As polling day approaches, the fight for Oxford West and Abingdon has thrown up another surprise. Chris Goodall, who ran as the Green candidate for the area in the 2010 General Election, has written to residents urging them to vote for Layla Moran of the Liberal Democrats, rather than the Greens’ Larry Sanders.
In the letter, he explained, “If the UK had proportional representation, I’d have no hesitation giving Green candidate Larry Sanders my vote this time. But we don’t.”
He went on to call the seat “ultra-marginal”, saying that no one except that Conservatives and the Lib Dems “stands the remotest chance of winning”.
He continued, “Those of us who want to see a fairer, more tolerant and more equal society have to vote for Layla even if it is against our party loyalties.”
Despite the tactical nature of his endorsement, however, he also had high praise for Moran herself, calling her “a thoughtful and energetic individual”, and opining, “Parliament needs far more people like her with a background in science. And her experience of living in different countries would help reduce the extraordinary insularity we often see in the House of Commons.”
The letter was published and promoted by Neil Fawcett, Layla Moran’s campaign manager, and is consistent with Moran’s stated aim to form “a coalition of the Left” in Oxford West and Abingdon. She told Cherwell in a video interview that she wanted Labour voters to “lend” her their votes in order to defeat Nicola Blackwood.
The Green candidate for Thursday’s General Election, Larry Sanders, was highly critical of Goodall’s decision, telling Cherwell, “Chris’ conclusions are mistaken. For one thing, it is altogether possible that the Lib Dems will again install a very right wing Conservative government.
“There is absolutely nothing left-wing about the Lib Dems. They have swallowed completely the austerity argument which means they feel obliged to drastically cut spending. This will slow the general economy and cause enormous grief to very vulnerable people.
“The Lib Dems supported the disastrous NHS Act. They favour continuing with the privatisation measures. The amount, £8bn extra, that they promise the NHS, is dwarfed by NHS England’s estimate of a £30bn shortfall. The idea that £22bn can be found from unnamed ‘efficiency savings’ is nonsense.
“The Lib Dems are entirely wedded to the building of market price homes, which few in our constituency can afford.
“I could go on. The fact that they will go into coalition with Labour or the Conservatives means that whatever remained of distinctive Lib Dem values is gone.
“We face real problems, real crises. The Lib Dems have made themselves irrelevant.”
When asked whose idea the letter was, Goodall told Cherwell, “Layla Moran approached me. I am very happy to help her in any way. She’d be a first rate MP.”
Moran had told Cherwell previously that she blamed the Greens for taking votes off former Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris in the last election, and Goodall seemed to regret this, telling Cherwell, “When I stood last time I thought Evan Harris would win comfortably. There was no cost to the Greens standing, I erroneously thought. I would not have stood if I had realised that even the small number of votes I got might have kept Evan in Parliament.”
He continued, “In our undemocratic electoral system, a vote for anyone else but Layla or the Conservative candidate in this is a total waste of time. In effect, a vote for the excellent Larry Sanders is a vote for the Conservatives and therefore fast privatisation of the NHS, greater cruelty to benefit claimants, slower progress on decarbonisation and ever greater inequality. Therefore I decided I had to vote for Layla.
“After my decision, I heard that the Conservative candidate has taken money from those that support fox-hunting. [In fact, Cherwell understands that the pro-hunting group Vote-OK did not contribute any money to the Blackwood campaign, but did help by contributing volunteers.]
“University voters may like to reflect a moment on what sort of Conservative she is. She claims a moderate and progressive line but this is a person who voted against gay marriage and who has voted against the party line just three times in the last five years. Oxford West and Abingdon deserves much, much better.”
Layla Moran declared herself “delighted” with the endorsement, and told Cherwell, “Hundreds of Green and Labour supporters have already switched to support me in the election. Like Chris they know that I am the only candidate who can beat the right-wing Conservative candidate in this constituency.”
Moran has also been endorsed by a former Labour councillor and Oxfordshire Unison Branch Secretary Mark Fysh, who said, “Layla and the Lib Dems are the only ones who can beat the right-wing Conservatives here. Layla is an excellent candidate too, and spot on on the key local issues. I’m urging everyone to vote Lib Dem in this constituency this time.”
However, the Labour candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, Sally Copley, refused to accept Goodall’s logic. She told Cherwell, “The Lib Dems are always saying that people should vote tactically for them, but they say different things in different places – they’re telling Conservatives in Sheffield that they should vote for Nick Clegg to stop Labour!
“In Oxford West and Abingdon the Lib Dem vote is falling and the Labour vote is going up; if you want a Labour Government you should vote Labour, wherever you live.”
Nicola Blackwood, the Conservative candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, has not yet replied to Cherwell‘s request for comment.