Monday 14 September 2020 5:17 pm

Exclusive: No scrutiny of disgraced Liberal Democrat candidate due to 'wealthy connections'

A disgraced former Liberal Democrat London mayor candidate was allegedly parachuted into the contest without extensive vetting in the hope she could potentially bring in vast amounts of donations and exclusive voter data to the party, City A.M. can reveal.

Sangeeta Siddhu-Robb, a millionaire businesswoman, was yesterday forced to drop out of the race to be the Liberal Democrats’ mayoral candidate, after it was revealed she had delivered a public antisemitic tirade in 1997.

Siddhu-Robb was filmed when she was a Conservative candidate in the 1997 General Election saying: “Don’t vote for a Jew, Jack Straw is a Jew.”

Liberal Democrat insiders have said Siddhu-Robb was chosen for the party’s shortlist for her potential to inject the party with sorely needed funding, meaning she effectively “bought her way in”.

The race to be the Liberal Democrat candidate in next year’s mayor of London election began after former candidate Siobhan Benita dropped out earlier this year.

Yesterday, Benita took to Twitter to say she had also quit as a Liberal Democrat member due to “serious issues” with the party’s internal workings.

A source from her campaign said a large reason behind Benita’s decision was because the party “was skewing its process of choosing candidates so they can get funds in” with Siddhu-Robb being a prime example.

“We were introduced to Geeta [Siddhu-Robb] as a donor of the party and someone from that wing,” they said.

“They wanted her to be a candidate so she could bring in money and wealthy connections, but there wasn’t proper scrutiny of her. 

“There’s just a serious lack of professionalism.”

A source at the Liberal Democrats’ headquarters denied any candidates had ever been chosen on the basis of their fundraising potential, adding that Siddhu-Robb had been vetted by the party’s London office and not its national office.

Siddhu-Robb was also yesterday forced to resign as a board member of Open Britain, formerly known as the People’s Vote campaign, which operates the newly formed campaign group Democracy Unleashed.

It is rumoured that Democracy Unleashed is planning on campaigning to change the UK’s electoral system from first past the post to proportional Representation – an issue long associated with the Liberal Democrats.

Siddhu-Robb was beginning to become the face of Democracy Unleashed, with many of the group’s recent campaign emails written in her name.

It is believed by some former senior People’s Vote officials that Siddhu-Robb was likely chosen to be on the Liberal Democrats’ mayoral shortlist due to a perception that she may have had access to extensive campaign data owned by Open Britain and used by Democracy Unleashed.

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The data includes details for at least 500,000 former supporters of the People’s Vote campaign, which campaigned for a second Brexit referendum.

One former senior member of the People’s Vote campaign said that “data is the new oil”.

“The new group [Democracy Unleashed] has been very vocal in its support for the Liberal Democrats,” they said.

“I’ve seen suggestions that there is a link between candidates Open Britain supports and its deep pockets.”

Siddhu-Robb said she “apologises profusely” for her comments about Jack Straw.

“My behaviour caused offence and hurt and I am deeply sorry,” she said.

“There is no room for any form of racism or anti-Semitism in society and as such I very much regret my conduct at that time.  It is in no way an excuse, but the context was that I was on the receiving end of a consistent racist campaign and, wrongly, retaliated as I did.”

A Liberal Democrats spokesperson said: “Geeta Sidhu-Robb has been suspended from the Liberal Democrats and will not be on the ballot paper to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London. There is an investigation underway in accordance with due process.”