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Rats in a Sack: Reform, Farage, Dorries and Canada’s plan to leave the ECHR

Your weekly compendium of idiotic goings on from the bowels of Britain’s body politic

Reform UK launches its 'Our Contract with You' general election manifesto (Photo by Geoff Caddick/Getty Images)

To be fair to Reform, there was nobody capable of predicting that an attempt to recruit a candidate for every seat in Britain at shotgun notice would result in a certain amount of loons entering their ranks.

So far we’ve had Hitler Neutral Reform Candidate in Ian Gribbin, the party’s candidate in Bexhill and Battle, who believes it would have been “far better” if Britain had “taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality” instead of fighting the Nazis in World War Two. Which isn’t really on brand with Farage’s Union-Jack-socks-and-eight-pints-of-Spitfire brand.

Then there was Hitler Brilliant Reform Candidate Jack Aaron, a behatted self-styled business psychologist in Grant Shapps’ Welwyn Hatfield constituency, who described the errant Austrian artist as “brilliant”. He later hit out at the journalists who reported the story, accusing them of “a dog whistle presented in a context where people might construe I thought he was a good or admirable man”.

Then there was BNP Reform Candidate, Josef Fritzl lookalike Grant StClair-Armstrong who, it transpired, had once urged people to vote for the BNP as he “could weep now, every time I pick up a British newspaper and read the latest about the state of the UK”.

But favourite so far is Angela Carter-Begbie, candidate in Queen’s Park and Maida Vale, who has called the King “weak” and claimed he is under the control of global elites. She questioned the King’s loyalty to Britain, saying it was “about time King Charles show where he truly lye” [sic].

Farage blamed the company that Reform paid a “large sum of money” to vet candidates, saying his party had been “stitched up”. But, to paraphrase Mrs Merton, what exactly was it about the hard-right, conspiracist Reform UK which attracted such people in the first place?

Nigel Farage was very insistent that the manifesto his party launched this week was, despite looking and quacking very much like a manifesto, was, in fact, a “contract with voters”, which isn’t the same thing.

Farage, of course, has form with manifestos, having had his dabs all over possibly the most derided in British political history. In 2010 Ukip’s manifesto included promises to introduce a dress code for taxi drivers, regularly deploy armed forced on the streets, reinstate smoking in pubs, abolish the Crown Prosecution Service, ban schools from showing Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, return London’s Circle Line to a circle and repaint all trains “in traditional colours”.

Even at the time Ukip’s then leader Lord Pearson snapped at the BBC’s Jon Sopel as he was quizzed about it, telling him: “I haven’t come here to discuss my manifesto.”

Those Labour TikToks filling your feeds – if that is, you are half the age of your correspondent – are the work of social media guru Abby Tomlinson, whose name geeks of a certain vintage may recall.

Back in 2015, when Tomlinson was just 17, she was the brains behind the Milifandom phenomenon, when young social users declared their undying love for the then Labour leader using the terms #milibae, #hellyesed and #cooledmiliband as well as mocking up images of their heartthrob as James Bond, David Beckham and David Bowie. 

Miliband’s turn as the voice of the youth hit its apogee when, on the eve of his election, he travelled to Russell Brand’s flat to seek his endorsement. Keir Starmer is not expected to follow suit in the next two weeks.

“The Right cannot unify after the election if there is no meaningful force in Parliament to coalesce around,” wrote former immigration minister Robert Jenrick in the Daily Telegraph at the weekend, all but conceding defeat to Labour.

“Our task is to make conservatives across Britain aware of this peril. If we can do that, and make the case that only a vote for the Conservative Party can prevent a calamitous one-party state come July 5, then we can avert disaster. And at the same time, we must rediscover our roots and build the truly conservative alternative our country needs and millions yearn for.”

Translation: please make sure there’s a decent rump of Tory MPs for me to lead after the general election!

Jenrick’s right-wing colleague, the Kinder, Küche, Kirche crackpot Miriam Cates, has finally come up with a comeback to one of the questions which has dogged her party in this general election – why another five years, when you’ve had 14 years to achieve what you want to do?

“Fair-minded voters will acknowledge that such reforms would not have been politically possible in coalition, nor practically achievable alongside Brexit, nor a priority during the pandemic,” she writes in – natch – the Telegraph. With such a brazen approach to inertia, she should be a shoo-in for doing PR for Sir Keir’s Great British Railways once it’s up and running!

And no apologies for returning to the increasingly unhinged Telegraph one final time, and to political correspondent Amy Gibbons, who reports that the BBC had “been accused of ‘lefty Blairite bias’ as it was criticised for selecting a panel of Rishi Sunak critics to join its flagship Sunday politics show”.

Under the headline “Tories accuse BBC of ‘lefty Blairite bias’ over Laura Kuenssberg panel”, Gibbons wrote: “All three guests invited to debate the political issues of the day on the Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme have condemned Mr Sunak’s leadership to varying degrees. The panel, which is supposed to represent views from across the political spectrum, consisted of Andy Burnham, the Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, Brian Cox, the Succession star and self-proclaimed socialist, and…

“Nadine Dorries, the former Tory MP who has been a fierce critic of Mr Sunak”!

Even Dorries was amused by this one. “It’s the first time anyone has EVER called me ‘Blairite’,” she posted on Twitter/X with the crying/laughing emoji (apparently – Dorries long since blocked The New European on the platform).

“Leaving the ECHR,” wrote David Gauke on Twitter/X this week in response to Nigel Farage’s vow to leave the body. “Once again aligning with Putin.”

Responded GB News presenter Darren Grimes: “Like Canada and Australia? Those well known Putin allies.”

There is, of course, one reason why Canada and Australia are not signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights but at this moment, alas, your correspondent can’t quite put his finger on it.

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