Richard Tice accuses Tories of ‘dirty tricks’ in trying to steer Reform candidates to face down | EUROtoday

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Reform chair Richard Tice has accused the Tories of “dirty tricks” after one among his occasion’s candidates withdrew his papers to face on the final minute and endorsed former cupboard minister Sir Gavin Williamson.

In a dramatic ultimate 24 hours earlier than nominations closed there had been fevered hypothesis that as many as six Tory MPs and different candidates may defect to Reform after Nigel Farage determined to face in Clacton and turn out to be chief of the occasion.

But as a substitute no Tories switched and Tom Wellings, the Reform candidate for the brand new seat of Stone, Great Wryly and Penkridge in Staffordshire, stop and put out a press release endorsing Sir Gavin.

It all meant that Reform are understood to have fielded 611 candidates, simply in need of the 630 that they had hoped for.

Richard Tice is angry at the last minute defection
Richard Tice is offended on the final minute defection (PA)

Mr Wellings mentioned he had made his resolution within the ultimate hour earlier than nominations closed “after careful consideration and extensive analysis” of native polling.

He instructed native voters: “The polls indicate that Labour is close to winning the seat in our constituency. This is a matter of deep concern to me and should be to anyone who supports the policies and agenda of Reform UK.

“Given the current political landscape my continued candidacy risks splitting the vote, thereby increasing the chances of a Labour MP being elected.

“Therefore, I have decided to support Gavin Williamson, who has considerable experience in government. I am confident Gavin is well positioned to effectively challenge a left-wing Labour government.”

A livid Mr Tice, who as chairman continues to be accountable for candidates, demanded to know if Mr Welling had been provided cash, jobs or another inducements to successfully defect.

Former education secretary Gavin Williamson now has the backing of the Reform candidate
Former schooling secretary Gavin Williamson now has the backing of the Reform candidate (PA)

He mentioned: “Wellings put his papers in on Wednesday then in the last hour without telling us withdrew them. I am challenging Gavin Williamson to say whether money, jobs or a safe seat was offered to Wellings to do this.”

He claimed that such ways had been utilized by the Tories elsewhere with “dirty tricks”.

“One of our candidates in the same region was offered a safe council seat and two jobs to stand down. He sensibly rejected the offers and told us what was going on.”

But Sir Gavin rejected the claims. He instructed The Independent: “This is certainly not the case.”

A Tory spokesman described Mr Tice’s accusations as “utter rubbish”.

Ironically, Mr Tice had beforehand been accused of attempting to get Tory MPs to defect by providing them cash, an accusation he denied.

But after nominations closed, Tory candidate Tom Hunt, who’s defending his Ipswich seat, put out a message confirming he had come near defecting to Reform.

He mentioned: “In many senses Reform UK is as tempting to me as it is to many of you. The reality is though that under the present system Reform UK could actually end up being the greatest enabler of a crushing Labour victory at the forthcoming general election; an outcome that I’m desperately keen the country avoids. I’m disappointed that Reform UK feel the need to stand against Conservative candidates such as myself who share so many of their aims and values. “

A row has also broken out in Leeds, where hardline Tory Brexiteer Andrea Jenkyns, who was being targeted as a potential defector to Reform, found she had a Reform candidate against her, while neighbouring pro-EU Labour MP Hilary Benn did not. Worse still, her Reform candidate lives in Benn’s constituency.

She said: “This is proof, if any more was needed, that Reform’s sole aim is to destroy the Conservative Party regardless of whether or not true common sense Conservatives get caught in the crossfire.”

But Mr Tice hit again: “You had your chance to defect and you chose to stay with the sinking ship. Choices. Tories have broken Britain yet your arrogant sense of entitlement means you think we should stand down for you? Given what Tories have done to our country, you should stand down.”