After an Electoral Commission investigation into Brexit Party PayPal donations, Otto English has questions about its recruitment of MPs.
Last Sunday – as Glastonbury throbbed to the music stylings of Kylie Minogue – a far more ominous noise was ringing out at the NEC in Birmingham.
Nigel Farage is famously infatuated with war, but even hardened commentators were taken aback to see him bounce on to the stage to the screech of air-raid sirens. What did it all mean? Was his party delivering a none-too-subtle warning for the coming horrors of a no deal Brexit?
Farage was in Birmingham to introduce his first 100 prospective parliamentary candidates, who in a bizarre cavalcade of whooping and clapping had earlier processed into the arena.
But, having proudly shown off these nascent representatives, the party then did something very odd indeed. It refused point blank to name any of them.
I and others have thus been obliged to spend much of the last week working out who they all were and I will be sharing some of those findings with Byline Times readers in the coming days. To whet your appetite, we’ve so far spotted quite a few familiar faces, and of the rest, there’s John Redwood’s ex-partner and a man who once went bass fishing with Nigel Farage off the Cornish coast.
Become a Brexit Party MP – Online
Now, of course 650 candidates are needed to fight a general election and that leaves 550 vacant posts – so how does one go about becoming a prospective Brexit Party MP and get a chance to join Mr Farage on that NEC stage?
Well, in a bold display of 21st century egalitarianism, back in May the party invited applications via an online application form.
By June 6th The Daily Telegraph had learned that 3,000 would be MPs had done just that and as the link is still live – presumably many more have done so since.
Signing up is very simple indeed and I know that because in a spirit of investigative journalism, I applied.
Having been asked to confirm that you have never been a member of the BNP, EDL, National Front or For Britain party and er.. ANTIFA – candidates are then led through six pages of fairly brief multiple choice questions. These are mostly mundane queries regarding past political affiliations and personal details.
Candidates are then guided instantly to the Brexit Party Application Portal, where they are asked to cough up a £100 non-refundable fee.
Then there’s the more awkward bit, where hopefuls are asked if they have ever used dating apps and experienced ‘problems’ as a result.
Towards the end, there are boxes requesting you bullet point what policies you believe in and whether you support a WTO no deal Brexit or Mrs May’s offering before finally you are asked to upload a passport image and submit your application.
Once all that is done a confirmatory email is sent and candidates are then guided instantly to the Brexit Party Application Portal, where they are asked to cough up a £100 non-refundable fee.
Another Sketchy Verification Process
Of course, all political parties run background checks on prospective parliamentary candidates and as far as I can tell most charge a fee. The Conservative Party, for instance, asks those wishing to stand in a General Election to fork out £250 for the privilege. But there’s a huge difference of integrity between their process and that of Nigel Farage’s party.
If you want to be a Tory MP there’s a lengthy and time consuming process before you are asked to commit financially.
If you want to be a Tory MP there’s a lengthy and time consuming process before you are asked to commit financially. First there’s an informal phone interview, then (if successful) you attend an assessment forum. If you pass that stage you are asked to provide three referees including someone who has known you for five years or more and finally after a half day interview by a Parliamentary Assessment Board you pay your fee and proceed.
There’s none of that with the Brexit party application process. You don’t have to provide a single referee. It takes around 10 minutes. Indeed I made a cup of coffee in the middle of mine – although I confess my ‘policy initiatives’ weren’t hugely thought through and my CV consisted of a picture of a chicken.
Trawling through twitter I found a number of Brexit Party backers who had done much the same – although none were willing to talk to me. Judging from their conversations all were still waiting to hear back. Few had had any further contact after submitting their applications. The one or two who did follow up received a short email explaining that there was a huge backlog of submissions and it was taking time to process them. One user even seems to have applied twice after his original application went astray.
Well of course it’s going to take time – particularly with that volume of eager potential MPs isn’t it?
But here’s the thing – the party has already begun selecting its General Election runners even as these rank and file hopefuls wait. Insiders tell me that this week at offices in Victoria, a steady stream of several hundred individuals were interviewed by the Brexit Party machine. The largely male, largely white offering – many in ill-fitting suits filed in and out of Vintage House on the Albert Embankment having presumably been filtered down from the online process.
Some offered up policy ideas in their brief meetings with party apparatchiks who promised that they would send them on to the organisations ‘dedicated policy unit.’ Many others got hopelessly lost in the corridors of the building because the ever paranoid party machine didn’t want to advertise their presence. Lost souls were gathered up and shepherded about by a group of awkward looking teenage boys who one candidate dubbed the “Hitler Youth.”
Will the Brexit Party be getting back to all its hopefuls?
You don’t need to be Paul Nuttall to work out that three thousand times one hundred makes £300,000 and that was on June 6th. Since then many more applications will have been received. It is of course perfectly possible that the BP is rigorously going through every single one of those applications, while simultaneously interviewing candidates in Vauxhall. But this does assume that they have a very big administrative staff indeed.
Is it incompetence? Oversight? Or is this handy stream of extra revenue serving as extra pocket money for the thirsty Brexit Party machine?
In the meantime – the link remains live.