Brexit Party MP Candidates – Chums and Comrades: The Intrigue Continues
Otto English’s investigation into the parliamentary candidates selected so far by Nigel Farage’s party – and those who paid the non-refundable £100 online application fee but haven’t made the cut.
A Kick in the Teeth
In May, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party announced that it was looking for “ordinary people” to stand as MPs and launched an online application process for anyone wishing to sign up.
By June, 3,000 people had filled in the online form and paid a £100 non-refundable deposit, while the party claimed that it had already vetted 200 prospective candidates.
In July, Farage paraded his first 100 candidates in Birmingham, although oddly refused to say who any of them were. The bizarre omission left many commentators scratching their heads: why line up your prospective MPs only to refuse to name them?
Nobody knows how many others have registered since then but, as the months have gone by and follow-up emails have gone unanswered, a number of disgruntled Brexiters have contacted me.
‘Pete’ is a self-described “working-class” guy who feels he would make a good MP. Like many applicants he was told he could “increase [his] chances of being selected as a Brexit Party parliamentary candidate” if he canvassed in the Peterborough by-election in June.
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Pete travelled to the city but, after a day of campaigning, felt he had been used. “It was a lie, a dirty trick on their members,” he told me, noting that nobody had even taken note of his name. Shortly afterwards, he received a standard email telling him he wouldn’t be needed.
Having had his photo taken by a “kid with a mobile”, he was led upstairs for a five-minute interview with the Brexit Party’s Toby Vintcent, who, he claims, barely looked up from his laptop. He now thinks it was little more than a “money-making scheme”, warning other potential candidates: “Don’t waste your time on these amateurs.”
Kicking Against the System
This week, the Brexit Party had its first opportunity to prove the likes of Jim and Pete wrong.
In two separate announcements, the party – once again – revealed its 100 prospective parliamentary candidates, and this time paid us the courtesy of actually saying who they were.
As I studied the runners – all 79 men and 21 women – I began to wonder how many had made it through via the online application process.
Many of the candidates announced are already familiar to Brexit Party watchers, with several serving MEPs standing for the UK Parliament including former Loaded magazine editor and TV regular Martin Daubney and Alexandra Phillips, former aide to Nigel Farage and late of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company SCL.
Two lesser known MEPs are also in the mix – hedge fund manager Robert Rowland, managing director of Bowdon Capital, who previously worked for Crispin Odey’s asset management firm; and Matthew Patten who formerly ran the Mayor’s Fund for London.
As serving MEPs, none of them would have needed to apply online or pay the £100 fee.
The same goes for the MEP ‘also rans’: Dr Anna Bailey and businessman Peter Wiltshire, who both hope to get seats at Westminster. Anyone who stood in the EU Elections is automatically eligible for interview as a prospective MP. They are not the only failed MEP candidates on the list.
Farage and Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice make a lot of noise about the ‘career politicians’ who have ruined Great Britain and contrast them unfavourably with their own party’s offerings. So it is surprising to see so many elected MEPs seeking further office alongside a whole host of other established, albeit local, politicians.
Former Sevenoaks Conservative Party chair and councillor, Paulette Furse, is standing in Sevenoaks and Kate Allsop, Mansfield’s second directly elected mayor, is hoping to be elected for her hometown. Unfortunately, Ms Allsop failed to inform her new employer Merthyr Council that she was planning on becoming a Brexit Party MP and has thus been sacked. The council deemed it “inappropriate for her to continue in her role as an independent adviser” while seeking to be an elected politician.
“I’d done a huge amount of the work in just three-and-a-half days,” Ms Allsop told BBC Wales, suggesting that she will bring a much needed surfeit of confidence to any future parliamentary role.
Oversight also inflicted another candidate, Viral Parikh, a serving Conservative councillor in West Sussex. When I approached his local Conservative Association for comment, it seemed taken aback to discover that one of its number was planning to run for a completely different party in a completely different place. Mr Parikh told me that he “was waiting [for] confirmation from [the] Brexit Party about the PPC [Prospective Parliamentary Candidate]”, before resigning from the Tories.
Residents in Warrington, for instance, were surprised to find that their Brexit Party PPC, Dennis Rogers, lives on the Isle of Man – which isn’t even in the EU.
It’s not just the Conservatives who are defecting to the Brexit Party. Veteran Labour politician Colin Lambert, the former leader of Rochdale Council, is PCC for Heywood and Middleton. Tom Bewick, a Labour stalwart who was education committee chair on Brighton and Hove City Council and chair of Vote Leave Brighton during the 2016 EU Referendum is standing against Amber Rudd.
And there’s always space for UKIP deserters. Councillor, failed UKIP candidate and sometime leader of the Tribune Party Adrian Myers, is hoping to gain a seat in Great Yarmouth.
Of course, all of these individuals may have diligently filled in their applications, paid their £100 and waited in line like everyone else. But, the idea that these established local figures are “ordinary people” kicking against the system, as Richard Tice and Nigel Farage would have us believe, is absurd.
Congratulations are also due to oil businessman and former chairman of Hartlepool United, Ken Hodcroft, and barristers Tariq Mahood and Philip Walling for struggling their way through the process and coming out on top.
They are planning to ‘sock it to the elites’ alongside Alexander Waugh, son of Auberon and Lady Teresa – the grandson of Evelyn and the sixth Earl of Onslow. Waugh Junior has spent a lifetime fighting ‘experts’, while seeking to prove that Shakespeare’s plays were written by Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, and not some oik from Stratford-upon-Avon.
The Brexit Party also likes its minor celebrities. Snooker player Dale Prime is standing in Burton and TV lifestyle health expert Dr Chidi Ngwaba, who once ran a vegetarian restaurant despite not actually being a vegetarian, is hoping to be elected MP for Beckenham.
Kickstarting the Comrades
Last but not least, there are the old comrades of Claire Fox MEP, formerly of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP).
The RCP was a hard left cult that sprang up in the 1970s. Over the next 20 years, its members backed a long list of ‘causes’ including Colonel Gaddafi, denial of the Rwandan Genocide and the IRA – defending its atrocities in Warrington, Deal and Brighton. The party’s run ended in the late 1990s when its magazine Living Marxism (LM) was successfully sued by ITV after wrongly claiming that the broadcaster’s journalists had “fooled the world” by faking pictures of Serb camps in the Bosnian war.
Ms Fox has said that she no longer holds such views about the IRA.
From the ashes of LM, sprang Spiked – an online publication with many of the same personnel and a broader network of fellow travellers.
In recent years, the LM/Spiked network has managed, by stealth and guile, to worm its way into the mainstream and seems particularly adept at Brexit Party entryism. Claire Fox’s friend Lesley Katon, very much a part of that network, is in charge of selecting prospective MPs for the Brexit Party and it seems that her contacts book has been busy again.
At least four individuals standing for the Brexit Party are connected with the RCP/LM/Spiked network. James Heartfield (born James Hughes) was a RCP organiser who spent much of the ’80s and ’90s at the heart of the operation. He is standing in Islington North. Heartfield ran as an MEP in May and won’t have paid the £100 online application fee.
Having had his photo taken by a “kid with a mobile”, he was led upstairs for a five-minute interview with the Brexit Party’s Toby Vintcent, who, he claims, barely looked up from his laptop.
His friend and one time colleague at Living Marxism, Stuart Waiton, also stood as an MEP and is now contesting Dundee West.
Another Spiked/LM writer, Canadian-born Kevin Yuill, is hoping to be elected in Houghton and Sunderland South. Mr Yuill is a keen advocate of gun rights and has written tirelessly about how laws prohibiting the sale of weapons don’t stop gun massacres.
Then there’s comedian, performer and financial expert Dominic Frisby, a friend of Lesley Katon via the Comedy Unleashed circuit, who has contributed to Spiked podcasts when not writing ‘comical songs’ about the Brexit betrayal. Mr Frisby told me he applied to be an MEP but was too late and insisted that he did so through the online process like everyone else. But, as a Facebook friend of Ms Katon, it’s not impossible that his distinctive name will have leapt out from the thousands of other applicants.
That may also have been the case with Alaric Bamping, antiquarian bookseller and husband of writer Julia Hobsbawn OBE, who is another member of Claire Fox’s circle and hoping to become the MP for Dartford.
Of the 80 or so other candidates not much is known. Many are anonymous figures, with scant online presence. A good number seem to have worked in financial services or run businesses of varying success. Many appear to have a fairly tenuous connection with the places they are seeking to represent. Residents in Warrington, for instance, were surprised to find that their Brexit Party PPC, Dennis Rogers, lives on the Isle of Man – which isn’t even in the EU.
Owen Prew, the prospective candidate for Northfield in Birmingham, lives in London. Viral Parikh, the Conservative councillor seeking to become MP for Sunderland Central, currently lives in Chichester – a full 350 miles away.
Some candidates including Mandy Childs in Bromsgrove and Mr Pew have confirmed to me that they applied online and made it through the application process and there’s every reason to believe that most of those semi-anonymous names did the same.
But, Pete is not convinced. His experience has left him jaded and disheartened with Farage’s party. Like many other ordinary people who have volunteered their services, he feels that the whole thing was fixed from the start and favoured friends of the party hierarchy.
“Deceit needs to be called out regardless of ideology,” he told me. And judging from my bulging inbox, he’s not alone in that sentiment.
In the meantime, with 550 candidates still to be declared, you can be sure that we’ll be keeping a close eye on Nigel and Richard’s chumocracy in the coming weeks.
Byline Times contacted the Brexit Party for comment but did not receive a response.