Election 2017: Ilford North candidates Wes Streeting and Lee Scott react to tactical Ukip withdrawal
PUBLISHED: 19:33 27 April 2017 | UPDATED: 20:54 27 April 2017
Parliamentary candidates have tonight been reacting to the news that Ukip will not be fielding a candidate in Ilford North to try and ensure a pro-Brexit MP is elected come June 8.
The anti-EU party are hoping Leave supporters will back Conservative candidate Lee Scott in attempt to unseat Labour incumbent and Remain supporter Wes Streeting.
Two years ago Ukip candidate Philip Hyde received 4,355 votes, far more than Mr Streeting’s slender winning margin of 589.
Reacting to the news tonight, Mr Streeting stressed he would not want any form of endorsement from the “toxic” right-wing party and condemned Ukip’s “track record of insulting our community with their politics of division”.
He said: “I’m proud of the diversity of Ilford North and of my track record of representing people of all races, faiths and backgrounds with equal care and consideration.
“Unless the Conservatives distance themselves from this endorsement it will be very clear that on June 8 a vote for the Conservatives in Ilford North is a vote for the ugly politics of Bluekip.”
His electoral rival Lee Scott, who served as Ilford North MP for 10 years before losing his seat to Mr Streeting in 2015, was stunned by the news.
After the Recorder broke the news Ukip would not be running, he said: “I have not had a single conversation with anyone from Ukip and I did not know they were not planning to stand.
“The first thing I heard about it was [Recorder reporter] Ralph Blackburn’s tweet.”
And the 61-year-old insisted there had been no “Bluekip” alliance behind the scenes.
He said: “Obviously I’m over the moon. In theory I’ve just gained every vote that would have gone to them. It’s a devastating blow to Wes.
“But that doesn’t change the fact that I was actually preparing to run against them.”
Prime minister Theresa May made Brexit the election campaign’s key issue when she called the snap election last week.
But it remains to be seen if Ukip’s gamble will pay off. As a borough, Redbridge actually voted 54 percent in favour of remaining in the EU.