The UK’s smaller parties step up to election fight

It is not just about Labour and the Conservatives.

C4 election debate - EPA
While not included in all TV debates, Plaid Cymru's Adam Price (centre) and the Green Party's Sian Berry (right) took part in Channel 4's climate debate, alongside Labour's Jeremy Corbyn (2R), the Lib-Dems' Jo Swinson (left) and the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon (2L) [Kirsty O'Connor/PA/Pool/Reuters]

Glasgow, United Kingdom – As the ruling Conservatives and their Labour rivals battle it out to form the next British government, with the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Liberal Democrats currently in third and fourth place, the United Kingdom‘s smaller political parties are also looking to pack a punch.

This week marks the last full week of campaigning before the country’s December 12 snap general election, which will see millions of Britons head to the polls for their third Westminster vote in four years.

And while current Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be hoping to remain in office – and gain a majority of seats in order to push through his Brexit agreement to leave the European Union following the UK’s decision to quit the bloc three-and-half years ago – election candidates from Britain’s lesser lights are eyeing upsets up and down this four-nation island state.

Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

“[Voters] like what we have to say,” Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Wrexham, a town in northeast Wales, told Al Jazeera. “But it obviously takes time to go from not having much [party] organisation locally to getting to the stage where we are now.”

This will be Harper’s third shot at this seat at a UK general election for the Welsh nationalist party, whose leader Adam Price is a vocal advocate of Wales becoming an independent nation and remaining in the EU. Plaid currently has four MPs at Westminster and is today working in opposition at the Welsh Assembly.

Wrexham is traditionally safe Labour territory – but the party was forced to see off a spirited Conservative challenge in 2015 and in the general election two years ago. Harper, however, said her team was “running a very strong campaign on social media… that is getting a lot of traction” and is confident of making her mark this time around.

“I’m going for it – there is no half-hearted effort – and I’m 100 percent committed,” added the Plaid Cymru county councillor.

The Greens

In neighbouring England, Nick Hartley is making his maiden election foray as a Westminster candidate in Newcastle-upon-Tyne East.

The Green Party candidate, a clinical psychologist, is also contesting a safe Labour seat.

“I’m aware that many people in this election are voting for their least-worst option,” Hartley told Al Jazeera. “People are either voting to keep the Conservatives out or to keep [Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn out. In Newcastle, and because there are three safe [Labour] seats across the city, there is a big opportunity to vote for what you believe in here.”

Hartley’s message relates to the dangers of climate change, the promotion of electoral reform and a wish to remain in the EU, all of which the Green Party’s sole MP, Caroline Lucas, has long been arguing in Parliament.

“It’s letting people know that by voting Green there is a message that goes out there – that a vote share will be registered on polling day,” he said.

Brexit Party

In Scotland, the UK constituency of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross is the scene of an attempt by the SNP to regain a seat it sensationally won from the Liberal Democrats in 2015 – but lost to the party two years later.

But Sandra Skinner of the Brexit Party, a newly established grouping founded by ardent populist eurosceptic Nigel Farage, is hoping to put on a good show with her pro-Brexit message, despite Scotland voting by 62-38 percent to remain in the EU in the 2016 in/out EU referendum.

Yet, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross – the British mainland’s most northerly constituency – saw a 51.3 percent backing for Brexit three years ago, a tiny majority which Skinner is looking to exploit.

“We’re hearing that this is a two-horse race between the SNP and the Lib Dems – but that’s Remain or Remain,” said Skinner, making reference to both parties’ overwhelmingly pro-EU positions.

The oil and gas fabrication engineer, who contends that the Conservative Party‘s EU departure deal does not amount to a “strong Brexit”, added: “There are a lot of leave voters [in this constituency] – so my argument is that if these leave voters truly want to leave, then this is their last chance to put that down on the ballot paper.”

Long shots they may be, but Harper, Hartley and Skinner are in it for the fight.


The full list of candidates standing in the constituencies named in this report is as follows: Wrexham – Sarah Atherton (Conservative Party), Ian Berkeley-Hurst (Brexit Party), Carrie Harper (Plaid Cymru), Duncan Rees (Green Party), Tim Sly (Liberal Democrats), Mary Wimbury (Labour Co-op); Newcastle-upon-Tyne East – Nick Brown (Labour), Robin Gwynn (Conservative Party), Nick Hartley (Green Party), Wendy Taylor (Liberal Democrats); Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross – Cheryl McDonald (Labour), Karl Rosie (SNP), Andrew Sinclair (Conservative Party), Sandra Skinner (Brexit Party), Jamie Stone (Liberal Democrats).

Source: Al Jazeera