UK police assessing probe into Brexit Party claims Tories offered peerages not to stand in election

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By Alice Tidey
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage in Ilford, Britain, November 13, 2019.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage in Ilford, Britain, November 13, 2019.   -  Copyright  REUTERS/Hannah McKay

British police are assessing whether to open a probe for electoral fraud after Brexit Party members stated that the Conservatives offered them peerages to stand down in next month's general election.

The Metropolitan Police (MPS) said in a statement on Saturday that it "has received two allegations of electoral fraud and malpractice" relating to the December 12 snap election.

"The MPS Special Enquiry Team is responsible for investigating all such criminal allegations. Both allegations are currently being assessed," the statement added.

Lord Falconer, a Labour peer — or member of the House of Lords — urged the authorities to launch an investigation into the "exceptionally serious allegations" on Friday.

In a letter addressed to MPS' chief Cressida Dick and to the Director of Public Prosecutions, he wrote that the allegations "raise serious questions about the integrity of the upcoming election, and in particular whether senior individuals at CCHQ [Conservative campaign headquarters] or No 10 have breached two sections of the Representation of the People Act 1983."

His letter came after Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage claimed in a video released on Thursday that eight senior members of his party had been approached by "people who work deep inside Number 10 Downing Street" and offered seats in the House of Lords.

"All they had to do was come to Nigel and convince him to stand down in a whole load more marginal seats," he said.

"They even thought that there was going to be a deal and a handshake with a senior figure and everybody would be happy: they'd be allowed to win the election, they'd be allowed then to soft-pedal, give us a Brexit that was a Brexit in name only, we'd put people into the House of Lords, and everybody would be happy. This is what our country has sunk to. This is appalling. This is why politics absolutely needs to change for good," he added.

Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe said she had been approached by the ruling Conservative Party to stand down as did Mike Green, a Brexit Party candidate for a seat in Peterborough, in eastern England.

The Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has denied the allegations.

Johnson, grilled on the subject on BBC radio, dismissed them, saying: "What is this nonsense?"

He added: "I'm sure there are conversations that take place between politicians of all parties but certainly nobody's been offered a peerage."

The controversy comes after Farage announced earlier this week that his party would not field candidates in more than 300 seats across the UK won by the Conservatives in 2017 in order to not split the pro-Brexit vote. But some Conservatives have said he should go further to boost the chances of Johnson returning to Downing Street with a majority in parliament.

The latest Ipsos MORI poll gives the Conservatives a 17-point lead over their nearest rival, Labour. The Brexit Party is predicted to come a distant fourth with 7% of the vote, behind the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats (20%).

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