Nigel Farage and other Brexit Party figures have claimed that the Conservatives offered jobs and peerages to his Brexit Party in a bid to get him to pull candidates from marginal seats at the last moment.
Farage said the alleged move by the Tories was “bordering on corruption”, suggesting that it came from people “who work deep inside Number 10 Downing Street”, rather than from the Prime Minister.
Candidates say they were bombarded by phone calls from the Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) and pressured to withdraw at the last moment so they wouldn’t contest seats.
The Conservative Party denied the claims, insisting that no jobs or peerages have been offered to the Brexit Party.
Shortly after the General Election candidate nominations deadline of 4pm passed, Mr Farage tweeted: “Even Boris Johnson’s Chief Strategic Adviser Sir Edward Lister is calling our candidates and offering them jobs if they withdraw. The system is corrupt and broken.”
In a video posted not long afterwards, Mr Farage said that he, along with eight “senior figures” in his party, were offered peerages.
He told Channel 4 News there had been “thousands of phone calls and emails” to prospective Brexit Party candidates telling them not to stand.
“Some of them civilised phone calls, many abusive and threatening,” he said.
A Tory source said: “Nigel can’t deliver Brexit, but he could end up blocking it. His outburst is a result of this fact dawning on him.”
In his Twitter video, Mr Farage said: “We want what 17.4 million people voted for and we want to change politics for good, because I tell you, having tried the attack, they then tried something that frankly I think is bordering on corruption but it says so much about Westminster and the way things run.
“I’ve said in the past and I’ll say it again, repeatedly it’s been suggested to me that I might like to have a seat in the House of Lords, so that I can go quietly.
“And every time this gets said my answer is the same – I’m not for sale, I’m not interested, I don’t want anything.
“I just want to get Brexit delivered.
“So knowing they couldn’t buy me off, there was a concerted attempt from people who work deep inside Number 10 Downing Street, and I’m not blaming Boris for this – I don’t believe he would be part of this – but it shows you the calibre of people he’s got around him. It shows you the culture that exists in Westminster.”
He added: “They bypassed me and went to other senior figures in the Brexit Party, suggesting that eight of them could go into the House of Lords, and all they had to do was come to Nigel and convince him to stand down in a whole load more marginal seats.
“As you can imagine, I said I do not want, and I will never have, anything to do with this kind of behaviour.”
Laura Pidcock, Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Employment rights, reacted: “Boris Johnson’s dirty tricks and his alleged attempts to buy off Brexit Party candidates with jobs, shows his desperation in this General Election campaign.
“The Conservatives have nothing to offer our country. After a decade of cuts to our public services, the NHS is on its knees and shockingly, life expectancy has even started to fall in parts of the UK.”
A Conservative spokesman said: “Neither the Conservative Party, nor its officials have offered Brexit Party candidates jobs or peerages. We don’t do electoral pacts – our pact is with the British people.
“The only way to get Brexit done and unleash Britain’s potential is to vote for your local Conservative candidate, otherwise the country runs the risk of another deadlocked Parliament, or even worse a Labour/SNP coalition led by Jeremy Corbyn who would subject Britain to two referendums in 2020.”
Interfering on an industrial scale
However on BBC Question Time, Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly squirmed as the Brexit Party’s Alexandra Phillips said “it has been interfering on an industrial scale” and accused the Tories of “acting like feudal overlords,” asking “what are they afraid of?”
“There has been an operation coming out of CCHQ, coming out of 10 Downing Street,” said the Brexit Party MEP. “They have been interfering in our selection of candidates, our placing of candidates, they have been incentivising people to stand down.”
“Loads of people in the Conservative Party have been phoning people in my party, begging them to stand down,” she insisted, as James Cleverly tried his best to downplay the scandal, repeating that there is no formal electoral deal between the two parties.
“Then why have loads of people in the Conservative Party been phoning candidates in my party, begging them to stand down, offering them this, threatening them with that?” she repeatedly asked the Conservative Party chairman.
She added: “I find it alarming that the party that has just been in government is using their power of patronage to essentially coerce candidates in a different party to not run in a free and fair election. I think that’s a bad sign for democracy.”
“It’s not right when a party with power that has been in government is using that by offering titbits and promises or lord knows what else to try and make sure there is no competition,” she added, saying it “should not happen in a 21st Century democracy.”
And when put on the spot, James Cleverly refused to deny her assertions, instead insisting there was no formal pact with Nigel Farage.
‘Boris Johnson is trying to stitch-up this election by offering jobs to Brexit Party candidates to get them to stand down’
Ian Lavery, Labour Party chairman, said: “It looks like Boris Johnson is trying to stitch-up this election by offering jobs to Brexit Party candidates to get them to stand down.
“This gives a whiff of the corrupt way the establishment works. We can’t allow the Tories to run the country a minute longer. It’s time for real change.”
Mr Farage had confirmed earlier that he will not stand down any more candidates to help the Tories win a majority.
He added that, if the Conservatives “showed some reciprocity”, more Brexit Party supporters would be likely to support the Tories in the 317 seats in which Brexit Party candidates will not be sitting.
He also accused Boris Johnson’s party of only caring about getting a Conservative majority in Parliament, and not about securing a pro-Leave majority.
The Brexit Party leader said he “very much doubts” he will vote in the upcoming election, and told voters in Hull: “We are going to fight Labour in every seat in this country, be in no doubt.”
Mr Farage’s comments on Twitter came as prominent Brexit Party MEP Rupert Lowe revealed he will not contest Dudley North as the 4pm nominations deadline passed.
After 4pm, the Brexit Party would not have been able to replace Mr Lowe.
The former Southampton FC chairman’s decision comes on the eve of a visit to the town by Mr Farage, who had been expected to lend Mr Lowe his backing.