Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Why Lewisham East Matters

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 28th May, 2018

Lewisham EastParliamentary by-elections are the cup-cakes of political nerds and I have followed them closely since my early teens. I cut my political teeth as an 18-year-old sub-agent in the Birmingham Ladywood by-election in 1969 (which Wallace Lawler won for the then Liberal Party) and I have lost count of all the by-election campaigns I’ve helped in since. So naturally I’ve been heading down to Lewisham East ever since a by-election was called there, following the resignation of Labour MP Heidi Alexander to take up a job as a Deputy Mayor for London. Based on the 2017 figures one might imagine that Labour will walk it in the by-election, though the Liberal Democrats came a very strong second in 2010. But this is no normal by-election. As Leaving the EU Day (March 2019) looms, this is being seen as a Brexit litmus test, with the LibDems rallying Remainers behind the talented local candidate, Lucy Salek, in what was an overwhelmingly Remain constituency in the 2016 EU Referendum. More specifically, it is an opportunity for voters in Lewisham East to pass their verdict on Labour’s policy on Brexit. Despite repeated opinion polls showing that a majority of Labour members believe leaving the EU is a mistake, Jeremy Corbyn stubbornly persists in underwriting the Conservative government’s Brexit. Ideally there will be a People’s Vote on the final deal Mrs May and her team reach with Brussels, but in the meantime the Lewisham East by-election is the best opportunity to send a message to Mr Corbyn, as well as to the Prime Minister. That’s why so many of us, including party leader, Vince Cable, have been heading there often. Labour called the by-election quickly, with polling on 14 June; the Brent East by-election 15 years ago showed them that having a long campaign allows the LibDems to build up steam. They lost Brent East and if enough of a momentum builds up over the next fortnight in Lewisham East, they could get a shock there too.

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2 Responses to “Why Lewisham East Matters”

  1. […] 2. Why Lewisham East matters by Jonathan Fryer on Jonathan Fryer. Can the party pull off another Brent East? […]

  2. Matthew Huntbach said

    So, the Liberal Democrats are throwing away all they ever did in Lewisham which brought them to a second place and a close challenge to Labour in the past, and are now putting themselves out as a one-issue party, anti-Brexit?

    I’m certainly opposed to Brexit, but I think to go on and on about that and nothing else is a great mistake. We need to talk about all the other things the Liberal Democrats are about. We need to say why the Labour dominance in Lewisham needs to be challenged. We need to talk about what we did when we were the main opposition to Labour with a hard-working group of councillors.

    Matthew Huntbach, former Leader of the Opposition in Lewisham Borough

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