A vote is set to be held in Tiverton & Honiton next month following Conservative MP Neil Parish’s resignation after admitting to watching porn in the House of Commons. The Devon seat is a key target for the Lib Dems who made significant gains in the local elections in the region earlier this month.
And now, Sir Keir Starmer is thought to have told Labour to hold back on campaigning in order to help boost the pro-EU party’s chances of winning.
While Labour is still standing a candidate, minimal canvassing will take place from heavy-hitters on the party’s front bench.
Instead, the party will focus its efforts on campaigning in the ed-Waal seat of Wakefield.
By-elections for both constituencies are set to take place on June 23.
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A member of the shadow cabinet told PoliticsHome the party was “soft pedalling” in Tiverton & Honiton.
A Labour Party spokesperson said it was putting forward an “excellent” candidate but did not deny less effort would be put into Tiverton & Honiton when compared to the north.
They said: “These by-elections are a chance for voters to send the Conservative Government a message on their failure to tackle the cost of living crisis.
“Labour is putting forward excellent candidates who will work hard and fight for every vote in Wakefield and in Tiverton and Honiton.”
Labour and the Lib Dems have already faced accusations from the Conservatives of forming an informal pact to team up and take down the Tories.
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden said hundreds of candidates were stood down by both parties in the local elections.
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He said: “From London to Yorkshire, the evidence of the Labour and Lib Dem back room stitch-up is increasingly clear.
“While the Conservatives fight for every vote on a record of delivering good local services and keeping council tax low, Labour and the Lib Dems are running from their abysmal records at running local councils and resorting to secret deals.”
Admitting to removing candidates in areas Labour were more likely to win, Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said in the lead up to the locals: “Political parties need to make rational decisions.
“You would expect us to make rational decisions and we put our scarce resources where we think we can win.”
Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi also effectively acknowledged the two parties teaming up last year to defeat the Government in North-Shropshire after minimal campaigning by her colleagues.
“Well, it’s realistic,” the shadow Foreign Office minister told Times Radio.
“Let’s face it, Labour are never going to win North Shropshire. The Lib Dems do have an opportunity to do so.”
Sir Keir has always rejected claims of working with the Lib Dems, telling Sky News last month: “Everybody knows there is no pact.”