The crisis-torn Liberal Democrats are facing more chaos – amid rumours that their candidate in Bridgwater and West Somerset wants out. It’s being said that Justine Baker wants to stand in Taunton Deane, where Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne has announced he won’t be contesting the 2015 election.
Baker’s potential defection from Bridgwater and West Somerset ( which she once said “I care about deeply”) is evidence that she might have given up on a constituency where Labour is the only credible opposition.
Reports say four people are in the running in the Lib Dem selection process in Taunton. Baker would be strongly placed, as she already represents the area as a district and county councillor for wards in Taunton Deane. Another county councillor is also said to have put his name forward and there are reported to be two outside contenders.
An official at Liberal Democrat headquarters in London confirmed that a number of would-be candidates had been interviewed and said a short list would be announced soon.
Slump in Lib Dem vote
Baker would have more chance of becoming an MP in Taunton, where she has local links and where she would hope to hold on to the support gained by Browne. In Bridgwater and West Somerset she has struggled in the face of a slump in the Lib Dem vote and a collapse in party organisation. At the Euro elections, she was at the West Somerset count, where she glumly watched her party trail in fifth – behind the Tories, UKIP, Labour and the Greens.
But if she switches constituencies it will cause a headache for her party and add to the sense that the Lib Dem operation in Somerset is in a shambolic state. Elsewhere in the county, parliamentary candidates in North East Somerset and Somerton and Frome have resigned.
Labour, meanwhile, has well-established candidates in all the Somerset seats, campaigning hard as the only real alternative to the Tories.