The Liberal Democrats have still to select their parliamentary candidates in more than half the seats up for grabs in the general election in four months’ time, leading Labour to claim that Nick Clegg’s party is in danger of forfeiting its right to present itself as a national party.
The Liberal Democrats have selected candidates in only 266 of the 631 seats British parties will contest – excluding Northern Ireland, where the party does not fight elections.
By contrast Labour has selected candidates for election in 606 seats, Ukip in 358, the Greens in 310 and the Conservatives for 471. The figures have been compiled by the Political Betting website. The Labour MP for Chesterfield, Toby Perkins, claimed the Liberal Democrats were risking a collapse in their share of the vote.
The Liberal Democrats denied that the figures showed a drop in party morale or a sign of lack of enthusiasm.
An official said the party was behind compared with its progress in getting candidates in place in 2010, but that was partly due to the absence of a fixed-term parliament at the last election. There had also been an expectation in 2009 that Gordon Brown would go for an early election, which meant all the parties rushed to get candidates in place, even if many of them were paper candidates.
But Perkins said: “Whether the Liberal Democrats get to a full list of candidates we shall see, but the election is a few months off, and it is revealing that when Labour is presenting a national list of candidates, the Liberal Democrats cannot find anyone to represent them in large parts of the country.
“Everyone knows it is important to have a candidate in place for some time if you are to build your vote. It shows the extent to which the Liberal Democrats are likely to see their vote collapse to 30 or less seats. It’s all a long way from the new politics of 2010 that the Liberal Democrats offered then.”
Liberal Democrat HQ said it was for local parties to select candidates from a list of approved candidates, and had not set a deadline by which parties must select.
The last day for the nomination of candidates is 11 working days before the election itself, so parties can find paper candidates at the last minute that in effect mount no campaign, and expect to lose their deposit.
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