Lord Falconer’s letter to the Met Police Commissioner and Director of Public Prosecutions
Lord Falconer of Thoroton,
House of Lords,
15 November 2019
Dear Director and Dame Cressida,
I wish to raise with you as a matter of urgency a number of recent reports in which senior figures in the Brexit Party have alleged that some of their candidates had been approached by the Conservative Party in an effort to persuade them to withdraw their candidacies from the upcoming General Election.
On 14 November the Leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage MEP, tweeted that “Boris Johnson’s Chief Strategic Adviser Sir Edward Lister is calling our candidates and offering them jobs if they withdraw”.[i]
The following day Mr Farage said that candidates from his party had come “under intimidation” from the Conservative Party, and added that “officials from Number 10 [have been] ringing up candidates and offering them jobs if they stand down.” Mr Farage also claimed that he, along with eight “senior figures” in his party, were offered peerages.[ii]
Meanwhile, it was reported on Thursday that one Brexit Party candidate, Ann Widdecombe, was told she would be part of the government’s post-election Brexit negotiating team if she stood down, according to senior Brexit party officials.[iii]
Today, Ms Widdecombe has given an interview to the BBC confirming that she had received multiple phone calls from a figure in No. 10 attempting to persuade her to stand down and offering inducements to do so:
“I was rung up twice by somebody at No 10. The first time it was really about how I had a moral obligation to stand down. It was all that kind of stuff. The second time it was to say that if I did stand down, I would be offered ‘a role in the negotiations’.” Ann Widdecombe, BBC News, 15 November 2019
On the 11 November, Mr Farage announced that his party would not stand candidates in 317 seats won by the Conservatives in 2017, but would be standing candidates in all other seats in Great Britain. However, since then at least two Brexit Party candidates have withdrawn from seats which the Conservative Party did not win in 2017.[iv]
I believe these allegations raise serious questions about the integrity of the upcoming General Election, and in particular whether senior individuals at CCHQ or No. 10 have breached two sections of the Representation of the People Act 1983 namely:
Any person who corruptly induces or procures any other person to withdraw from being a candidate at an election, in consideration of any payment or promise of payment, and any person withdrawing in pursuance of the inducement or procurement, shall be guilty of an illegal payment.
And/or s. 113 (2):
(2) A person shall be guilty of bribery if he, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf—
(c) makes any such gift or procurement [gives money or procured an office] as mentioned above to or for any person in order to induce that person to procure, or endeavour to procure, the return of any person at an election or the vote of any voter,or if upon or in consequence of any such gift or procurement as mentioned above he procures or engages, promises or endeavours to procure the return of any person at an election or the vote of any voter.
Given that ‘payment’ is defined in s.118 of the 1983 Act as meaning “any pecuniary or other reward”, this would indicate that s. 107 is wide enough to cover promises of the kind alleged to have been made in this case.
I also bring to your attention s.1 (2) of the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925, which states:
If any person gives, or agrees or proposes to give, or offers to any person any gift, money or valuable consideration as an inducement or reward for procuring or assisting or endeavouring to procure the grant of a dignity or title of honour to any person, or otherwise in connection with such a grant, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.
Furthermore, as breaches of the 1983 Act may have taken place, pursuant to s. 181 of the 1983 Act, I am formally requesting that the Director of Public Prosecutions do institute the necessary investigations and commence such prosecutions as he sees fit.
Finally, as a senior civil servant has been named in these allegations, I am also sending a copy of this letter to the Head of the Civil Service, Sir Mark Sedwill.
[i] Nigel Farage, Twitter, 14 November 2019, https://twitter.com/Nigel_Farage/status/1195010065947869186?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1195010065947869186&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fpolitics%2F2019%2Fnov%2F14%2Fnigel-farage-says-he-is-unlikely-to-vote-for-any-party-in-election