You are here:   Columns >  Politics > Brexiteers Blocked
The fact that Mrs May’s rationale for calling the election is to give her a big enough majority to push through Brexit without fear of saboteurs has not been enough to allay the fears of battle-hardened Eurosceptics on her own side. She has not been helped by the pronouncements of David Cameron and other erstwhile Remainers such as Kenneth Clarke and Anna Soubry that the Conservatives need the largest possible majority to enable her to be able to do a deal with the European Union without having to rely on the votes of hardline withdrawalists on her own benches.

What has, however, raised greater concern is that the Conservative Party machine has blocked the selection of prominent Brexiteers as candidates in Tory-held seats. For such seats where the previous MP is standing down and for other key target seats, Conservative campaign headquarters drew up a shortlist of three from which the local party would select the candidate. The local parties were not allowed to add names. (For other seats, Conservative HQ simply imposed a candidate.) The supposed rationale for this was that the early election meant that there was no time to select candidates in the usual way.

Daniel Hannan — the well-connected MEP and newspaper columnist who has been committed to British exit since his student days and was instrumental in setting up, and strategising for, the official Vote Leave campaign and its precursors — was prevented from seeking selection for Aldershot, which had a Conservative majority of nearly 15,000 in 2015, despite the local association letting it be known that they wanted him as their candidate. Hannan’s hopes for selection were not aided by the fact that he had made himself unpopular with the Conservative Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson, because of the belligerent manner in which he had made the case for his close friend Douglas Carswell, Clacton MP and UKIP defector, being readmitted to the Tory party — or at least being allowed to stand as an independent in the general election without an official Conservative opponent. The party hierarchy believed that allowing Carswell back in — after twice standing against and defeating Conservative candidates in Clacton — would send the wrong signal to future potential rebels.

Nevertheless, the blocking of Hannan, and other prominent Leave campaigners such as fellow MEP David Campbell-Bannerman, has raised fears among the Eurosceptic commentariat about the future direction of Mrs May’s European policy. This has been exacerbated by the fact that Vicky Ford, another Tory MEP but one who campaigned for Remain, has been selected for Chelmsford, a seat with an 18,000 Conservative majority. It seems odd to many that in an election which is being fought about Brexit, those on the losing side appear to have received preferential treatment.

The Conservative commentariat’s misgivings about Mrs May will matter little during the campaign. UKIP never did have many supporters in that world, and its troubles since the referendum have done nothing to keep those few it did have on board. When the Labour Party’s election campaign is being run by two long-standing partisans for the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin — Seumas Milne and Andrew Murray — the Tory press will certainly rally round. After Mrs May’s victory, however, she may have her work cut out to reassure those who should, in the normal order of things, be some of her strongest supporters.
View Full Article

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.