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We must leave the EU, says new Tory candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn

Johnny Luk insists Boris Johnson is a 'moderate' prime minister

03 October, 2019 — By Richard Osley in Manchester

Johnny Luk with London Assembly candidate Roberto Weeden-Sanz

THE Conservatives have selected a former government Brexit negotiator who says the United Kingdom has no option but to leave the European Union as their parliamentary candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn – one of the largest Remain-supporting constituencies in the country.

Johnny Luk, 29, will take on the Labour MP Tulip Siddiq and Liberal Democrat candidate Matt Sanders, who both say they want Brexit to be cancelled completely.

He said he had no fear taking his view onto the doorstep in largely Remain territory because he believed that democracy was at stake if the 2016 referendum was not respected. Mr Luk spent 20 months working as an adviser in a special Brexit unit at “No. 9 Downing Street” before moving to a policy job with the Adecco Group.

He said: “Most people are like: OK I voted to Remain, but the majority voted to leave. It’s not my preferred position, but I’m a democrat so we have to leave. And that’s my position too.” Mr Luk added: “I voted to Remain. I believe like about 77-78 per cent of the constituency voted to Remain. But what you have is a Labour and Lib Dem position which is to re-roll the dice, and undermine democracy. Most people, I don’t think, are rationally in that position.”

Camden Conservatives gather in Manchester

Hampstead and Kilburn was once an attractive seat for a queue of up and coming Tory politicians. But the party finished more than 15,000 votes behind Ms Siddiq at the 2017 general election.

Although her party has been challenged over the clarity of its stance on Europe, Ms Siddiq is considered one of Labour’s most remain MPs – she even defied her party’s whip to voted against triggering Article 50 in the aftermath of the referendum. Mr Luk won a selection meeting against just one other candidate last week, but is undaunted.

Despite an apparent shortage of possible contenders for the candidacy – three dropped out late on in the process – the old faithful of Conservative card-carriers in Hampstead has traditionally always expected the party to mount a good fight in this constituency.

How well resourced the local Conservative campaign in a general election will be remains to be seen, however, and Home Secretary Priti Patel’s platform gibe on Tuesday, that she would “not take lectures from the North London Metropolitan Elite” could be a pointer. Former prime minister David Cameron did not make a campaign stop in the target seat here after dismissing “Hampstead socialists” in a similar fashion.

It is almost 10 years since the Tories ran within just 42 votes of unseating Labour MP Glenda Jackson in a nail-biting recount. Privately, Tory activists are talking about the possibility of some wriggle room if Labour and the Lib Dems split the Remain vote at a general election. At all three main party conferences this autumn, November 28 was widely speculated as a possible election date.

Mr Luk was straight into the front of the team photo (above right) as he met some of his new colleagues for the first time in Manchester. These include the Barnet councillor Roberto Weeden-Sanz who is standing for the party at next year’s London Assembly elections.

Elsewhere, in the conference centre, Mr Luk was helping the Conservative Friends of Chinese stand.

In his promotional statement to members last week, Mr Luk said he would “defuse” the issue of Brexit because he can “explain the rationale of Brexit effectively” due to his past negotiator role.

Mr Luk said he had already worked with Boris Johnson when he was London mayor. Mr Johnson has been accused of allowing the prospect of a no deal Brexit to intensify ahead of his “do-or-die” Halloween deadline for divorcing from Europe.

“He said he is the most moderate prime minister, and I agree with him,” said Mr Luk. “He’s very moderate. He’s loosened some immigration rules for international students. He is trying to put more spending into public services. I think the reason why people say he’s not a moderate is because of the Brexit issue. But I think it’s better to frame it as he is respecting democracy.” Asked whether he thought proroguing parliament was democratic,

Mr Luk said: “Prorogation before the Supreme Court judgment had been a standard practice for lots of different governments. The courts have now amended some of that rule and we respect that, but before you cry about democracy, the Labour Party do not respect the referendum result and they don’t want a general election.”

While Labour moved into “safe seat” territory with Ms Siddiq’s big win in 2017, the Lib Dems won handsomely in nearly all the wards across the constituency in May’s European elections and they have now pledged to end Brexit, without even staging a second referendum, if they win at the polls.

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