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Thu 5 December 2019
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Otto English continues his investigation into how Nigel Farage’s party is recruiting potential MPs – who have to pay a non-refundable £100 upfront…

In recent weeks, Byline Times has been following the Brexit Party’s Apprentice-like search for parliamentary talent. 

Back in May, Nigel Farage’s group announced that it would be seeking applications from rank-and-file Brexiters who want to run for Parliament. The online process took just 10 minutes to complete before applicants were met with a demand for a £100 non-refundable payment. 

By June, the party was claiming that 3,000 people had signed up and that 200 wannabe MPs had already been vetted. 

Earlier this month, Farage paraded his first 100 candidates at the NEC in Birmingham. But, of the small number identifiable, it was unlikely that any had landed the gig through the online process. All of those present were chums, associates and business acquaintances of people already in the party.

Around this time, the Brexit Party began holding furtive interviews with further potential candidates in anonymous office blocks in London, the north-east and other regions. As these have been going on while the online application form remained live, I approached the Brexit Party for comment and was told that “the process continues”. 

Which begs the questions: how many candidates does the party need? How much money has all of this generated? How thorough has the process been? And, why is that link still live?

With 100 people already selected, thousands of individuals have been left chasing just 550 places. And that’s assuming that these rank-and-file supporters are the only candidates. They’re not. We know of at least one person who has been offered a potential seat because he once “went bass fishing with Nigel” and others who are prospective parliamentary candidates (PPC) because they are mates with Brexit Party MEP Claire Fox and her friends in the Spiked network.

One insider estimates that the number of applicants is now “in excess of 3,500”. That’s a lot of people – and a hefty £350,000 in the bank. 

“I believe we charge less than other parties” an MEP told me when I raised concerns. And, yes, the Labour party and Conservatives ask potential MPs to cough up sums of £40 and £400 respectively. But, none of them does so on the back of unsystematic online applications from random people. If you want to be a PPC for any of the big three, there is a rigorous selection process to go through before any money changes hands. 

“I hope that my fellow rejectees who believe they’ve been misled will use all that energy, passion and intellect to expose the elitism and cronyism at the heart of Nigel’s organisation”

‘Anna’

It seemed inevitable that, sooner or later, some of those who had given the party £100 would speak out. This week, that happened and I was approached by a number of individuals who had gone through the process.

Not all of them are upset with Farage or the Brexit Party or the fact that they have failed to make the grade. Some have simply changed their minds. ‘Steve’ in Scotland told me that he voluntarily dropped out after realising that canvassing would be time consuming and that there’d be no income gained in the months it entailed. Steve is an ordinary guy, drawn to the Brexit Party because he felt alienated by mainstream politics. 

But, another activist, ‘Martin’, confirmed that he had attended an interview but was subsequently told that he had not been selected “due to very high levels of interest from many excellent candidates, especially in my area”. Martin applied twice after his initial application was “lost”. His interview seems to have taken place because he was dogged in the face of automated responses. 

These same automated replies rang the first alarm bells for ‘Anna’, whose correspondence with me offers a fascinating insight into what happened to those who made a fuss.

When Anna found out that interviews were taking place – and having heard nothing since her original submission – she began to chase up her application. The party immediately got back to her to say that her concerns had been passed to the candidate team, but then, there was silence. Subsequent attempts to get answers were “completely ignored”. 

Anna is an articulate, well-educated individual who had been out on the campaign trail in Peterborough during the recent by-election. She made some contacts in the party during that period and sought answers from the figures she met, but nobody was interested. 

Anna claims to have checked her statutory credit report to see if background checks were made on her as part of the vetting process, but it has turned up a blank. “I sincerely doubt whether my application received more than a cursory glance,” she told me.

Another applicant, a former MEP candidate in the EU Elections was fobbed off with a standard letter from Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice. This individual wondered whether the letter had come off the back of Byline Times digging in to the story. In their view: “The saddest thing is that the Brexit Party appears to not seriously recruit locals who desire to represent their hometowns.”

Anna was even more damning: “I hope that my fellow rejectees who believe they’ve been misled will use all that energy, passion and intellect to expose the elitism and cronyism at the heart of Nigel’s organisation.”

For a party so intent on shaking up politics, there certainly seems to be a lot of smoke and daggers at work. The Brexit Party tried to keep a lid on the fact that it was interviewing people at all. No signs were put up in the sites they hired. Those attending interviews were told to keep it quiet. Getting answers or responses to basic questions is an uphill struggle.

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Why the secrecy?  

When Anna alerted a well-known figure within the party to my articles in Byline Times she finally did receive a response. My pieces were “ill-informed gossip and speculation” and it was best to ignore them, she was told. Of course, I’m sure the party would rather Anna believed that but, having read my words, she says they “made a lot of sense” in light of her experiences. 

She’s not alone either. In the last few days a steady band of disaffected Brexit Party supporters have been making contact with me. There will no doubt be more to come.

Meanwhile, the link to apply to become a Brexit Party MP remains live. Let’s see how long it lasts.

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