Glostays is a non-partisan and multi-partisan group. And, as such, we are not supporting any specific parties in the general election. It is important to stress that the Britain for Europe long term campaign plan to remain in the EU has always assumed that there would be a Conservative majority in parliament. We were promised there would be no general election, so the plan was devised on this assumption. The Conservatives winning this election will not affect the strategy.
What is crucial, though, is that a majority of pro-Remain MPs are returned to parliament, regardless of which party they belong to. Whilst removing the Tories from power may be desirable for a lot of Remainers, this is not necessary for the plan to succeed. For this reason, we will be identifying pro-Remain candidates in each constituency in Gloucestershire (across a range of parties) that we believe stand the greatest chance of succeeding (ie. tactical voting).
We are a single issue group, so our decision process has been based entirely on the candidates' views on the EU, brexit and their willingness to campaign to remain in the EU and/or vote against their party whip in parliament if necessary, if (when!) the negotiated deal is not in the UK's interests. We have not taken any consideration of any other issues or party policies. However, we firmly believe that remaining in the EU is essential so that Britain can continue to have a sound economy, low taxes, well funded public services and to protect the environment.
In each constituency, there may be candidates with stronger pro-Remain credentials (and opinions closer to our own) than those candidates we have selected. However, from a purely tactical voting point of view, we have selected the candidates with the greatest chance of succeeding against pro-brexit candidates. These candidates do not necessarily hold the closest views to our own (so we are not “endorsing” them), but they are pro-Remain and have indicated their preference to vote against the negotiated deal, against their party whip if necessary.
Selected candidate: Martin Horwood (Lib Dems) - decision deferred to Cheltenham for Europe
Martin is a popular former MP in Cheltenham who stands a good chance of regaining his seat after he lost it in the Lib Dems "punishment" election of 2015.
His strongest opponent is the incumbent Conservative MP, Alex Chalk, whose pre-referendum statements identified him as a reluctant remainer who would vote to remain, but would not vote to join if we were not already a member of the EU.
Selected candidate: Andrew Gant (Lib Dems)
The Cotswolds is a pro-EU constituency with a pro-brexit Conservative MP. We contacted Andrew Gant who confirmed his pro-EU views, in line with Lib Dem general policy. As the strongest pro-EU candidate in the Cotswolds constituency, this is an easy decision.
Selected candidate: Neil Carmichael (Conservative)
This is likely to be a controversial selection as Neil Carmichael is a Conservative party member. However, Neil Carmichael is one of the most pro-Remain Conservative candidates in the region. Neil has already helped the Remain campaign significantly by threatening to vote against the party whip on the article 50 bill unless there was an assured vote in parliament on the final negotiated deal (this is a crucial element of our long term campaign strategy). It is very useful for our campaign to have active "insiders" in the Conservative ranks.
Neil Carmichael's strongest opponent is David Drew (Labour) who is a lifelong eurosceptic. David Drew claimed to have voted against membership in the 1975 referendum and has made statements in parliament (when he was previously an MP) reaffirming his euroscepticism. In the past, he has received endorsements from UKIP to stand against Neil Carmichael. David Drew has subsequently claimed to have voted Remain, but accepts the result means we must now leave the EU.
Stroud is a crucial constituency for the remain campaign strategy, and it is vital that Remainers do not mistakenly vote for a pro-Brexit candidate in order to reduce the Conservative national majority in this seat. Stroud is one of a very small number of seats around the country where removing the Conservative MP would be specifically detrimental to the Remain cause.
Neil Carmichael is also being endorsed by Britain for Europe, the European Movement and Open Britain.
Selected candidate: Barry Kirby (Labour)
Past general election results show that Labour is the strongest party in Gloucester against the (ex-Remainer, now Leaver) Conservative MP. Barry Kirby is pro-Remain, but maybe not as passionately as other candidates. Barry Kirby has confirmed that he favours a meaningful vote in parliament on the negotiated deal, and has confirmed that he would vote against the deal (and against the party whip, if necessary) if the deal was not in the UK's interests.
Selected candidate: Cait Clucas (Lib Dems)
The Lib Dems have been second in Tewkesbury over the past few elections, except for 2015 when they suffered in what was seen as a punishment election for the Lib Dems. Whilst the punishment election cannot be discounted entirely, we believe that the Lib Dems are still the strongest party in Tewkesbury to oppose the brexiter Conservative MP.
Forest of Dean
Selected candidate: Shaun Stammers (Labour)
Mark Harper, the Conservative MP, took a neutral stance in the referendum, but some of his comments in Hansard show eurosceptic opinions.
Shaun Stammers, the Labour candidate, is traditionally the strongest opponent in the Forest of Dean constituency and he campaigned to Remain in the referendum. Shaun believes in the British public to make the best decision on the negotiated deal, so favours a referendum.
We realise that for many Remain voters (particularly in Stroud), voting tactically in this general election is going to involve a lot of wrestling with consciences. As a group, we fundamentally believe that Remaining in the EU is the single most important political matter in our country for the next 5 years. We cannot hope to save the NHS if we leave the EU, we cannot maintain our good economy if we leave the EU, we cannot keep our taxes down if we leave the EU, and we will struggle to make any progress on protecting the environment if we are not co-ordinating closely with the rest of the EU.
Remaining in the EU is the precursor to everything else we might want to achieve in the long term, so voting for the strongest Remainer candidate in each constituency is the priority in this election. Many of us will have to hold our noses and vote against our natural allegiances just this one time. Only once we have secured our future can we start to make progress on everything else.