Lib Dems gunning for Beckenham as leave-backing MP’s seat listed as ‘under threat’
11:25 10 January 2017
The Liberal Democrats say a younger population in Beckenham could propel them to victory
Bromley’s Liberal Democrats are confident they can unseat Beckenham MP Bob Stewart after he voted leave in the EU referendum.
The remain-backing Lib Dems have been enjoying a resurgence since the Brexit vote, and prospective parliamentary candidate Julie Ireland thinks Beckenham is within their reach.
She told the Bromley Times: “We have seen a real shift in the whole demographic of the area over the last five years - there is a younger population now.
“We have been working really hard canvassing and on social media, and we have seen a huge sea-change.”
Colonel Stewart’s seat was listed as under threat in an analysis for the Evening Standard last week, after only 47 per cent of his constituents voted leave.
But the Conservative MP insisted he is “not worried at all” by a Lib Dem challenge.
“The Lib Dems always feel confident,” he said. “They are pathetic. They are at the lowest level they can possibly be and scrabbling at anything they can to get back. It is laughable.
“The problem with the Lib Dems is they will try very hard to pick up any issue that will give them any sort of traction. They are not a party of principle.”
Although the Liberal Democrats won just 6.9 per cent of the vote in Beckenham in 2015, Miss Ireland is confident they can see a repeat of their success in the Richmond Park by-election.
“Richmond was a bigger swing, so we think it is doable,” she said. “We are seeing an amazing surge in membership in this area.
“There is a sense that it is time to speak up - that the central, moderate ground of British politics is being shouted down by people at the edges and there won’t be a liberal left to vote for if we do not speak up.”
Miss Ireland denied that the strategy of targeting constituencies on the basis of a referendum result risked turning the Lib Dems into a one-issue party.
“I agree that it can be oversimplified, but we have a really broad manifesto,” she insisted.
“It is easy for the press to headline articles with one topic. That might be what brings people to us, but once people join they find there is a lot more to us than that.”