The breakaway Independent Group of MPs has unveiled its “star candidates2 for European elections, including Boris Johnson’s sister and the former BBC presenter Gavin Esler.
Rachel Johnson, who quit the Conservatives to join the Liberal Democrats before becoming the top candidate for the new pro-EU party, insisted that standing was “not a vote against” her brother.
“This is a vote for change,” Ms Johnson said. “We need to move the dial. People need to have a say.” Ms Johnson leads the party’s slate of candidates in the south-west of England.
“I’m sure that Boris understands why this is not a vote against Boris,” she said.
Heidi Allen, the interim leader of the party now calling itself Change UK – The Independent Group, said 3,700 people had offered to stand in the European elections.
“We are here to say we stand ready,” she said at a launch event in Bristol. “These elections are a chance to send the clearest possible message. We demand a People’s Vote and the right to campaign to remain in the European Union.
“We are not afraid to say it as clearly as that.” She added: “This is no rebel alliance – this is the home of the Remain alliance.”
Mr Esler, the Scottish former presenter of the BBC’s Newsnight programme, will stand in London. He slammed Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset, as “pretend men of the people” and described them as the “posers of Brexit… 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.”
Mr Esler said he was “seriously worried” about the future of Britain. “Our political system is a joke. It is a worldwide joke. They are laughing at us – not with us, at us. It is broken.
“This country cannot possibly be strong abroad when it is weak at home. We all know any version of Brexit will make us poorer as a country.”
The Independent Group was formed nine weeks ago when eight Labour MPs and three Tories left their parties.
It is putting forward a full list of six candidates in Scotland, led by a former activist for the Labour-allied Co-operative Party. Joseph Russo is a graduate teaching assistant in German at the University of Glasgow where he is writing a PhD.
The party’s other Scottish candidates are David Macdonald, Kate Forman, Peter Griffiths, Heather Astbury and Catherine Edgeworth.
Other candidates standing for the Independent Group across Britain include former Tory MP Neil Carmichael, former Liberal Democrat MEP Diana Wallace and former Labour MP Jon Owen Jones, as well as the former finance minister of Poland.
Meanwhile, Mr Farage vowed to target Labour heartlands and his new Brexit Party unveiled more of its European election candidates, including Claire Fox – a former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Vowing to campaign in Labour heartlands of south Wales, the Midlands and the north of England, 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.”
Ms Fox said she would be “standing in solidarity” with the Leave voters whose voices “have been traduced and trashed”.