Brexit Party cancels rally after anger at Farage-Tory pact
Candidates who have been stood down by the party leader have expressed their dismay at the decision.
The Brexit Party has cancelled a central London rally amid anger at the decision to stand down election candidates.
Leader Nigel Farage told supporters in Hartlepool on Monday he was putting “country before party” and would be pulling Brexit Party candidates out of the 317 seats won by the Conservatives at the 2017 general election.
The anti-EU party has since opted to cancel its Westminster rally on Tuesday morning – despite having promoted it as recently as Saturday.
The decision to offer a “unilateral” Leave alliance to Boris Johnson, a move that is likely to aid the Tories in Leave-voting South West seats against the pro-Europe Liberal Democrats, has been met with dismay by some candidates.
Brexit Party MEP Alexandra Phillips, who was due to stand as a candidate in the Tory seat of Southampton Itchen before Mr Farage’s announcement, has declared she will “not vote at all” at the election.
“I have been disenfranchised by my own party,” the South East MEP tweeted.
Robert Wheal, who had been due to fight in the Arundel and South Downs constituency, said Mr Farage was “finished as a politician” following the climb-down.
He tweeted: “All that Farage has exposed is his duplicity to so many supporters who had put their faith in him.”
The party had been due to hold a meeting at Church House in Westminster on Tuesday but a spokesman confirmed it was “not happening”.
He said the party had “already said what we needed to say” during Mr Farage’s speech in Hartlepool.
The Brexit Party’s focus, following Monday’s decision, will now shift to contesting Labour seats and those held by Remain-supporting MPs.
It allows the party to pincer its attention on Midlands and Northern seats with high Leave turnouts.
But the party has insisted it continues to hold target seats in the South still, despite pulling the Westminster rally at the last minute.
Members of the media turned up unaware of the cancellation only an hour before its 11am expected start time.
Asked if the party was moving its attention away from southern constituencies, a party spokesman said: “Absolutely not. The reason why we wanted to do a press conference in London was to speak to the national press.
“But, having dragged every one up to the North, we did what we need to do.”
Mr Farage’s campaign troops will continue to canvass in Labour-held constituencies such as Dagenham and Rainham (69% Leave vote) and Barking (60% Leave vote) in east London, officials confirmed.
“If you look at the Leave vote in those areas, it is very strong,” said the party spokesman.
The Brexit Party event in Ilford, east London, on Wednesday, is still due to go ahead.
Despite opting not to contest Tory seats, the concession has not been enough for some on the Government benches, with some calling on the Brexit Party to stand down in Labour marginals.
Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith told the Sun: “It’s a good start but if they want to deliver Brexit they’ve still got to focus on the fact that if they divide the vote they’ll let Labour in.”
Mr Farage, in what is looking to be a stand-off between the two parties, similarly has called for the Tories to follow his lead in “some seats in Labour areas where the Conservative Party has not won for 100 years and will never win”.
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