the life of me I cannot understand why their candidate had to resign his seat and Cabinet post at Waltham Fores”

    He could be thinking of resigning in any case and this is as good an excuse as any, even though he’ll know just as well as anyone that he won’t win. Starmer could even have promised him he’ll be able to stand in Islington North, as a reward, when the GE comes around. Who knows?

  • John Bicknell 13th Sep '23 - 3:21pm

    It is convenient for Labourites like Peter Martin to have a short political memory when it comes to Mid Beds. It was the LDs who were the second placed party in both 2005 and 2010, and over the past 50 years there has been no consistent pattern as to which party is the main challenger.
    I’ve always thought that Labour are the nastiest party on the political spectrum when it comes to campaign tactics, and Peter Kyle’s comments bear this out. They are also, as Caron notes, a sign of desperation, and a tacit admission that the ‘London candidate’ tag is starting to hit home.

  • Chris Moore 13th Sep '23 - 4:13pm

    Hi Peter,

    I think you need to distinguish between the behaviour of LD/Lab voters and that of the LD and Lab parties.

    A significant percentage of LD and Lab voters are prepared to vote tactically Lab/LD.

    As for the parties, both believe they can win Mid-Beds. Both have come second here in the past and I suspect, the LD ceiling is higher than the Labour ceiling. So I think LDs are favourites.

    You must be wearing your party spectacles, if you think Labour are the clear challengers!

    Of course, also sometimes local parties don’t get the tacit non-aggression between the national parties. In North Shropshire, the local labour party went on claiming they were the main challenger till shortly before polling day, based, largely, on their canvass returns. In reality, they were completely out of it, but had convinced themselves otherwise.

  • Alex Macfie 13th Sep '23 - 5:25pm

    It’s certainly a bizarre thing for Peter Kyle to say. I suppose he thinks that line of attack might work because it’s slippery — as it’s based on a hypothetical scenario, it’s impossible to disprove. Hoever, I doubt it’ll gain much traction as voters don’t tend to deal in counterfactual scenarios — they are far more interested in reality.

  • @ Peter Martin If I lived in Tamworth I would be willing to vote Labour tactically as I accept that the Lib Dems can’t win there. However I think Mid Beds demonstrates why the Lib Dem collapse in 2015 didn’t help Labour as they just leapfrogged us in seats they can’t win.

  • I was the LD Candidate in Mid Beds in 1997. Labour came absolutely nowhere near winning Mid Beds in the then Blair landslide. Their ceiling of support is much lower in Mid Beds than ours. They can’t win it. We possibly can.

  • Martin Gray 13th Sep '23 - 7:54pm

    Local elections & by-elections have proven to be a poor indicator of public support – especially labours as they tend to do better on election day in many so called unwinnable seats ….Big majority turnovers are hard to hold on GE day – as lab/cons voters return to the party they’ve virtually always voted for .

  • Anthony Acton 13th Sep '23 - 7:54pm

    I suspect that a Tory win, if Labour can’t win, would suit Labour’s strategic position for the next GE better than a Lib Dem win. They need to be able to say where they are in second place (as in my constituency) “vote Lib Dem, get Tory”.

  • Steve Comer 14th Sep '23 - 8:38am

    Peter Martin said Lib Dem voters will not switch to Labour to beat the Tories. But isn’t that precisely what thousands of them did in Selby and Uxbridge?
    Both Tamworth and Mid Beds by-elections are going to be held on the same day then surely it would be best for Labour to concentrate on Tamworth, that way we could see two Tory losses just after their Party Conference relaunch attempt!

  • Christopher Moore 14th Sep '23 - 8:55am

    My feeling, Steve, is that Labour would prefer a Tory win over a LD win in Mid-Beds for various reasons, one of which Anthony has detailed.

    Peter is simply wrong about Lab/LD tactical voting.

  • Mike Chandler 14th Sep '23 - 10:00am

    Labour are desperate not to be embarrassed in the same way they were in North Shropshir

    As they did in North Shropshire they are banking everything on a dubious local poll, the idea that their 2nd place in 2019 is a sign from heaven & a campaign of traducing Liberal Democrats.

  • Don’t overlook the “Festus factor”, he is a well respected genuinely local candidate with a high local profile.

  • David John Symonds 15th Sep '23 - 11:20am

    History shows that Labour dislikes the Liberals, SDP/Lib and now the Lib Dems. Ramsay Macdonald was happy to lose the 1924 General Election to a Tory landslide which destroyed the Liberals as a party of government and the Lib-Lab Pact benefited Labour more than the Liberals in the mid-70s as it propped up the Callaghan Government. Labour does not like to co-operate with Lib Dems usually so it would rather the Tories hold Mid-Beds than Lib Dems win.

  • John Bicknell 16th Sep '23 - 9:17am

    I note that Peter Kyle is bringing up the 1980 Bermondsey by election as evidence of Liberal homophobia and dirty tactics. This issue has been discussed and debunked on previous threads on LDV. Our candidate Emma declined to answer this charge. In a way, I can understand that – if you spend time responding to an accusation, however absurd, then that becomes the issue of the campaign, and, as Ronald Reagan commented, ‘whilst you’re explaining, you’re losing.’ However, the claim that the LD campaign in Mid Beds is based on lies, smears, and, it is implied, homophobia, has now entered the mythology of online debate. I can’t help feeling I’d have preferred Emma to give a short, robust rebuttal, then quickly moved on to more positive matters.

  • David John Symonds 16th Sep '23 - 10:08am

    @ Mr Symonds. the Liberals were destroyed as a party of government long before Ramsay Macdonald became Prime Minister and there were many more internal culprits long before Mr Macdonald (a former Liberal) was responsible for losing the vote you mention.

  • Why on earth are we getting so uptight about this. The election in Bermondsey was over 40 years ago, when Labour were slaughtered. The public and voters of the constituency will not be concerned. They have bigger fish to fry, the NHS, Sewage, Cost of Living, Pensions. Do not rise to the bait it is a distraction indicating failure, Just continue the campaign and ignore it.

  • David Symonds 16th Sep '23 - 11:19am

    The point i was making about Labour was that it is not to be trusted in its working relationship with Lib Dems as both Labour and Conservatives want to govern on their own and prefer their mortal opponent to govern instead. I worked on a by-election some years ago where Lib Dems were in contention and both the Labour and Tory agents chatted to each other during the Count and confided in each other that they would not want Lib Dems to win, in effect preferring each other to win. The Tories held the seat and Labour were pleased. If Tories unfortunately hold Mid Beds because of a split vote between LD and Labour, Labour will be happy and relieved because Mr Strathern and his team will claim that Labour must be the only challenger to the Tories and would hate the LD’s to win. Likewise Tories would rather Labour took the seat. The progressives need to work together but are Labour really progressive? Not necessarily and their record in government and in local councils shows often otherwise.

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Sep '23 - 11:36am

    “are Labour really progressive?”
    Seems to me they get more like the tories every day.

  • @ John Bicknell. I canvassed and delivered leaflets in the Bermondsey by-election, and so can well remember what was happening there over 40 years ago.

    Yes, Theakes, it’s a long time ago, and yes John Bicknell it may here been debunked on LDV. But….. Mr John Bicknell seems to have forgotten, or missed, that in 2006 Simon Hughes made a very public apology to Peter Tatchell for what went on in the by-election. Full details are on the Guardian website for those who can be bothered about accuracy.

  • Alex Macfie 16th Sep '23 - 7:55pm

    I seriously doubt that voters (as opposed to party activists and apparatchiks) care in the slightest about what may or may not have happened in a by-election many years ago in another part of the country. What matters is what is happening in the present actual campaign (and not some hypothetical campaign based on a different candidate) and how it relates to their present lived realities.

  • John Bicknell 17th Sep '23 - 10:28am

    David Raw: the Guardian, rather like you, is obsessed with attacking the Liberals when they are perceived as a threat to Labour. So no, I can’t be bothered to waste my time reading a partisan account on their website. As others have noted, voters are more likely to be concerned with things that affect their lives today rather than Labour dredging up an old grievance from over 40 years ago which they can’t let go.

  • Peter Martin 19th Sep '23 - 11:34am

    “Peter Kyle knows fine Labour can’t win in Mid Beds”

    They may not win but they certainly can win. The Tory vote has collapsed to just over 30% but this could be enough if the remainder of the votes are split.

  • Neil Hickman 19th Sep '23 - 2:02pm

    I’m not sure that it’s right to describe Ramsay MacDonald as a former Liberal. He found himself obliged in the early days of the Labour Representation Committee to work with the Liberals, but that’s another thing.
    He was opposed to the conduct of the Great War (which arguably made him a far better Liberal than Lloyd George) and was driven from Parliament in 1918 by a very personal campaign by the Liberal, Gordon Hewart, who more or less accused him of treason for failing to back the war effort.
    Some senior figures (e.g. the Solicitor General Henry Slesser) felt that MacDonald could and should have agreed a programme of social reform with the Liberals – but “certainly he always spoke of them most disparagingly”.
    Quite a few people I know in the Labour Party do manage do join up the dots and see that if the Liberals/LibDems do well, as in 1997, this often helps the Labour Party by catching the Tories in a pincer movement, while if they do badly, as in 1951, 1970, 2015, this helps the Tories. Unfortunately the ruling cabal in the Labour Party at the moment is dominated by the blinkered view that Blair was fantastically popular, ignoring the fact that from 1997 Labour under Blair leaked votes so that although Labour won in 2005 it did so with 35% support. These are people who genuinely expected Liz Kendall to get a million popular votes when she stood for the leadership and still regard it as an aberration that she didn’t

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