Former Tory minister Sam Gyimah: I can take Kensington for the Lib Dems

JOE MURPHY
Liberal Democrat MP Sam Gyimah will stand in Kensington at the upcoming election: PA

Former Tory leadership contender Sam Gyimah will stand for the Liberal Democrats in key battleground Kensington, he told the Standard today.

The fervent anti-Brexit campaigner is quitting his East Surrey seat, where he had a massive majority of nearly 24,000 as a Conservative, for a constituency where his new party has previously trailed in third place.

“I want to roll my sleeves up and fight on issues and values that I stand for — openness, inclusively and the fundamentals of liberal democracy that I know a majority in Kensington aspire to,” he said.

Mr Gyimah, 43, a father of two, was a rising Tory star destined for Cabinet until he rebelled over Brexit and finally lost the party whip for joining the vote to prevent a no-deal departure from the European Union.

He then defected to the Lib Dems and was quickly promoted to Jo Swinson’s shadow cabinet as business spokesman.

Asked why he thought the Lib Dems could win in a seat where they took 4,700 votes in 2017 compared with over 16,000 each for Labour and the Conservatives, he said: “The choice facing the country is as stark in Kensington as elsewhere.

“You have the Conservative Party pursuing a reckless hard Brexit, which has turned its back on business and is out of touch with modern Britain. Then you have a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn who is unfit to the Prime Minister and stands for an assault on property rights and people’s pensions. What we bring are sensible pragmatic policies and getting things done. Throughout Brexit I’ve shown that I stand for the values that diverse, forward-looking people in Kensington share.”

Mr Gyimah is the latest defector taking part in a “giantkiller strategy” being pursued by the Lib Dems in London. Labour defectors Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger are fighting in seats where the party came third in the past, Cities of London & Westminster and Finchley & Golders Green.

Conveniently, the Kensington candidate previously selected by the Lib Dems, Rabina Khan, is to take up a new role as the communities adviser to Lord Newby, the party’s leader in the House of Lords.

Kensington was a Conservative stronghold until 2017 when Labour’s Emma Dent Coad seized it from Victoria Borwick by a wafer-thin majority of 20 after two recounts.

Liberal Democrat sources claim their private polling analysis shows the party currently tying with Labour, with the Conservatives fallen “to a distant third”.

However, they have not shared the data with the Standard for verification.

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