Nigel Farage has stepped up his attacks on the Conservative party as it was claimed that senior Brexit party figures – including Ann Widdecombe – had been offered post-election roles or peerages as part of an attempt to get him to stand down more candidates at the general election.
Widdecombe, the party’s candidate in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, was told she would be part of the government’s post-election Brexit negotiating team if she stood down, according to senior Brexit party officials.
Widdecombe, a former Tory minister, is a Brexit party MEP. Mike Greene, its candidate in Peterborough, had been offered a government education role, party officials said.
Earlier on Thursday Farage said some offers had come from Boris Johnson’s chief strategic adviser, Sir Edward Lister.
In a stinging tweet, he wrote: “The system is corrupt and broken.”
The Conservative party denied that Lister had been calling Brexit party candidates. A 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.”
But the Brexit party’s chairman, Richard Tice, reiterated Farage’s claims. He said: “Since our decision to stand down more than half our candidates for the good of this country, we have been dismayed by the behaviour of senior Conservative party figures. Our people have been offered jobs and titles to stand down as candidates on the last day of nominations, as part of a concerted campaign to undermine our party.
“We made a unilateral gesture which should prevent a second referendum and keep Boris Johnson in office. We are proud and grateful that our candidates have resisted these distasteful overtures and stood firm.”
In a video directly uploaded to YouTube, Farage said he believed the prime minister was unaware that senior Brexit party figures had been offered peerages but it was a sign of the type of government he led.
Farage said: “They then tried something that borders on corruption. Repeatedly, it’s been suggested to me that I might like a seat in the House of Lords so I can go quietly. Every time this gets said my answer is the same: I’m not for sale. I’m not interested.
“Knowing they couldn’t buy me off, there was a concerted attempt from people who work deep inside No 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, the culture that exists in Westminster.
“He bypassed me and went to other senior figures in the Brexit party suggesting that eight of them could go in 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 will never have anything to do with, this kind of behaviour.”
In further confusion over exactly where candidates will be standing and how much is being guided from the party centrally, their candidate for Dudley North pulled out just minutes before nominations closed today.
Rupert Lowe, a West Midlands MEP for the Brexit party, defied Farage’s message this morning that they would be challenging Labour and said he had pulled out to prevent a Corbyn victory.
Lowe’s move came after Farage stood down candidates in 317 Tory-held seats to go after traditional Labour safe seats such as Dudley – and the pair were due to campaign there in the coming days.
Earlier on Thursday Farage had said he was unlikely to vote for any political party at the general election after removing the Brexit party candidate from his constituency.
Farage, who founded the Brexit party earlier this year, lives in a Tory-held seat in Kent, and said it was the first time he would not vote since 1992, when he said he spoiled his ballot paper.
He initially sparked confusion on Wednesday when he suggested during an election tour in Ilford, east London, that he might vote Conservative, depending on what was included in their manifesto.
He tweeted later that he had ruled out voting for the Tories.
“I very much doubt I’ll vote,” he said on Thursday while campaigning in Grimsby. “It’s this very narrow party interest, that’s all [the Tories] care about.”
“I spoiled a paper in 1992 because I couldn’t vote for John Major – I couldn’t do it. ERM [European exchange rate mechanism], probably going to join the euro … I couldn’t vote then. So my last Conservative vote was 1987.”
Speaking at a Brexit party rally in Hull earlier in the day, Farage said his party’s candidates were suffering appalling abuse at the hands of the Tory campaign but pledged that he would defy the pressure and not withdraw from any more seats.
He said: “Far from being grateful, you’ve seen wall-to-wall abuse coming from the Conservative party. The refusal on their part to give an inch in terms of cooperation and what is going on today, what is going on right now, is nothing short of disgraceful.
“There is a full-scale attempt going on as I speak to stop men and women freely putting themselves up before the UK electorate. You would have thought this was Venezuela – even before Jeremy Corbyn got in.
“That is what is happening. Our people, men and women much like these on the platform here, who put themselves forward are now coming under relentless phone calls, emails and abuse and being told they must stand down. That is happening in 21st-century Britain. I think that is a complete and utter disgrace.”
Farage spoke to party supporters at Hull Ionians rugby club near Brough, which is within Haltemprice and Howden, the constituency where the Conservative politician David Davis is seeking re-election.
Farage used the rally to introduce the three Brexit party candidates for Hull seats, including a former winner of BBC One’s The Apprentice, Michelle Dewberry, who will contest Hull West and Hessle, where Labour secured a majority of 8,025 in 2017.