Christopher Pendleton will no longer be contesting the constituency for the Brexit Party after Nigel Farage announced on Monday he would not contest any of the 317 seats won by a Conservative at the last General Election.
Mr Farage has come under pressure after a number of candidates quit, including Stephen Peddie who was earmarked for the Tonbridge & Malling seat but who stepped down in protest last week saying Farage was ‘destroying Brexit’ by opposing Boris Johnson.
Also standing aside is the local Green Party candidate following an electoral pact between party bosses in Westminster.
Last week the three anti-Brexit parties – the Lib Dems, the Green Party and Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru – agreed not to stand against one another in 60 seats across England and Wales.
As a consequence, Green Party candidate Trevor Bisdee is stepping down to give local Lib Dem Ben Chapelard a clear run.
He said: “The voters of Tunbridge Wells who want to stay in the EU now have an easy decision who to vote for.”
Lib Dem Leader Jo Swinson is said to be targeting Tunbridge Wells along with around 40 other Remain seats as the borough was unique in Kent by being the only one to have a majority who voted Remain during the 2016 referendum.
The Greens, however, lost their deposit in 2017 by polling just 1,441 votes [2.7 per cent].
Lib Dem candidate, Ben Chapelard, said: “Voters have a historic opportunity at this election to elect a Liberal Democrat MP, stop Brexit and build a brighter future for our country.”
However, speaking at the launch of the local Labour Party campaign, candidate Antonio Weiss, said: “In Tunbridge Wells, only Labour stands a chance of removing the Tories. In the last two General Elections, Labour has been second and seen its vote grow.”
Despite the two departures, it will not be a straight three-way fight between the main candidates, who all launched their election campaigns at the weekend, as two independents have also thrown their hats into the ring.
Semi-retired accountant, Nigel Peacock, who has lived in Tunbridge Wells for 50 years told the Times: “Whether you look at the behaviour of MPs in the House of Commons, or the spats and insults thrown by local councillors over the theatre project – it’s time for it to stop.
“We need a different style of politics in our country and that can start with some independent MPs, who can help to bring some calm to the mother of Parliaments.”
On Brexit, the 66-year-old says: “There was a referendum in 2016, which was one person, one vote, across the country and that should be upheld.”
Meanwhile, former Conservative, Christopher Camp, has left the Tory Party in protest at Greg Clark’s re-adoption and says he will stand against him in the election.
The retired chartered engineer who has twice stood for the Conservative Party for a borough council seat, told the Times: “I have been a life-long Tory but I cut up my card last week when Greg Clark was re-adopted by the party.
“His position on Brexit has not been a Conservative position.”
Proud ‘Brexiter’ Mr Camp added that now the Brexit Party has stood down in Tunbridge Wells, he hoped to garner enough votes to challenge Mr Clark for the seat.
What the bookmakers say
Bookmakers are backing another Conservative majority in Tunbridge Wells, with Greg Clark clear favourite at 1/14 to take the seat on December 12.
According to Oddschecker.com, the Liberal Democrats, who came third in 2017, could be set to snatch second from Labour.
Latest odds from Oddschecker:
Greg Clark, Conservative: 1/14
Ben Chapelard, Lib Dem: 7/1
Antonio Weiss, Labour: 20/1