Nigel Farage has offered an apology to his supporters in Dudley North after accusing Brexit Party MEP Rupert Lowe of “disgusting” behaviour in pulling out as a candidate at the 11th hour.
Speaking to the PA news agency in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, following a campaign trail visit, Mr Farage said his respect for Mr Lowe had “gone completely” after he confirmed his withdrawal in Dudley North as Thursday’s 4pm nomination deadline passed.
The former Southampton FC chairman’s actions prevented the Brexit Party fielding a replacement candidate in the seat, which Ian Austin won for Labour by a 22-vote margin in 2017.
It is with a heavy heart I have decided not to contest Dudley North as a Brexit Party candidate.— Rupert Lowe (@RupertLowe10) November 14, 2019
I am putting country before party as it is highly conceivable my candidacy could allow Corbynâs Momentum candidate to win.
They are simply not fit to govern. pic.twitter.com/kfYIMV3CHJ
After breaking off from a chat with drinkers at the Wellington Inn, Mr Farage said Mr Lowe’s move had not been sanctioned by the party.
“It was disgusting behaviour,” Mr Farage said. “What he probably hasn’t told you is that he met a senior official from Number 10 in the middle of last week, somebody quite close to Boris, and this was obviously stitched up.
“If he made a decision, he went and changed course, he’s entitled to. But to let everybody else down at the eleventh hour, dreadful behaviour – shocking.”
Asked for his message for party supporters in Dudley North, Mr Farage added: “I’m sorry – we have been double-crossed, let down badly by a man who has behaved dishonestly. I’m sorry, that’s all I can say.”
In a tweet which coincided with Thursday’s 4pm deadline, Mr Lowe, who was elected as one of three West Midlands Brexit Party MEPs earlier this year, tweeted: “I am putting country before party as it is highly conceivable my candidacy could allow Corbyn’s Momentum candidate to win.
“They are simply not fit to govern.”
A statement attached to the tweet added: “I believe that if the Labour Party were to be elected in the forthcoming election Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell with Momentum behind them will devastate Britain and destroy all that decent people have achieved through their hard work and enterprise.
“They are simply not fit to govern and Momentum is the most sinister development in recent British politics, mirroring the beginnings of the Communist Party in the USSR.”
During his visit to Eastwood to lend his backing to Brexit Party candidate for Ashfield, Martin Daubney, Mr Farage was asked what would constitute success for his party at the General Election.
“The DUP with 10 seats controlled the show for the last two years. The Liberal Democrats controlled the show for the previous five years,” Mr Farage said.
“First-past-post politics is tough but in constituencies with big Leave votes and Labour MPs, there are places where we are clearly the challenger to the Labour Party. The message is simple – Boris is beginning to say the right things about Brexit, but we have got to hold him to account.
“It’s only Brexit Party representation that will do that – I think if we can establish a bridgehead we will get a Brexit that people recognise.”
Asked about Labour’s plan on broadband: “The idea that broadband internet should be owned by the government – so effectively your content on it will be owned by the government – I find that a little bit disturbing.”
Later, Mr Farage did not attend a scheduled event on the campaign trail in Wolverhampton due to “clashing commitments in town”, a Brexit Party spokesman said.
Mr Farage was expected to speak at the event in Willenhall, which was headlined by Mr Daubney.