After being rebuffed by the Tories a number of times in the offer to forge an alliance between their two parties, The Brexit Party, led by Nigel Farage, originally claimed to be ready to stand candidates in nearly all parliamentry constituencies in the UK General Election in December.

Despite the rebuffal, Farage has now announced that they will not stand candidates in any constituency currently held by the Tories (approximately 300 seats). Their reason for doing so is so as not to split the Brexit vote, thereby handing a victory to Labour or the Lib Dems.

This seems like a massive climbdown from which the Brexit Party itself doesn't seem to be gaining anything. Is there any evidence that the party ever had the candidates they originally claimed to have and were in a position to actually field all 600 or so?

  • 1
    Some of the discussion on twitter suggests that the candidates were self-funding. Extraordinarily, there was a £100 fee simply to apply to be a candidate. Understandably a lot of them are now feeling defrauded
    – pjc50
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 11:19
  • @pjc50 that's interesting. I don't know if it's normal for local parties to put up the £500 deposit for their candidates, but were the Brexit Party candidates expected to pay that themselves too?
    – Darren
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 11:21
  • 4
    Farage gave Johnson an ultimatum because he believed that he had the upper hand: Do a deal with me for an alliance or we will stand against you. When it became cleare that the Tories were not going to back down Farage quickly had to find a ladder to use to step down. I dont believe he ever really thought that he would have fielded candidates in all 650 seats, but starting off big then backing down is a standard negotiation technique.
    – PandaPops
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 11:41
  • I have no particular sympathy for Farage, his party or his motivations. Quite the opposite. But, from the point of view of achieving Brexit, it does make sense to stand down and not contest seats/split votes in areas most likely to be won by the Tories. This might be different if the Brexit party had a larger platform, but that doesn't seem to be the case. This is not to disclaim that Farage may have other motivations either, but the likely result dovetails well with their stated aims. Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 21:18

4 Answers 4


"Brexit Party itself doesn't seem to be gaining anything"

It's important to remember that the Brexit party is not a normal party. It is a personal vehicle for Farage; that's why he abandoned UKIP in the first place.

It is not a mass-membership party organisation. If you read the "articles of association", you will see the statement "the membership is small and all members are also officers of the company". That means the short list of people who are directors, which at the moment is only Farage and "Mr Richard James Sunley Tice".

Therefore it is entirely possible for Farage to dictate its activities without any form of public consultation or statement about his reasoning. What is good for Farage is good for the party, because they are basically the same thing.

Also recall that in a FPTP voting system, the Brexit party taking votes from Tory candidates makes Brexit less likely. Brexit will only happen if there is a Tory majority and a majority of those Tory MPs elected are pro-Brexit and in agreement on what deal to reach.

  • 4
    Thank you for the input. I understand the party is basically a cult of personality aruond Farage, hence his decision not to stand in a seat himself so he can campaign all around the country (i.e. everyone would be voting for him, rather than their actual local candidate). Whilst interesting though, I'm not sure your answer actually answers my question.
    – Darren
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 11:36
  • 2
    @Sjoerd you have a better explanation for a single-issue party refusing to stand candidates for their single issue? Farage himself says he has been offered (and rejected) bribes: talkradio.co.uk/news/…
    – pjc50
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 13:22
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    @pjc50 What's wrong with Farage's own explanation that Brexit has a higher chance to happen if he doesn't contest the Tory seats. Sounds logical to me, especially from a game theoretical point of view. You mention it yourself!
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 16:58
  • 1
    @Sjoerd that doesn't square with his comments that Boris Johnson's deal is not a real Brexit. Not Brexit Video he's just guaranteed that the only Brexit he'll get it one that "Doesn't get Brexit done". So either he was lying then or he's lying now?
    – Jontia
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 17:16
  • 2
    @Sjoerd yes, but it's Farage's dichotomy. He's the one standing on stage saying it and then turning around and saying "I wont run against you" a few days later.
    – Jontia
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 17:35

It is speculation at this point what really changed Farage's mind, but this article in The Guardian states that:

The Brexit party leader claimed he had changed his mind about fielding candidates in 317 seats held by the Tories after Johnson released a video pledging to take Britain out of the EU by 2020 and to pursue a Canada-style trade deal.

The abrupt nature of Farage’s reversal prompted claims from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National party that he and the prime minister had struck a secret pact in favour of a hard Brexit, which both sides denied. Farage said he had been offered a peerage by the Tories as recently as last Friday but claimed he had turned it down.


At the rally in the County Durham seat, which voted 70% to leave the UK, Farage said he had concluded that if the Brexit party stood a candidate in every seat, it could split the vote and usher in dozens of Liberal Democrat MPs, in turn creating the circumstances for a second referendum.

Farage said he had been reassured after Johnson said he would not accept an extension of the transition period for Britain leaving the EU beyond the end of 2020.

Also of note, in that article pollsters are skeptical that Frage's new plan will actually work exactly as he says it would, because he is still splitting the vote in the seats where Tories need to make inroads.

But regarding "withdraw" candidates, it does look like at least some of those actually existed, and some are pissed off with Farage now:

Brexit Party MEP Alexandra Phillips, who was due to stand as a candidate in the Tory seat of Southampton Itchen before Mr Farage’s announcement, has declared she will “not vote at all” at the election. [She tweeted:]

I will be one of millions of people who will not vote at all in the General Election. That breaks my heart. I have voted in every election since I was 18 and been involved in politics for over a decade. And I have been disenfranchised by my own party.

Robert Wheal, who had been due to fight in the Arundel and South Downs constituency, said Mr Farage was “finished as a politician” following the climb-down.

He tweeted: “All that Farage has exposed is his duplicity to so many supporters who had put their faith in him.”

While two tweets are far from the extra 300+ candidates you ask about, it does look like at least some of them were not entirely bogus.

Actually, the Guardian now has a subsequent article, mentioning more details of the former candidates, and naming at least three more:

Darren Selkus, who was the candidate for Epping Forest, said Farage had “betrayed my incredible volunteers and thousands of constituents who will have no one to vote for” by pulling out of all 317 Conservative-held seats.

In a statement on his local party website, Selkus said that as soon as Farage made the announcement at a rally on Monday in Hartlepool, he and other ex-candidates were immediately locked out of their Brexit party emails and supporter databases. [...]

Julian Malins, a barrister who was due to stand in the Tory-held seat of Salisbury, tweeted: “I thought I had enlisted in Caesar’s army but it turned out to be the Grand Old Duke of York’s.” [...]

Claire Mowbray, who was to have taken on Theresa May in Maidenhead, tweeted: “I can’t tell you how disappointed I am.” She added: “I will be closing this Twitter account.”

But insofar I couldn't find out how many more candidates there were in total.


There is now. Now that the last registering date has passed we know that The Brexit Party didn't even manage to field the 300 candidates they promised following their climbdown unilateral pact with the Conservatives.

The party looks set to have candidates in 274 constituencies, including dozens in battlegrounds between the Conservatives and Labour, but the total is some way short of a full slate of 650.

Some of this seems to be giving conservatives a free run at close marginals. This does not cover all of them. So a lack of resources could be a factor.

Brexit Party field 274 candidates - 26 fewer than Nigel Farage said he would. And instead of contesting every Labour seat, 16 Labour seats have no @brexitparty_uk candidate. So 42 seats in England, Wales and Scotland with no BXP candidate, of which 16 are Labour. #GE2019


Unlike some other countries, expenditure in UK elections is strictly limited by law.

The maximum permitted expenditure by a candidate is a fixed amount of £8,700, plus £0.09 per registered elector in the constituency. The average number of electors per constituency in England is 72,200, which gives a total permitted expenditure of around £15,000. Such tiny numbers may seem incomprehensible in a country like the USA, of course.

Note that £15,000 is the maximum permitted, and there is no requirement to spend up to the limit. The minimum cost is the £500 deposit required to submit the nomination forms to become a candidate, and that is refunded if the candidate obtains more than 5% of the votes cast.

Most parliamentary constituencies have a few "vanity candidates" (for example the Monster Raving Loony Party or the Church of the Militant Elvis) as well as independent candidates with ostensibly more serious intentions, so the £500 "entry fee" is no real deterrent to taking part.

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