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Twickenham Greens voted to stand aside regardless of Unite to Remain Alliance

By Josh Graham
December 10 2019, 16.30

The Green Party candidate for Twickenham said his reason for pulling out of the election was not the Unite to Remain Alliance.

Richard Bennett, 73, was selected to represent the Greens in Twickenham but stood aside after the local party voted by almost 98% not to put up a candidate at this election. 

Officially Twickenham is one of the 40 seats where a Green candidate has stood down to avoid splitting the Remain vote and allow the Liberal Democrats a clear run as part of the Unite to Remain Alliance. 

However, Mr Bennett said: “We knew what was going on nationally.

“I would have been happy to defy the party.

“Our membership voted in Richmond Park and Twickenham to stand down overwhelmingly in this election and the last one as well.

“If our internal vote had come up not to stand aside then we wouldn’t have done it whatever central party said.

“We wouldn’t have stood down.”

Mr Bennett was unsurprised that he didn’t make it onto the ballot paper but expressed some regret at the outcome as Lib Dem Munira Wilson will run without any competition from the Greens.

He said: “Of course, I’d love to stand, I’ve become a politician belatedly and would love to be at the hustings, I would really enjoy that.

“I am disappointed, but this is grown up politics and I have to live with that.”

Former Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, who was MP for Twickenham for 20 years in total, stepped down ahead of this election.

He lost the seat he had held since 1997 in 2015 when Conservative Tania Mathias won by a majority of 2,017 votes, before returning to the seat at the 2017 election. 

Mr Bennett said: “We stood in 2015 and Vince Cable lost by fewer votes than we polled.”

The Green Party received 2,463 votes and Mr Bennett suggested that this result had impacted the willingness of local Greens to push candidates forward onto the ballot paper.

He said that many Green supporters won’t vote Green in general elections due to the First Past the Post system and are instead probably going to vote for the party they least dislike rather than wasting their vote.

Mr Bennett added: “You have got to game the system.

“To actually begin to win you have to come second.

“Most of us have been used to voting tactically for decades now by deciding we would rather the Conservatives didn’t make up the London council.”

He denied the Green Party may become politically irrelevant given the general acceptance of the climate emergency, as he feels many parties will not follow through on their rhetoric on green issues.

He explained: “We won’t lose our unique edge.

“Other people want to steal our clothes, but I really want them to wear them too.

“But they don’t want to put on all the layers, they may not even put on the underwear.

“People adopt climate change and say a lot about it, but you have got to actually be determined to do things about it and court a bit of controversy.”

By his own admission Mr Bennett, who has lived in Twickenham since 1970, did not have the typical life of a Green Party member before he joined the party in 2013. 

Before retiring Mr Bennett was the vice president of L-3 Technologies, an American company with nearly 40,000 employees and an operating profit of more than $1billion [£759million].

He said: “I have had a very commercial existence for a Green.

“I’m quite good at making sure big projects work on time, always in the end someone wanted me to make sure their businesses were not making a loss.”

Mr Bennett was asked what message he wanted to give to the voters in Twickenham.

He said: “I’d have to say vote Munira Wilson wouldn’t I really, she’s a nice lady, very bright.”

He ruled out standing again at the next election but hoped to see a Green candidate on the ballot if the circumstances would allow.

Read more about what’s important to south west London constituencies in our 24-page General Election preview special.

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