Isle of Wight Liberal Democrats now withdraw from East Wight Primary events

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

The Isle of Wight Liberal Democrat Party have announced they are pulling out of the East Wight Primary Town Hall Q&A events.

The purpose of the events is to choose a ‘Peoples’ Champion’: A progressive candidate who voters think is best placed to win the seat against the Conservative candidate.

As News OnTheWight understands it, those behind the Primary initiative had extensive discussions with the Electoral Commission, and parties taking part in these Primary events (there are several taking place around the country) had been cleared. East Wight Primary is registered with the Electoral Commission.

The candidates
Six East Wight Primary events are due to take place this month, and was to have included Vix Lowthion from the Green Party, as well as Michael Lilley from the Liberal Democrats. Island Labour told News OnTheWight they’d not yet selected a candidate and that taking part was forbidden by the national party.

Legal advice from national party
Despite the Isle of Wight LibDems agreeing for their candidate to take part, the chair of the local party, Andrew Garratt, now tells News OnTheWight,

“Campaigning up to, and through, elections is governed by acts of parliament that covers both political parties and non-party campaigners such as the East Wight Primary.

“Breaches of electoral law can result in severe penalties.

“The local Liberal Democrat team have sought advice relating to participating in the primary.

“The expert advice from our national compliance officers is that the significant problems relating to participation by political parties and electoral law mean that Isle of Wight Liberal Democrats cannot take part in the primary process.”

The legal advice
News OnTheWight has written to the LibDems to ask for a copy of the legal advice. We’ll update readers once we hear back.

EWP: We take allegations of breaking electoral law very seriously
News OnTheWight also approached Charity Garnett one of the East Wight Primary founders for comment. She told us,

“We are deeply disappointed by this last minute decision.

“We are registered with the Electoral Commission as a non-party campaign, and we, and the South Devon Primary, have sought advice at every stage, which we are happy to publish.  

“We take allegations of breaking electoral law very seriously, and urgently request that the Lib Dems share the specific details of their concerns, so that we can address them.

“We are calling an emergency zoom meeting of all our supporters and the hundreds of people who have secured tickets for next week’s events, this evening at 7pm.  We will come together to figure out our way forwards.

“Whatever happens, we will continue to work to bring people together to get the better representation we so desperately need, locally and nationally.”

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