September 16, 2019

Change UK leader Heidi Allen hints at death of troubled party with call for merger with Liberal Democrats

Change UK leader Heidi Allen hints at death of troubled party with call for merger with Liberal Democrats

The leader of Change UK has sounded the death knell for the troubled party after just three months – by proposing a merger with the Liberal Democrats.

Heidi Allen called for a single centrist party a day after a colleague, Chuka Umunna, admitted “mistakes” and suggested a pact to end rivalries in individual constituencies.

Asked if she would go “one step further” than Mr Umunna, she replied: “I would like us to be in the same vehicle.”

When asked, on BBC Radio 5 Live, if she meant the same party, the former Conservative leader said: “Yeah, probably, I don’t know. This partisan thing completely passes me by and, when I look across Europe, they seem to do pretty well with coalitions.

“I don’t know what the format will be, but will we be singing from the same hymn sheet? I would hope as a collective, let’s call us a collective, somewhere in the middle with other like-minded colleagues.”

Ms Allen said she did not want to be “too prescriptive at the moment,” but said a new party would be needed for it to be a “real insurgent force”.

The comments follow the party’s plunge in the polls – threatening to leave it with no MEPs when the European election results are declared late on Sunday – amid a split over strategy.

Last week, Ms Allen admitted she threatened to quit in an internal row over tactical voting to maximise the anti-Brexit challenge to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

In the fresh interview, she indicated all the party’s 11 MPs are now moving together towards a closer relationship with the Lib Dems.

“I think we are sensible enough to know we can’t do it on our own,” she said.

“Are we at different stages on the continuum? Of course we are, because everybody’s different. But do we all agree that the long goal is something centrist together? Then, yes, we are all on that same path.”

However, with Lib Dems poised to perform well in the EU elections – having emerged as the strongest Remain party with a strong showing in the local elections – an agreement to merge appears unlikely.

On Saturday, Mr Umunna, a former Labour MP, wrote: “We made some mistakes along the way, despite the incredible efforts of our small staff team, our candidates and our 100,000 supporters, who cannot be faulted.”

He called for a deal with the Lib Dems – similar to the SDP-Liberal party alliance at the 1983 and 1987 general elections – where their candidates do not compete against each other.

“I think it would be sensible,” Mr Umunna said. “I personally don’t think we should be competing at a general election.”

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