Change UK mocked for ‘folly’ of rejecting alliance with the Lib Dems

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable campaigns alongside the European Parliament's Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt.

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Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable campaigns alongside the European Parliament’s Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt.
source
Reuters

  • Change UK are “now they’re seeing their folly” after refusing to work with the Liberal Democrats, according to a leading Lib Dem candidate in the European Parliament elections.
  • Dinesh Dhamija said that the Lib Dems were “rising” and could overtake the Conservatives and Labour to become a party of government.
  • “Perhaps they [Change UK] were not organised in their thinking and that’s why they didn’t do it,” he told Business Insider ahead of Brits going to the polls on Thursday.
  • He insisted that the Lib Dems had done a “great job” in Coalition government with the Conservatives.

LONDON – Change UK carried out an act of “folly” by refusing to work with the “better organised” Liberal Democrats, according to one of Sir Vince Cable’s party’s leading candidates in this week’s European elections.

Change UK were formed earlier this year by former Labour and Conservative MPs unhappy with the two parties’ pro-Brexit policies. A leaked memo suggested the party planned to replace the Lib Dems as Britain’s foremost anti-Brexit party.

However, Change UK have struggled since their launch, with even their leader, Heidi Allen, suggesting this week that they may not survive until the next general election.

In an interview with Business Insider, Dinesh Dhamija, a Lib Dem candidate in London, took a swipe at Change UK, whose MPs rejected early calls for an alliance between the two parties.

“They’re all good friends of ours and we did offer to work together because you need local associations and local parties, and we could provide that. We said let’s work together and they didn’t. And now they’re seeing their folly.

“Perhaps they were not organised in their thinking and that’s why they didn’t do it.”

He added: “At one stage they thought we were a busted brand, not anymore.”

Dhamija said that his party was receiving the “best reception we have got” since he first joined, and that “a lot of people have started having faith” in it again.

“People are just so happy to see us. Labour and Tory voters. They’re just so fed up with their own parties,” he said.

Dhamija, a Lib Dem grandee and the multi-millionaire founder of holidays website Ebookers, said that the anti-Brexit party was on the rise as Brits prepare to vote in European Parliament elections on Thursday.

He said that he saw no reason why the Liberal Democrats could not overtake the Conservatives and Labour to become a party of government, telling Business Insider: “I don’t see why we have to be the third or the fourth party.

“Especially when the Conservative and Labour parties have such weak leadership. It’s a great opportunity for us.”

The Lib Dems were revitalised after winning over 700 seats in this month’s local elections and polls suggest that the party could receive its highest ever European elections vote this week, and possibly even overtake the Labour Party.

A YouGov poll published on Tuesday evening put the Lib Dems on second place with 19% of the vote.

Their resurgence has been fuelled largely by swathes of Remain voters, who have abandoned the Tories and Labour.

But the Lib Dems are jostling among a crowded field to be the United Kingdom’s leading anti-Brexit party after numerous attempts to form an alliance between Cable’s party, the Greens and Change UK failed to materialise.

Dhamija said he was “very concerned” about the Remain vote splitting across these parties in this week’s European elections – especially with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party way out in front in numerous opinion polls.

However, he said that the Lib Dems were “rising higher than the other parties” and called on anti-Brexit Brits who were considering voting for the Greens and Change UK to “all coalesce behind” his party.

He told Business Insider that the Lib Dems’ hangover from forming a Coalition government with the Tories was “over,” but insisted that his party had simply failed to communicate the “great job” it had done with David Cameron.

The Lib Dems entered a Coalition with the Tories under ex-leader Nick Clegg and subsequently suffered a severe drop in support after overseeing a series of austerity measures including wide-ranging public spending cuts.

However, Dhamija said that his party “did a great job in Coalition” and “did not market ourselves in the 2015 election properly” to reflect it.

“We just thought everybody would know what a great job we did,” he told Business Insider.

“There were activists who were not happy with us being in Coalition and that’s fine.”

“As far as I’m concerned, that hangover is over. I was in a hustings with a Labour councillor in Brent and when he said that we can’t be trusted because of austerity during Coalition, he was shouted down by Labour people there.”

Got a tip? Email this reporter at apayne@businessinsider.com and send him a direct message on Twitter at @adampayne26.