THE first political punches of this year’s snap election have been thrown.
The Liberal Democrats have ruled out a coalition with either Theresa May’s Conservatives or Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
The West Berkshire Liberal Democrats said that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would not be Prime Minister on June 9 and it was very unlikely that Labour would gain seats from the Conservatives.
The Liberal Democrat candidate for Newbury, Judith Bunting, said that Mr Corbyn was pro-Brexit, “marching his MPs to vote for article 50 without concessions, alongside Richard Benyon and the hard Brexit Conservatives”.
She said: “Every Liberal Democrat vote and every Liberal Democrat MP elected is a challenge to Theresa May’s hard-Brexit agenda.
“Britain deserves better.
“This election is your chance to change the direction of our country.
“If you want to stop a hard Brexit, if you want to keep us in the single market, if you want a real opposition, this is your chance.”
When asked if she was encouraging tactical voting, Ms Bunting said: “Certainly, if people care about Europe and care about the question of Remain and a brutal Brexit that we seem to be heading for, then yes, lend me your vote.
“Send a message to the Government and Theresa May that we can’t be taken for granted.”
Ms Bunting said that standard party loyalties were crumbling and that, while there was more at stake in the election than Brexit, the “government gunning for a hard Brexit” was people’s “top-line concern”.
She said that nobody in Parliament was sticking up for people who voted Remain and that Mr Corbyn was “being a bit limp” about the issue.
The call for Lib Dem votes was branded as nonsense by Newbury Labour Party chairman Gary Puffett.
He said: “I think it smacks of desperation. There’s no way they can form a government by themselves.
“Tim Farron has said they are not considering a coalition with anybody else.
“It’s a nonsense to think a Lib Dem vote is any more valued than a Labour vote.”
Mr Puffett said that Labour MP Kier Starmer had clearly laid out Labour’s position on Brexit on Wednesday.
Mr Puffett said that Labour had “accepted the voice of the people in the referendum” and will seek to get the best deal for the UK as part of the negotiations.
The party is yet to announce a candidate for Newbury and spokesman Alan Childs added the Lib Dems were “turning into a one-trick pony”.
“They are simply concerned about reversing a vote that happened last year,” he said.
The Green Party had approached Labour and the Lib Dems to work for a progressive alliance for the election, which was rebuffed.
West Berkshire Green Party agent David Marsh said that candidates could choose to not stand in some seats.
However, he said: “In Newbury, where the Conservative majority over the Liberal Democrats two years ago was 26,368 votes, this does not apply, and we believe that in these circumstances the people of Newbury should have the opportunity to vote for a Green Party candidate.”
Weighing in on the debate, Newbury MP Richard Benyon said: “This is an election where people will make a judgement about whether they trust Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn to negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union and this is also a chance for local MPs to talk about local issues, which I certainly will.”
Mr Benyon said the election was about the country’s leadership and not just about Brexit.
And although he backed Remain, Mr Benyon said: “I’m supporting the Prime Minister in implementing the result of the referendum.
“I think I’m with the vast majority of constituents, whether they voted remain or leave, wanting this to be dealt with by serious politicians who know what needs to be done and have a clear plan to do it.”
Mr Benyon said he disagreed with claims that the Government was pushing for a hard Brexit.
“It’s a negotiation and that needs to be handled by political grown-ups,” he said.
Mr Benyon said that he didn’t have time for political games and added that an alternative election outcome would be chaotic.
“I can’t be bothered with people trying to play cunning games with the electorate,” he said. I want a straight forward election where you put your case and stand by that.
“Politicians who try to box clever end up getting punched on the nose.”