A CONSERVATIVE local election candidate has stood down saying he would feel compelled to resign and fight for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party if the UK ends up holding a vote for the European Parliament.
Former UKIP member Philip Fawkes was selected by the Tories to contest the Lyndhurst ward in the poll for New Forest District Council on 2nd May.
But he has now withdrawn as Brexit delays make it more likely the UK will have to participate in EU elections on 23rd May.
Mr Fawkes told the A&T: “Whilst I shall be rooting for those standing as Conservatives in the district elections on a platform of local issues, I felt that it would be discourteous to my colleagues and dishonest with the electorate to stand, possibly win and then, in the event of the UK taking part in the subsequent European Elections, have to resign… to actively support Nigel Farage and the newly established Brexit Party.”
Mr Fawkes’ candidacy has been taken by Cllr Bill Andrews, who lives in Minstead and currently represents Dibden and Hythe East for the Tories. He will face Hilary Brand, who is running for the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Fawkes previously fought the Tories as UKIP’s candidate in the last local elections in 2015. He came last in the three-way contest won by Tory Cllr Pat Wyeth who is standing down in May.
He had been “pleasantly surprised” to have been invited by the New Forest East Conservative Association to stand for selection, he said, and “equally surprised and honoured” to have been selected for the Lyndhurst ward, where he has lived for 36 years.
Replacement Cllr Andrews told the A&T he had been looking for a new seat when the opportunity came to contend Lyndhurst, where he is a member of the Probus club and Lyndhurst Deanery.
“I am prepared to believe that everyone has their own consciences and is entitled to make their own decisions,” Cllr Andrews said in response to Mr Fawke’s actions.
It is the first election campaign for Lib Dem candidate Mrs Brand, who lives in Cadnam and runs the Lyndhurst Tea House in the High Street.
She said: “I can understand why Philip wanted to stand down because Brexit has been a complete and utter nightmare and their party is in a dilemma on how to go forward.
“Part of the reason for me standing is because of Brexit. We need politicians who will fight for the people not just for themselves.”
The EU elections have been scheduled for 23rd May in the UK – although the government says it wants to have them automatically cancelled if a withdrawal agreement is settled before then.
NFDC’s Tory leader, Cllr Barry Rickman, has previously told the A&T that he feared Brexit could harm his party’s chances.
Privately, Tory candidates have been dismayed by the response on the doorstep of residents angry at parliament’s handling of the issue.
Tories running for Lymington and Pennington Town Council even put out a public statement urging voters not to be influenced by the arguments in Westminster and to cast their ballots on local issues instead.
For a full list of New Forest District Council candidates click here.