Threat to Raab Shows the Shifting Loyalties of U.K. Voters

Alex Morales

(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.

Boris Johnson’s decision to hold an early general election could have at last one high-profile casualty: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

On the face of it, Raab should be safe as he’s defending a majority of more than 23,000 in his Esher and Walton constituency, south of London -- and his ruling Conservative Party has a double-digit lead in most polls. But after a local survey earlier in the month showed the Liberal Democrat candidate, Monica Harding, eating chunks out of his lead, the foreign secretary was handed another blow on Monday when his Tory predecessor urged voters to cast their ballots for Harding.

“Brexit has scrambled traditional party allegiances,” Ian Taylor, who held Esher and Walton seat for 23 years until 2010, wrote in a statement on Twitter. “Tactical voting is important in this general election. It is not a time for tribal party loyalties.”

Taylor said Harding, who is campaigning to cancel Brexit, is best placed to look after local interests. Raab is one of the most ardent Brexiteers in government, even though his district voted 58% to stay in the European Union in the 2016 referendum. The endorsement complicates Raab’s bid for re-election, though he’s still in pole position. A Survation poll put Raab down 14 points from 2017, on 45%, with Harding up 19 points on 36%.

That there’s any prospect of the Liberal Democrats unseating Raab emphasizes the shifting patterns of U.K. politics. Local anomalies, coupled with the U.K.’s winner-takes-all first past the post voting system could see politicians with comfortable majorities end up losing their seats.

Taylor said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s strategy of setting a Dec. 2020 deadline for reaching a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU heightens the risk of a no-deal Brexit. “This is a really damaging threat which must not go unchallenged,” he wrote.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Stuart Biggs

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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