Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party’s leader and founder, said the party would withdraw from the general election race in 317 seats earlier this week. The decision was made to allow for the Conservatives to have a greater chance of winning those seats and help Boris Johnson deliver on Brexit. Farage said that by giving the Conservatives these seats, it would stop more Remain MPs from getting into Parliament, and prevent another referendum on Brexit from becoming a reality. He is claiming to put his country before his party in order to get Brexit done.
Despite his claim of putting country before party, many Brexit Party candidates who were running in those 317 seats feel that he is putting himself before the wellbeing of the country. Farage’s move has had a major impact on not only his own party’s candidates that planned to run for those seats, but also the constituents in those districts. The candidates have lost faith in their leader and the constituents in those districts have lost out on the chance to vote for someone in the Brexit Party.
Prospective candidates in the Brexit Party have reacted furiously to Farage’s decision. Many have stated that he has let Brexiteers down and has sold out to Boris Johnson. Some of the Brexit party candidates do not support Johnson’s Brexit deal. Farage has betrayed dedicated volunteers and constituents who will no longer have anyone to vote for in the general election.
The candidates were told to stand down in the election without any prior knowledge that they would have to withdraw. The decision was made for them by Farage. Some of the candidates were the last to know that they would no longer be running. The Brexit Party candidates in these seats were locked out of their Brexit Party email accounts and supporter databases, as soon as Farage made the announcement.
Many candidates from the Brexit Party expressed their anger on Twitter. Julian Malins, a Brexiteer who was running in the Conservative-held seat of Salisbury, tweeted:
‘I thought I had enlisted in Caesar’s army but it turned out to be the Grand Old Duke of York’s’.
Another furious Brexit Party candidate, Robert Wheal, who planned to run in Arundel and South Downs, said Farage’s argument about protecting Brexit was ‘absolute codswallop’. Wheal told LBC radio:
‘Brexit party supporters have worked their socks off for that party and he’s dropped them like a stone at 12 o’clock yesterday’.
Alexandra Phillips was another disappointed candidate that wanted to represent her constituency under the Brexit Party. Phillips stated that she felt ‘disenfranchised’ by her own party and would no longer vote in the general election. The anger that Farage has stirred is currently having a detrimental effect on potential voter turnout.
Of course, these candidates have a right to be furious with the Brexit Party and Farage. They have begun the process of campaigning, raising money and spending money to represent their constituency. Many have already hired teams to help them campaign and organized volunteers to help them in the election. These candidates also will no longer have the opportunity to represent their constituency and put their ideas out there. Although many might have lost to a Conservative candidate in this December election, the Brexit Party candidates would still have liked the opportunity to test the waters.
Likewise for the constituents. They have been denied their democratic right to vote out the Conservative candidate in their district. As a result, many will now have no choice but to half-heartedly vote for a candidate that is not their preferred choice. Or abstain from voting all together. Farage’s noble or self-serving decision (you decide), may lead to a lower voter turnout in the affected districts.
Quite possibly, in the haphazard mind of Nigel Farage, he really did put country before party. But at what cost? At the cost of freedom of choice, party integrity and possibly voter turnout during this momentous election.