Tory stalwart Ann Widdecombe hopes to give ‘cloth ear’ MPs a bloody nose after she sensationally defected to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party today and said her new leader should be on a pedestal with Margaret Thatcher.
The former minister, who was a Tory member for 55 years and appeared on Strictly in 2010, has put retirement on hold because she believes Theresa May and Parliament have betrayed the 17.4million who voted to leave the EU.
Paying tribute to the former UKIP leader’s political record she said: ‘Nigel Farage has been more successful than any politician other than Margaret Thatcher in my lifetime in getting his agenda through, and he’s done this from outside Westminster’.
She has pledged to ‘campaign vigorously’ for the Brexit Party in the upcoming European elections in May and will stand against Boris Johnson’s sister Rachel and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister Annunziata in the South West.
She told Good Morning Britain: ‘I’m on a mission. We need to send a seismic shock to both parties that the electorate have had enough. Just get it done. The cloth ears in Parliament are not hearing us. If we win an overwhelming majority this will send a shock wave and MPs will have to listen. This is not a protest vote, far from it. It is a means of trying to galvanise Westminster into getting this issue dealt with’.
The 71-year-old has joined Mr Farage’s new party to try to get Britain out of the EU – and hopes that more big names will defect from the Tories and Labour.
She said: ‘I do hope that more people will follow me, from both parties. When I was 21 I first voted for the Conservative party and I’m 71 now and have done nothing else in between. Leaving has been a total shock for me but I’m sure this is right’.
Miss Widdecombe, who was a prisons minister under John Major, has said Theresa May is the worst Prime Minister since Anthony Eden and in a message for the Tory leader she said: ‘Ask yourself what you have been doing for the last three years other than losing our majority, giving into Juncker at every turn, instead of simply turning round to Juncker and saying to him, in a language he can understand, ‘Nous allons, monsieur.’” – French for ‘we go’.
Ann Widdecombe has left the Tories after she campaigned hard for Brexit and was appalled by the failure to deliver on the Article 50 commitment to leave on March 29
The defection of a former Tory minister is another huge coup for Nigel Farage and his new Brexit Party
Asked if she blames Theresa May for the crisis, she said: ‘Oh yes, I think things could have been handled completely differently. It is not just her, Jeremy Corbyn has been playing a very cynical game. In these circumstances, the national good must come first. We are talking now about a prolonged process which is damaging britain and damaging our reputation abroad’.
Miss Widdecombe had been rumoured to be considering leaving the party after she campaigned hard for Brexit and was appalled by the failure to deliver on the Article 50 commitment to leave on March 29.
She said: ‘There are millions of people who voted to leave. We have a majority in the country who demanded Brexit and a majority in Parliament who want to remain and will not respect that’.
She continued: ‘There is now a huge disillusionment amongst the population with its Parliament’.
Asked about the border in Northern ireland and the threat Brexit poses to the Good Friday Agreement, she said: ‘The EU has borders with non-EU countries, it’s got a border with Switzerland… it hasn’t resulted in the sort of pictures that people are painting with what’s going to happen in Northern Ireland. There is already a border there, a legally-recognised border, the question is going to be how it’s going to be policed in terms of customs and immigration and there are lots of proposals for that that do not involve a return to the situation that we used to have. It’s being used as a red herring in order to disrupt the Brexit process.’
The announcement that Ms Widdecombe will contest the South West region sets up the mouth-watering prospect of the election’s most fearsome war of words, between several of its most high-profile and uncompromising candidates.
Who’s standing? Party lists for the European election in the South West
Conservative: Ashley Fox, James Mustoe, Faye Purbrick, Claire Hiscott, James Taghdissian, Emmeline Owens
Labour: Clare Moody, Andrew Adonis, Jayne Kirkham, Neil Guild, Yvonne Atkinson, Sadik Al Hassan
Lib Dems: Caroline Voaden, Martin Horwood, Stephen Williams, Eleanor Rylance, David Chalmers
UKIP: Lawrence Webb, Carl Benjamin, Tony McIntyre, Lester Taylor, Stephen Lee, Richard Wright
Change UK: Rachel Johnson, Jim Godfrey, Oli Middleton, Matthew Hooberman, Liz Sewell, Crispin Hunt
Green: Molly Scott Cato, Cleo Lake, Carla Denyer, tom Scott, Martin Dimery, Karen La Borde
Brexit: Anne Widdecombe, others TBC
Among those standing for Labour is Lord Andrew Adonis, the former adviser to the Blair government whose daily barrages of anti-Brexit tweets have led him to be dubbed a ‘caveman’ by Jacob Rees-Mogg and a ‘twisted weasel’ by Nigel Farage.
Mr Farage said recently his new Brexit Party would be using the Labour’s peer’s own words against him on the stump after Lord Adonis said ‘If you’re a Brexiteer, I hope you won’t vote for the Labour Party.’
Miss Widdecombe told the Daily Express: ‘In early May I shall do what I have always done since I first got the vote fifty years ago, and put my cross by the Conservative candidate in the local elections – but a couple of weeks later on May 23 I shall do what I have never done and cast my vote for a different party.
‘Nay, I am going further than that: I am standing for the Brexit Party in order that I may campaign vigorously and convince my fellow voters that this time it is imperative to fire a very loud warning shot across the bows of the parties they normally support.
On the ticket for UKIP in the South West is a social media activist Carl Benjamin, who styles himself Sargon Of Akkad.
He has called feminism ‘bullsh**’ and a ‘disease of the modern age’ and was selected as a UKIP candidate despite tweeting ‘I wouldn’t even rape you’ at Labour MP Jess Phillips.
And Boris Johnson’s sister Rachel was unveiled on Tuesday as a candidate in the South West for Change UK, the pro-Remain party set up by the Independent Group of MPs whose members include Chukka Umuna and Anna Soubry.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage (centre) poses with his party’s MEP candidates at a launch event in London yesterday
Taking a swipe at her pro-Leave brother, she said she did not want to see Brexit ‘rubbing out my children’s prospects and chance of living and travelling and working in Europe’.
She added: ‘These are chances that the politicians who decided to campaign to Leave have enjoyed themselves.’
A war hero, a former communist, a smoked salmon millionaire, a charity boss and an ex-NHS worker were yesterday unveiled by Nigel Farage as candidates for his Brexit Party in the upcoming European elections.
James Glancy, a retired Captain in the Royal Marines awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for fighting in Afghanistan, said he was compelled to stand because he felt politicians were ‘undermining democracy’ and ‘our leadership is humiliating the British public on the international stage’.
Mr Glancy, who served in the Marines’ version of the SAS, the Special Boat Service, is now an environmentalist and will bolster the party’s green credentials, as his leader has previously questioned the impact of climate change.
Former Revolutionary Communist Party member Claire Fox was also unveiled by the Brexit Party and said Labour deserves a ‘bloody nose’ for not fighting for Brexit voters in its heartlands.
The left-winger who regularly appears on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze, told a press conference she doesn’t agree with Mr Farage on much but said: ‘I’ll be damned if I let the establishment get away with voter vandalism’.
She added: ‘Don’t get me wrong, I’m from the left. If you sat Nigel and I down, I am not going to agree with them on any range of questions. But the question now is whether we are going to let democracy be overturned.’
Other candidates revealed included smoked salmon mogul Lance Forman, owner of luxury food company H.Forman and Son, former nurse Christina Jordan, who came to Britain as an immigrant in 1985, and charity leader Matthew Patten.
Ms Jordan said: ‘I came to this country 34 years ago. I love this country. I want to stand up for the 17.4 million’.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has pledged to target Labour voters and hopes former communist Ms Fox (left) and ex-NHS worker Christina Jordan (right) will help
James Glancy (pictured left yesterday) is a retired Captain in the Royal Marines awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for fighting in Afghanistan in 2013 (right at Buckingham Palace)
Farage’s new friends – who is in the new Brexit Party?
Hardcore Brexiteers and disgusted ex-Tories are among the Brexit Party’s first core group of candidates for the European elections in May unveiled by Nigel Farage.
The 40-year-old married mother of one is a former Tory parliamentary candidate
The younger sister of Brexit hardliner Jacob Rees-Mogg was unveiled as the Brexit Party’s star candidate.
The 40-year-old married mother of one last appeared on the political stage in 2010 as the Tory candidate in Somerton and Froome, losing the Somerset seat to the Lib Dems by less than 2,000 votes.
Ahead of the poll it was claimed David Cameron asked her to shorten her name to Nancy Mogg – but she refused and later claimed ‘I think it’s phoney to pretend to be someone you’re not’.
Annunziata married former soldier Matthew Glanville in 2010 and they have a daughter, Isadora.
Last year Richard Tice applied to be Mayor of London in 2020 for the Tories, before leaving in disgust
The founder of Leave Means Leave and Leave.EU is a former Tory who applied last year to be the Tory candidate for Mayor of London in 2020.
He has since quit the Conservatives in disgust at the mess that is Brexit.
He was unveiled as party chairman, saying: ‘We cannot, we must not, and we will not allow this complete and utter shambles in Westminster to continue’.
Mr Habib sitting between Nigel Farage and Annunziata Rees-Mogg
According to the Brexit party he is ‘CEO of First Property Group Plc, an award winning commercial property fund manager with operations in the United Kingdom and Central Europe’
He has a similar background to the Dulwich College-educated Brexit party leader, in that he attended private school before working in the City.
He attended Rugby School and Cambridge University before joining Shearson Lehman Brothers to work in corporate finance.
He later set up First property Group, which is based in and claims to control assets worth £730million including properties in Poland and Romania.
June Mummery is a member of Fishing for Leave and is from Lowestoft in Suffolk
A member of Fishing for Leave and the managing director of fish market auctioneers BFP Eastern in Lowestoft, in Suffolk.
Billed as a ‘veteran Brexiteer’ who ‘has spent years fighting for the rights of British fisherman by finally taking back controls of our waters’.
Last year she told the Eastern Daily Press that some people in the East Anglia fishing port ‘call me Boadicea’ – after the British queen who led a doomed uprising against Roman rule almost 2,000 years ago.
Alka Sehgal Cuthbert is a Cambridge-educated former secondary school teacher
Alka Sehgal Cuthbert
Billed by the party as ‘a researcher, author, academic and educator’ who is a part-time English teacher and ‘educational consultant’.
She boasts a PhD from Cambridge and worked as a secondary school teacher for almost two decades.
She has also written for publications including the Independent and Spiked.
James Glancy was a Captain in the elite British Royal Marines and Special Boat Service
James Glancy was a Captain in the elite British Royal Marines and Special Boat Service, serving in three combat tours of Afghanistan.
In 2012, he was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross (CGC) for leadership and bravery on the frontline.
He is now a Director of a conservation charity, Veterans 4 Wildlife, where he focuses on the preservation of African wildlife and combating the global trade in shark fins.
James is currently a host on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
He says Brexit has made Britain an international laughing stock.
Former Communist Party member Claire Fox admits she doesn’t agree with too much Mr Farage says – but they agree on democracy
Former Communist Party member Claire Fox is the director of the Academy of Ideas, which she established to create a public space where ideas can be contested without constraint.
She is a panelist on BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze and is frequently invited to comment on developments in culture, education, media and free speech issues on TV and radio programmes in the UK such as Newsnight and Any Questions?
She said: ‘Don’t get me wrong, I’m from the left. If you sat Nigel and I down, I am not going to agree with them on any range of questions. But the question now is whether we are going to let democracy be overturned’.
Christina came to the UK from Malaysia in 1985
Christina is a former NHS nurse turned community leader.
She came to the UK from Malaysia in 1985 after starting her career as a secretary at Turkish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
She completed her Registered General Nurse training at Winchester General Hospital and went on to work as a staff nurse.
Now she lives in Salisbury after a long career in nursing.
She said: ‘I love this country. I want to stand up for the 17.4 million’.
Smoked salmon mogul Lance Forman
Mr Forman is owner of luxury food company H.Forman and Son, famed for its smoked salomn.
Before taking over the family business, Lance Forman started out as President of the Cambridge Union.
He qualified as a chartered accountant at PWC before running his salmon business out of east London.
Charity boss and cricket lover Matt Patten
Matthew is an experienced business and charity director.
He has global board and CEO experience in social impact, sports, commerce, social mobility, governance, campaigning, fundraising and business development knowledge.
He has been Chief Executive of the Lord’s Taverners, Chief Executive at M&C Saatchi Sponsorship and Director of Communications for Clubs for Young People, working with over 400,000 disadvantaged young people.
Vowing to campaign in Labour heartlands of south Wales, the Midlands and the north of England, Mr Farage said he had set his sights on Labour voters.
Speaking at a campaign event to announce five new candidates, Mr Farage said the party was already ‘doing very well’ with Conservative supporters.
He said: ‘There are five million people that voted for Jeremy Corbyn and voted for Brexit as well, and that’s going to be our task.
‘I think we will go on squeezing the Conservatives and squeezing Ukip down to virtually nothing.
‘We’re going to go after that Labour vote in a very big way.’
Attacking rival new pro-Remain party Change UK as ‘Continuity UK’, Mr Farage said his candidates were the ones who would ‘revolutionise and modernise politics’.
Ms Fox was introduced as a ‘free speech campaigner’ and author, and said she would be ‘standing in solidarity’ with the Leave voters whose voices ‘have been traduced and trashed’.
Former charity boss Matthew Patten said he believed the Brexit Party would help the country regain its ‘confidence in the future’.
Former nurse Christina Jordan claimed Remain-supporting MPs had been blocking Brexit and ‘hysterical MPs call Brexiteers Nazi appeasers’, adding ‘they are driving us at a cost of £100 million into European elections and want us to pat them on the back’.
Smoked salmon producer Lance Foreman was the final candidate, who said his past experience as a special adviser for former trade secretary Peter Lilley had shown him only ‘political obsessives’ could be successful in Westminster.
He added: ‘To be honest, I found the transition from politics to oily fish was quite straightforward.’
However, Mr Farage was less enthusiastic when asked what he could personally offer working-class voters, with his private school education and background in stockbroking.
‘I was never in banking, next question,’ he said.
When pressed, he said: ‘I did have a private school education – you can’t choose your parents, you can’t choose your name.
‘Mine called me Nigel and we’ve got a female candidate with an even more difficult name.
‘The things that unite people across the spectrums, across the classes, across the racial divide, and indeed across the religious divide as well, and it is a belief that nation state democracy is the right way to live your life.’
Last week Mr Farage launched his new Brexit Party and announced Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister Annunziata as his first star MEP candidate – after she quit the Tories after 35 years today.
The former UKIP leader has vowed to take votes from the ‘tarnished’ party he left in December and started a new war of words with successor Gerard Batten by claiming he lacks ‘good people’ and has allowed a ‘take over’ by the far right.
Mr Rees-Mogg’s younger sister previously stood as a Tory candidate in the 2005 and 2010 general elections and joined the party aged five – but has now jumped ship after Theresa May failed to deliver Brexit. She defected from the Tories to join Farage’s revolt.
The 40-year-old mother-of-one, once one of David Cameron’s ‘cuties’ who refused party requests to ‘de-toff’ her name to Nancy, blasted MPs, including her older sibling, saying: ‘The politicians are not our masters – they are to do our bidding. We need to fight back to take back our democracy. It’s as drastic as that. It is our fight and we must fight to win’.
She said she had stuck with the Tories ‘through thick and thin’ but Brexit had been the last straw.
She said: ‘But the point at which our Prime Minister will not listen, not only to her membership, but will not listen to the people of her country. I can’t sit by and let her do it.
‘We’ve got to rescue our democracy, we have got to show that the people of this country have a say in how we are run’.
Theresa May’s Tories are in crisis over her failure to steer Britain out of the EU with the party ten points down in the polls. Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman said today the party ‘will get a kicking’ on May 23 and lose half of their 18 MEPs.
Labour has also lost ground, according to the BMG poll, down three points, with the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Independent Group and Brexit Party are all closely matched at approaching 10 per cent.
Three in five Tory members are set to vote for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in next month’s European elections, a shock poll has found.
In an indication of the size of the grassroots rebellion against Theresa May’s Brexit delay, a poll has found less than a quarter of Tory members are planning on voting Conservative.
The survey on the Conservative Home website found 62 per cent would be casting their vote for Nigel Farage’s new party.
It comes days after it emerged that Tory county councillors in Derbyshire were effectively going on strike by refusing to campaign for the European polls.
They said they would not take part in the elections because they ‘should not be happening’ – as the UK should have left the EU at the end of March. The open rebellion comes amid growing anger at Mrs May’s decision to delay Brexit until the end of October, and over her negotiations with Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.
A poll in the Mail on Sunday found that 40 per cent of Tory councillors plan to back Mr Farage’s party on May 23.
And another survey for Conservative Home suggested party members were even more likely to defect than its activists.
The poll found just 23 per cent of Tory members will vote Conservative next month, compared with 62 per cent who will cast their vote for the Brexit Party.
Four per cent say they will not vote at all and five per cent have not made up their mind. Another four per cent say they will vote for Change UK, the independent group which supports a second referendum, while less than one per cent will vote for UKIP.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith warned that fighting the European Parliament elections would be a ‘nightmare’ for Tories and would ‘resurrect the beast’ of a popular anti-EU party taking their votes.
Mr Duncan Smith said it would be ‘a good idea’ for Mrs May to set a specific date for her departure, but said this was a matter for the Prime Minister and the backbench 1922 Committee to decide.
He said it was ‘difficult to see’ the current round of talks with Labour succeeding, telling the BBC: ‘It’s really a mess, and I don’t see how Downing Street in the course of this week is going to be able to produce a solution which unites Parliament.
‘Certainly they risk losing a very large swathe of their party – not just those who voted against the (Withdrawal) Agreement, but (those who would) walk away on the basis of adherence to the customs union.’
Asked if Mrs May should name a date for her resignation, Mr Duncan Smith said: ‘Personally I would think it would be a good idea to set a much more specific date regardless of what the outcomes of these processes and negotiations are.
‘The big problem we face is the car-crash of the Euro-elections coming at us. I don’t know a single Conservative – not one Conservatives on the streets, in the houses, in the associations, even here in Parliament – that wants to fight the Euro elections.
‘If we fight the Euro elections, with one bound we will have raised a Brexit Party and that will be a nightmare for us.
‘We got rid of Ukip by having the referendum and getting a decision made. What we don’t want to do is resurrect the beast.’
Mr Duncan Smith said it was ‘really despicable’ for the Government to brief against the option, which he supports, of seeking alternative technological solutions to keep the Irish border open.
May’s Conservative Party is watching nervously, with predictions its share of the vote could plummet amid voter discontent over her handling of Brexit.
MPs are agitating for the prime minister, who has agreed to resign once the first phase of the exit process is finished, to make way for a new leader now.
Nigel Evans, a senior member of the powerful 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, told the BBC on Tuesday he would be ‘delighted’ if she announced her resignation immediately.
‘I believe the only way we’re going to break this impasse properly is if we have fresh leadership,’ he said.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage speaks during a news conference today where he announced five more candidates
Mr Glancy trained with the Marines and joined their elite SBS unit (pictured training in Belize). Since leaving he has starred in various TV shows including a Discovery Channel show called ‘Sharkwrecked’, where he and Autralian veteran Paul de Gelder were marooned in the Atlantic for 43 hours with no food and no water
A new YouGov survey – the third in a week – for the Times today again shows the Brexit Party on top, leading Labour 23 per cent to 22 per cent
Annunziata Rees-Mogg was unveiled as the Brexit Party’s star candidate at the European Elections by Nigel Farage and she blasted MPs including her brother, pictured last week
On Monday it emerged May could face an unprecedented vote of confidence in her leadership after dozens of local Conservative association chiefs signed a petition in support of a poll.
They called for an extraordinary general meeting of the party’s rank and file so they could hold the non-binding vote, according to reports.
May survived a vote of confidence by her own MPs in December and under party rules cannot be challenged again for a year.
But grassroots discontent could increase pressure on the 1922 Committee to find a way of forcibly removing her from office.
It came as Boris Johnson’s sister Rachel and ex-BBC star Gavin Esler today revealed they will stand for Britain’s new remain party in the European elections next month.
Rachel Johnson at the launch of The Independent Group European election campaign. She will strand in the south-west region
Heidi Allen, interim leader of Change UK, set up by The Independent Group of MPs known as the TIGgers, launched their campaign in Bristol today.
Announcing his Change UK candidacy, Mr Esler, who left the BBC after 40 years and is Chancellor of the University of Kent, claims the 2016 referendum was won with ‘lies and cheating’ and said: ‘We have to stop Brexit now’
He added: ‘I’ve joined this Remain alliance for three reasons: Stop Brexit, fix Britain, and move on to reform the EU’.
Boris Johnson’s sister Rachel is also to stand as a European election candidate for Change UK in the South West region.
She announced her move at an event to launch the party’s election campaign in Bristol and has taken a swipe at her Brexiteer brother.
She told the Standard that Brexit must be stopped because it would ‘rub out my children’s prospects and chances of living and travelling and working in Europe’.
She said: ‘These are chances that the politicians who decided to campaign to Leave have enjoyed themselves.
‘It is simply not fair — and sometimes one has to stand up and be counted. It is now that time for me. A vote to leave the EU is so important, so life-changing for the next two generations that I am impelled to stand up and be counted for what I believe in, which is that we are far better in Europe.’
QC Jessica Simor, who has 43,000 followers on Twitter, will also stand alongside ex-Tory health secretary Stephen Dorrell and former Labour MP for Wimbledon, Roger Casale.
Change UK interim leader Heidi Allen told the event that 3,700 people had offered to stand as party candidates in the European elections.
‘This is no rebel alliance – this is the home of the remain alliance,’ she said.
Mr Esler, who is standing for the party in London, slammed Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg as ‘pretend men of the people’.
He described them as the ‘posers of Brexit’ and said they were ‘selling the same old snake oil’.
‘They claim to speak for the people – they do not,’ Mr Esler said.
‘They stole our patriotism and I want it back.’
Interim leader Heidi Allen of the new pro-EU political party, Change UK speaks at the launch of their European election campaign in Bristol and unveiled Rachel Johnson as a candidate (far right of picture)
Ex-BBC reporter Gavin Esler is also a candidate and says that Britain must stop Brexit now
Mr Esler, who has more than 40 years’ experience in journalism, said: ‘I have never been a member of a political party but I am now.
‘I have never been a candidate in an election but I am now.
‘I have never been seriously worried about the future of our country but I am now.
‘Our political system is a joke. It is a worldwide joke.
‘They are laughing at us – not with us, at us.’