Examining the Brexit Party whitewash and picking the top Brexiteers of the week.
“As a German native, proud to be part of this celebration of diversity. This is not how narrow-minded right-wing extremists look and talk,” read a tweet from Axel Thill, the Brexit Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Esher and Walton, on August 3. Cool story bro, as the kids say, but not exactly borne out by the accompanying graphic of Axel and 49 of his new colleagues, 36 of whom turned out to be middle-aged white men.
As Nigel Farage’s BXP prepares for its welcome kamikaze mission at the impending general election you will hear a lot about supposed diversity. And yes, the first tranche of their PPCs contains female, BAME and LGBTQ+ candidates. But as Axel Thill inadvertently revealed, much of it looks like the same old same old.
Of the 70-odd (some very odd) names revealed by the time of writing, five are existing Brexit Party MEPs. Ex-Southampton FC chairman Rupert Lowe, noted for hiring rugby’s Clive Woodward as director of (association) football, is wisely standing in Dudley North rather than Southampton Itchen, where the candidate is one-time Nigel Farage spokesperson Alexandra Phillips. The others include Robert Rowland (Waveney), who recently called for foreign fishing vessels to be “given the same treatment as the Belgrano”, tiresome former lads mag editor Martin Daubney (Ashfield) and fundraiser Matthew Patten (Folkestone & Hythe), a man who has argued that “Brexit is an opportunity for charities”, presumably as so many more people will come to rely on them. Should an election predate our exit from Europe, these five will earn money for nothing in Brussels while campaigning in the UK. More MEPs will surely follow as the party pads out its list.
Among the largely unknown factors who make up the rest of the PPCs announced so far, some social media histories have been cleaned up/cleared out. Nevertheless, even rudimentary digging by the likes of Byline Times journalist Otto English and Twitter user @MatesJacob has uncovered the expected unpleasantness. Birmingham Erdington candidate Wendy Garcarz’s husband Andrew, who describes himself as a “Brexit Party county organiser in Staffordshire”, has written a social post expressing his belief in the ‘Kalergi Plan’, an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory which claims that the elite is deliberately weakening the white European bloodline by promoting immigration.
John Booker (Penistone and Stocksbridge) posted a Facebook status in 2017 castigating America for “not fighting back” against Islam and liked a comment alleging of Muslims, “this is a world takeover and we sit back and allow it as they slowly get people into powerful positions”.
Naturally there are the ‘characters’. Dominic Frisby (Old Bexley and Sidcup) is a comedian whose current Edinburgh Festival Fringe show is advertised with the side-splitting blurb “If you believe in things like free speech, free trade, bitcoin or Brexit, you’ll like this… No entry to statists, crony capitalists or the metropolitan liberal elite”. Perhaps the funniest moment for this part-time financial journalist came shortly before the referendum, when he wrote a lengthy article for MoneyWeek advising readers to pile into sterling if Leave won. “My advice… is to buy the heck out of the pound,” he advised. “I still think Remain is going to win… but in the event that Leave does shade it, I think sterling could soar.” Right on every count!
Brexity vicar Sam Norton (Forest of Dean) seems to believe that God will sort out the negative effects of no-deal, having written that while “there are standpoints on both sides of the Brexit divide which seem to be rooted in fear of what might happen… if we believe in a God who can always redeem our fallen choices then that pressure is relieved”.
Allen Cowles (Rother Valley) is a veteran of local politics, remembered for telling a council meeting that the town crematorium should be taken back under council control because “it’s not a difficult business model – the raw materials are never-ending”. Ken Hodcroft (Hartlepool) once ran the local football club, whose fanzine wrote of his 17-year reign: “He will go down in Pools history as one of the worst chairmen of all time.”
Sally Ann Rainbow-Ockwell (Wantage) likes both winning at cat shows – she owns a decorated Persian with the equally exotic name of Rainbow’s End Polly Anna – as well as sharing right-wing Facebook memes like “A Russian spy, an IRA supporter and a racist walk into a pub. The barman says ‘What can I get you Mr Corbyn?'”
Then there are the seemingly confused. Daniel Day-Robinson (Devizes) tweeted only last December “Let’s either remain in the EU or exit on WTO rules. Either option has attractions.” Oliver Lewis (Montgomeryshire) has been a member of both the Conservative and Labour parties and admits “I was a Remainer until just before the referendum, and sympathise still with some arguments for Remain”.
Alaric Bamping (Dartford) has been in not only Labour and the Tories but also the Socialist Workers Party and the Anti-Nazi League. Great Yarmouth candidate Adrian Myers left UKIP to set up his own Tribune Party in December 2016 (“We thought ‘why don’t we set up a party that is not political?'” he explained) and won a local council seat in May as an independent. Viral Parikh (Sunderland Central) is still listed as a Conservative party councillor in Chichester, 340 miles away.
And some are perhaps just terminally confused. “Labour are now so far to the left that to them, the centrist Brexit Party are labelled as right-wing or far-right,” wrote Deeanne Clarke (Nuneaton). Where to even begin with that?
No doubt there will be wilder, crazier and nastier to come. But let’s wish the Brexit Party and its PPCs every success in their mission to destroy the Conservative party even faster than Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson can manage it.
Brexiteers of the Week
4) CRISPIN ODEY
A donor to Boris Johnson and a friend of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Odey continues to make a killing out of Brexit going badly for British business. The Sunday Times revealed Odey, who made £220 million betting on the pound tanking after the 2016 referendum, has taken out £299m in ‘short’ positions on 16 leading UK companies, effectively gambling that their share prices will fall along with the pound as the threat of no-deal looms.
The hedge fund multimillionaire donated £10,000 to Johnson in June, but showed his belief in Boris’ Midas touch on the day he became PM by increasing his ‘short’ position against high street lender Metro Bank to £17.6m.
3) JAMES CLEVERLY
The Tory chairman is embracing his party’s new position as the go-to place for both Brexit and deceit. He told Radio 4’s Today programme that EU membership meant the UK had been “precluded for decades” from having freeports. A brief fact check soon revealed that not only does the EU permit freeports, but that the UK had them until 2012.
Cleverly went on to record a video marking the anniversary of the act which abolished slavery in Britain, which he credited largely to a long campaign “by a Tory MP from Yorkshire, William Wilberforce.” Naturally, Wilberforce turned out to have been an independent. Has Cleverly never heard of Googling?
2) IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
“The Reformation was the making of modern Britain. Brexit is a similar opportunity,” wrote the increasingly wack-a-doo IDS in the increasingly wack-a-doo Daily Telegraph. So, can we look forward to two centuries of war in Britain and the persecution and execution of Catholics – of whom Duncan Smith is one? Simon Schama called Duncan Smith a “dunce” – but, as a well-regarded historian, what does he know?
Meanwhile IDS branded Remainers as “conniving so-and-so’s” for threatening to form an alternative government should Boris Johnson lose a vote of no-confidence. Does this mean the Conservatives were conniving during their pacts with the Lib Dems and the DUP?
1) PRITI PATEL
The hopelessly over-promoted Home Secretary has begun her reign of terror by wishing that offenders “literally feel terror at the thought of committing offences”.
Is it too much to hope that Patel will literally feel shame at some point too? She’s denied ever supporting the death penalty despite in 2006 telling the Mail on Sunday “yes, I do support capital punishment” and claiming on Question Time in 2011: “I would actually support the reintroduction of capital punishment”.
Patel has also declared that immigrants can now only come in “if they can speak English”. Let’s hope the Spanish and French don’t develop a similarly enlightened view of our ‘expats’.