MP could stand in different constituency after joining Liberal Democrats

A Sheffield MP has refused to rule out standing in a different constituency after joining the Liberal Democrats.

Sunday, 8th September 2019, 21:02 pm

Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith this weekend became the third MP in a week to join the Liberal Democrats – which she described as ‘strongest party to stop Brexit’ – swelling their ranks within the Commons to 17.

Speaking to The Star this morning, she defended her latest move, which comes just seven months after quitting Labour and joining Change UK in February, only to leave them in June and become an independent.

Angela Smith MP (pic: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

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“I’ve been on a journey for quite a long time now and this really is the end of that journey,” she said.

“I’m very happy to have arrived in this place and found a home with the Liberal Democrats.”

Ms Smith was re-elected as a Labour MP with a 1,322 majority over the Conservatives in 2017, when the Liberal Democrats finished a distant fourth behind UKIP.

Asked whether she plans to stand again in the constituency, which straddles Sheffield and Barnsley, she said: “I have a really good record as an MP ubt I can’t answer that question at the moment.

“The Liberal Democrats have a process to go through and an announcement will be made in due course.”

She also declined to state whether it would be her preference to stand again in the constituency should the chance arise.

The EU referendum results were not broken down by constituency, but Sheffield voted 51 per cent in favour of leaving, and in Barnsley more than 68 per cent of voters wanted out.

When she left Labour, she was accused by a former party colleague of ‘letting down’ her constituents, and more than 1,100 people have signed a petition calling on her to resign and trigger a by-election.

So is this latest move a betrayal of the voters who elected her as a Labour MP in a constituency where past results would suggest there is a strong pro-Brexit sentiment?

“When I left Labour in February for very, very sad reasons, the overwhelming majority of constituents who contacted me supported my move,” she said.

“They understood Labour had been taken over by extremists, had become a racist party and couldn’t be trusted with the future of our country.

“MPs are elected to not only represent their constituents but to exercise our judgement and defend the national interest. That’s a fundamental point about the way our democracy works.

“It’s become increasingly clear that the Brexit on offer would damage this country for generations to come.

“I have listened to my constituents but I think MPs have to balance those views against the evidence which is now really apparent about the economic damage and job losses which would result from a hard Brexit or leaving without a deal.

“I can only assume my constituents will be like most of the country, where there’s a clear and significant majority against a no-deal Brexit.”

Ms Smith has previously been highly critical of her new party, describing them in a tweet from 2011 as ‘#Toriesinallbutname’, but she claimed that was water under the bridge.

“Those tweets are from eight years ago. I’m interested in where we are now,” she said.

“The Liberal Democrats under Jo Swinson’s leadership is a party which is open and inclusive, and hasn’t moved to the extremist way of British politics today.

“It’s the only party which espouses the progressive, pragmatic politics I want to practise.”