Tories 'discussed' by-election pact with Brexit Party

The Conservatives asked the Brexit Party about not putting up a candidate for an upcoming by-election, it has been claimed.

Several sources told BBC Wales the Tories had discussed a possible pro-Brexit electoral pact in Brecon and Radnorshire.

It is said the idea was made by the party’s constituency chairman Peter Weavers. However, Mr Weavers has denied the claim.

Voters go to the polls on Thursday.

The by-election is taking place after former Conservative MP Chris Davies admitted two charges of making a false expenses claim in March.

It led to the opening of a recall petition in the constituency to remove him as MP, which was signed by 10,005 voters, triggering the by-election.

Mr Davies was then reselected by his local party to stand for the Conservatives in the by-election.

Plaid Cymru decided not to put up their own candidate, having reached an agreement to work with the fellow pro-EU Liberal Democrats.

The Green Party also chose independently not to stand in order to avoid splitting the Remain vote in Brecon and Radnorshire.

Because of similar concerns about the potential fracturing of the local Brexit vote, BBC Wales has been told by several sources Mr Weavers had a chat with the Brexit Party’s Nathan Gill in May to discuss the potential of an electoral pact.

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Polling stations in the constituency will open on Thursday

But it was reportedly dismissed by Mr Gill because Mr Davies had consistently backed Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons – a deal the Brexit Party rejected.

Mr Weavers denied the discussion took place.

“I think it’s a pity that they have stood a candidate… but they’re not getting much traction – the Brexit Party is falling in the polls,” he said.

But a Tory source said the pair did speak at the Brexit Party’s rally in Merthyr Tydfil because a pro-Brexit joint ticket “would make sense”. Several other sources also said the pair had spoken.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Davies, who had an 8,038 majority after the 2017 General Election, said: “Clearly, there is no need to vote Brexit if you want Brexit delivered.

“The only way to deliver Brexit is to vote Conservative and to vote for me.”

Conservative sources, concerned about the potential impact of the Brexit Party, said they were hopeful of a “Boris bounce” – an increase in Tory support after Boris Johnson became prime minister.

Brexit Party candidate Des Parkinson said he did not think Mr Johnson would have an impact on the by-election.

A swing seat

He added: “Can he deliver is the question, isn’t it? He’s got three months to deliver and if he can’t deliver, he’s saying himself the Tory party is in the most desperate trouble you can imagine.”

The Liberal Democrats held the Brecon and Radnorshire seat from 1997 to 2015.

The party’s Welsh leader and by-election candidate Jane Dodds said Brexit was coming up on the doorsteps as well as local issues, such as broadband access and public transport.

Asked whether all parties should have stood if it was not just a Brexit by-election, she said: “Well, clearly we are really pleased that Plaid Cymru and the Green Party made a decision, a very courageous decision, in order to stand down because they wanted just one Remain party to be on the ballot paper.

“And really, if that’s the most important issue to people here, then they have that one Remain party to vote for.

“But they also, hopefully in the Liberal Democrats, have a party that will represent them on a range of issues as well.”

Labour has not held Brecon and Radnorshire since 1979 but Tom Davies, a local town councillor and the party’s by-election candidate, said it was right the party had decided to stand.

He said: “I don’t think limiting the choice is a good thing and if Adam Price is prepared to endorse the Liberal Democrats’ record as being the contractors, if the Tories were the architects of austerity, then he is more than happy to do that – that’s fine. We are not.

“We are going to stand up against austerity and the austerity that the Liberal Democrats helped bring in.”

UKIP’s Liz Phillips and Lady Lily the Pink for the Monster Raving Loony Party are also standing.