Labour has rejected a call from some senior party figures for it to stand down in Brighton Pavilion and on the Isle of Wight in order to help the Green Party beat the Conservatives in their seats.
Jon Cruddas, who served as Ed Miliband’s policy coordinator, was among those who said on Sunday that a deal between the left-wing parties was the best way to prevent a “Tory landslide” on June 8.
Writing in The Guardian, Cruddas was joined by former shadow cabinet minister Clive Lewis, former shadow minister Tulip Siddiq, columnists Owen Jones, Polly Toynbee, Paul Mason and others in suggesting Labour sit out the fight in the two south England constituencies in the interests of forging a progressive alliance.
In the letter, the group say stepping down in Brighton Pavilion and on the Isle of Wight could “unlock further positive moves from the Green party and its supporters in a swath of other seats”.
Brighton Pavilion is currently held by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas. Last week the Lib Dems decided not to stand against her. The Greens have also stood down in the neighbouring Brighton Kemptown seat to give the Labour candidate a better shot at ousting the sitting Tory MP. And they are open to stepping down in Hove to help incumbent Labour MP Peter Kyle fight off his Tory challenger.
The Isle of Wight is held comfortably by the Conservatives. Although its incumbent MP, Andrew Turner, quit last week after he was revealed to have told students that being gay was “dangerous to society”.
But Solomon Curtis, who is fighting to be the Labour candidate in Brighton Pavilion, told HuffPost UK while he understood the arguments for a progressive alliance it did not apply to the seat he was fighting.
“In Pavilion, the Tories have no chance of winning - you can see that from the 2015 results. We should see this as an opportunity to have a positive debate between progressive parties,” he said.
“I’m not opposed to a progressive alliance - quite the opposite - but surely it only makes sense in places where the Tories might win?”
And a Labour spokesman added: “Labour is fighting to win this election and will field candidates in every seat, with the exception of the speaker’s on grounds of parliamentary protocol.”
Lucas won her seat in 2015 with 22,871 votes and has a 7,967 majority over Labour who won 14,904 votes. The Tories came third with 12,448.
Julian Critchley, who was selected as Labour’s candidate on the Isle of Wight just yesterday, also rejected the idea of forging a progressive alliance with the Greens. Asked if he would step aside, he said “no”.
“The only way the Greens are going is down,” he told HuffPost UK. “This is their main target seat in which the Tories, not Labour, are their enemies. If this is their main target, they may as well give up now.”
In 2015, the Conservatives won the Island with 28,591 votes - a 13,703 majority. Ukip came second with 14,888 votes. The Greens were third on 9,404 and Labour came fourth with 8,984.
The Lib Dems collapsed at the last election but have traditionally been the main challengers to the Tories in the seat - winning the constituency in 1997.
Local Isle of Wight Labour suspects the main reason the Green Party wants Labour to step aside in 2017 is not to win the seat in June, but to try and muscle out the other left-wing parties ahead of the boundary review.
The Island is due to be split into two seats, with one of the new constituencies likely to be far more winnable for Labour, the Lib Dems or the Greens in 2022 than the current single constituency.
In the letter, the Labour figures urging the candidates to stand down, said the party would be “doing the right thing morally” to not challenge the Greens.
“We therefore urge the Labour leadership not to stand candidates in just two seats, Brighton Pavilion, the one seat the Greens now hold, and the Isle of Wight, the one seat where they are the best-placed party to defeat the Tories,” they said.
“In both instances, Labour has no realistic hope of winning. This is both the right thing to do and helps Labour in seats where the Green vote can make the difference to our party winning or losing. Labour now has to give something back to gain even more.”