Press Release

Press Release

Richmond Park primary cancelled

November 13, 2016

CommonGround has decided not to run the Richmond Park primary. We have been unable to determine in time whether the costs of holding it would have been allowable under electoral law. This is a pity because we believe a primary would have been the most open and democratic way of choosing the pro-European candidate with the best chance of winning this by-election.
We have, however, learnt a lot from the experience. We intend to hold primaries in future elections. To do that, we will need to either obtain the active support of pro-European parties, run our own “paper” candidate or keep a tight rein on expenses. We are still in discussion with the Electoral Commission to understand exactly what is allowable.

Primary selection process launched in Richmond Park

November 8, 2016

Pro-European campaigners tomorrow [November 9] launch a primary process that will give voters in Richmond Park the chance to select a single candidate to oppose Zac Goldsmith in the constituency’s by-election.

Faced with voters’ strong preference for one opponent, it is intended that other candidates would stand down, increasing the chances of defeating the Brexit-supporting MP.

“We believe it is vital not to split the vote,” said Hugo Dixon, co-founder of CommonGround, the group organising the poll.

“This is a chance for the people of Richmond to choose who they want to be the pro-European champion to fight against Zac Goldsmith. This is the chance to fight a destructive Brexit, which would be so damaging to the economy, undermine our rights and damage our influence in the world.”

With backing from various local pro-European groups, CommonGround wants voters in Richmond Park to use the primary to show Theresa May that they do not support her hard Brexit agenda and the xenophobic tone that has gone very largely unchecked since the referendum.

Goldsmith resigned as a Conservative over Heathrow airport expansion plans. He held the south London seat in 2010 with 58% of the vote, but on Europe he is badly at odds with his constituents, who voted by an overwhelming 72% to remain in the EU. He has also faced strong criticism for a racist campaign against Sadiq Khan in his failed bid to become mayor of London.

The primary process opens to online voting tomorrow [Nov 9]. It will close with a caucus on November 20, when Richmond Park residents can vote in person and candidates will be invited to speak.

Though the Conservative party has held a primary elsewhere, this is believed to be the first cross-party primary held in Britain. Organisers expect thousands to take part.

Though the result would not be binding, CommonGround believes the vote will pile pressure on the losers to stand aside.

The Richmond and Kingston Green Party has already decided not to field a candidate, recognising that it did not have a realistic chance of winning.

But the LibDems, who have finished second in the previous two general elections, Labour and an Independent Conservative are all in the running.

CommonGround, which was formed in reaction to the referendum, also hopes to strike a blow for local democracy and to set an example for pro-European parties in other by-elections or in a potential general election next year.

“If the anti-hard Brexit vote had united in last month’s Witney by-election, the Tory wouldn’t have won. How will we all feel the morning after the Richmond Park by-election if pro-Europeans split the vote again and Goldsmith wins?” asked Hugo Dixon.

“A common candidate wouldn’t just stop the pro-European vote being split three ways. It would also allow the substantial number of pro-European Conservatives to vote for the position without overtly supporting another party. Similarly, others who are not attached to any party would flock to the cause. We believe this must be a two-horse race.”


For further enquires, please contact

Or Alex Spillius on 07500 605 848


CommonGround’s launch

September 2nd 2016

A new group launches today, which wants a fair and open society – and honest politics. Named CommonGround, its first goal is to keep Britain in the EU.

It is this combination of a long-term vision (a fair society) with a short-term goal (staying in the EU) that makes CommonGround different from other organisations set up in the wake of the referendum vote.

Hugo Dixon, one of CommonGround’s founders, said: “The two ideas are joined at the hip. We will need a bold vision for how Britain can be fairer as well as a positive vision for Europe in order to have a chance of persuading Leave voters to change their minds.

“Although we want to stay in the EU, we think a fair and open society – and honest politics – is even more important.”

Whatever happens over Brexit, the referendum has exposed fault lines in our society – between young and old, towns and cities, those who have gone to university and those who haven’t, those who feel marginalised and those who don’t. These need to be healed.

CommonGround’s first initiative is the Ten Towns project: a bid to listen and learn from communities where the decision to leave the EU was decisive. CommonGround plans to visit Birmingham, Hull, Wolverhampton, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth, Stoke-on-Trent, Northampton, Swansea, and Plymouth. It will be seeking common ground with those who took a different view during the referendum.

This plan has two main parts, to be carried out in each town: a fact-finding mission, and an open invitation to meet and share ideas for making the country work better.

CommonGround has also put together a network of 26 other organisations that subscribe to its four principles: honest politics, openness to the world, sharing the fruits of progress and unity in diversity. We will be working with these other organisations in the coming months to advance our shared vision.

About CommonGround

CommonGround’s full mission statement and principles can be seen on the website:

CommonGround has six directors:

Tony Curzon Price is an economist and director of openDemocracy

Hugo Dixon is a journalist and entrepreneur. He is Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of InFacts

Alice Fermor-Hesketh is a strategy consultant and business professional

John Foley is European editor of Breakingviews, the opinion section of Thomson Reuters

Eddie Morgan runs TV production company Northern Town

Michael Tory co-founded advisory firm Ondra Partners

The list of 26 organisations in CommonGround’s network is here.

For further information and interview requests with Hugo Dixon, please contact:

Alex Spillius 07500 605 848;