HIGH profile Labour members have written an open letter to the party leadership, asking the party to withdraw from the race to replace Conservative Andrew Turner as Isle of Wight MP – prompting an angry response from the Island’s newly selected Labour candidate.
The letter, signed by politicians including John Cruddas MP, Clive Lewis MP and Baroness Helena Kennedy, as well as the musician Billy Bragg, and journalists Paul Mason, Owen Jones and Polly Toynbee, said the party should step aside
to give Green candidate Vix Lowthion the best chance of victory.
But Mr Critchley said there was a danger this sort of political manoeuvring would backfire.
“The people who voted for Labour in 2015 are not sheep to be directed into particular voting sheds. Some people seem to have the wrong idea about how elections work: we serve our voters, they don’t serve us.
“Island Labour received 9,000 votes in 2015 (as did the Greens). The Tories received 28,500, and UKIP received nearly 15,000. To suggest that Labour voters are the only thing standing between the Greens and victory is not so much a failure of imagination as a failure of basic arithmetic.
“We have far more members on the Island than the Green Party. We have put up more candidates against the Tories in Thursday’s Isle of Wight Council election than the Greens have.
“We have every expectation that we shall receive more votes on the Island in that election than the Greens will. I do understand, of course, why the Greens are so desperate to have us drop out when even a small Lib Dem revival will likely see their 2015 vote decline rapidly.
“That’s politics. But it’s a gambit which I think Islanders will see right through.
“We obviously want to improve on our 2015 performance, and we will spend every day between now and the General Election on June 8 campaigning to increase that number.
“We’re proud of our policies, and proud of our principles. We believe that what we are offering can appeal to people from across the political spectrum, whether through the pledge to take railways and schools back into public ownership, or the commitment to build a million homes over the next five years.
“I respect Green activists and supporters, and I like many Green policies; as they themselves will agree, there are many similarities between Labour and Green positions.
“So of course I regret that the Green Party chooses to fight Labour all over the country, rather than joining with us to try and put those policies into action in government. But that is their right.
“So let’s put this to bed. It’s not going to happen, and any more moaning about it seems to me to be more likely to put voters off than win them over. There’s no alternative in this situation but to put the choice to the good people of the Island, and then accept the democratic outcome.”