Friday 6 September 2019 3:51 pm

Chuka Umunna denies 'opportunism' in switching to City of London parliamentary seat

Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna has denied that switching his parliamentary seat to the Cities of London and Westminster constituency is opportunistic.

Umunna announced he would contest the Tory flagship seat at the next election, having represented people living in Streatham in south east London for the last nine years. 

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The constituency, which encompasses both Westminster and the capital’s financial district, is currently held by Tory MP Mark Field. 

Field was sacked as a Foreign Office minister over the summer when footage emerged of him grabbing a female climate change protester by the throat, before frogmarching her out of a dinner event.

But the former Labour MP who has defected to a new party twice this year, first from Labour to Change UK, then to the Lib Dems, suggested he was a better fit for voters because of his opposition to Brexit.

“I relish the prospect of ensuring the constituency – which is a global symbol for open, liberal values – is represented by a party and an MP who will be true to those values,” he tweeted.

He told ITV that the switch was not an opportunistic move. “You don’t leave one of the two main parties if you are looking to be opportunistic,” he said

“I’m not coming into a Liberal Democrat safe seat. I’m coming into fight a seat where we are challenging the Tories.”

“I’m not sure this ‘opportunism’ label based on the evidence is well made.”


Remainer seat?

Over 70 per cent of voters in the Cities of London and Westminster voted to remain in the EU referendum, but it is considered a key seat for the Tories, who are traditionally weak in London as a whole.

Field won 46.6 per cent of the vote in the 2017 election, giving him a majority of around 3,000 people. Labour won 38 per cent of the vote and the Lib Dems trailed with 11 per cent. 

But Umunna retweeted a voting projection by Electoral Calculus today, which suggested the Lib Dems were on course for 28 per cent of the vote, trailing the Tories by just seven percentage points. 

The Westminster and City Lib Dem Twitter account called it “a two horse race”.

‘I will fight tooth and nail’

Umunna told the Evening Standard: “I worked as a solicitor in the City and West End and I know they are the last places that should be represented by one of Mr Johnson’s MPs who has just voted to enable a no-deal Brexit.

“The City is the centre of international values, while the West End is home to our greatest creative industries. These centres are telling us that Brexit will be bad for them.”

Read more: Prime Minister to seek election again next week

“I will fight tooth and nail to take this battle to Mr Johnson and his ‘Vote Leave’ government and ensure it is represented by a Remainer committed to stopping Brexit.

“I resigned from Labour primarily because of the party’s failure to oppose Brexit. Whilst it is important to win seats from Labour, it is also vital we win seats from Mr Johnson’s populist nationalist Tory party in order to stop Brexit and build a more liberal and inclusive Britain.”

(Getty Images)