FORMER Streatham member of Parliament Chuka Umunna has pledged to remain in the Liberal Democrats despite failing to get-re-elected yesterday when he lost his bid to get elected to represent the London and Westminster seat for his new party.
Mr Umunna, 41, was the most prominent of the 11 Labour Party MPs to quit the party in February to form The Independent Group. However, he joined the Liberal Democrats after the grouping split following a disastrous showing in the European elections as Change UK and got selected as the party’s candidate to stand in London and Westminster.
Yesterday, Mr Umunna put up a brave showing, increasing the Liberal Democrats’ share of the vote by almost 20% in the central London seat, leapfroging Labour into second place. However, he fell around 4,000 votes short of overhauling Conservative Vickie Aiken, appearing to be a victim of the failure of tactical voting campaigns to unite the pro-referendum vote.
In London and Westminster for instance, the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Greens polled more than 25,000 votes together, against the Conservatives’ 17,000 votes. Westminster Council leader Ms Aiken held the constituency for the Tories with 17,049 votes to Mr Umunna’s 13,096, with Labour polling 11,624 votes and the Greens only managing to get 728 votes.
Mr Umunna, who served in the shadow cabinet of Ed Miliband and briefly flirted with a run for the Labour Party leadership in 2015 before pulling out, was considered a Westminster high flyer with a bright future ahead of him. His move to the Liberal Democrats sparked speculation that he could eventually lead the party and he was soon installed as foreign affairs spokesman.
He was one of a group of high-profile defectors placed in challenging Tory-held seats in London in what may now be seen as an overly audacious attempt by the Liberal Democrats to exploit the strong Remain sympathies of the capital. However, he lost his battle for the seat despite a 13% Remain-fuelled swing to the Liberal Democrats.
Once dubbed the British Obama, Mr Umunna now faces an uncertain future after his defeat as he was unable to take full advantage of the constituency’s 72% Remain supporter base. Speaking after his defeat, he vowed to continue as a Liberal Democrat.