Labor is cutting candidates in the Lib Dem target area by a third due to allegations of electoral pact

Sir Keir said “there is no covenant, everyone knows there is no covenant”. Sir Ed said “no pact now and there is not going to be a pact in the future”.

Labor sources accused the Tories of a political stunt designed to distract from campaigning for local elections, which the Conservative headquarters is preparing for losses.

The percentage of council seats made available by political parties can vary between election cycles, partly reflecting the strength of local party associations.

But the marked decline in candidates running for Labor in the Southwest has led to suspicion from Tory sources, given Lib Dems’ traditional strength in the area.

Lib Dem’s success in the 2010 election, which allowed them to form a coalition with the Tories, was partly built on a series of victories in the Southwest.

Lib Dem officials see the region as a key aspect of their comeback plan for the next election, which includes targeting so-called ‘Blue Wall’ seats in solid Tory rural areas.

There is no public formal election pact between Labor and Lib Dems, but Tory party figures suspect some degree of private coordination between election strategists in the two parties.

In the recent North Shropshire by-elections, triggered by the resignation of Tory MP Owen Paterson, both parties were candidates.

Tory party officials, however, believe Labor held back and put in limited resources in the form of party money and shadow cabinet members time when Lib Dems were better placed to win.

In the end, it was Lib Dems who drew a victory, toppled a large Tory majority and sparked questions about Boris Johnson’s leadership of the party.

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