Ukip says many of its candidates have stood aside because of vows made by pro-Brexit Tory – and two Labour – candidates.
Conservative candidates across the country have been privately giving Ukip assurances that they will push for a decisive Brexit in order to get their rivals not to field a candidate, a senior Ukip spokesman has said.
Patrick O’Flynn, the party’s economics spokesman, said Ukip could have managed to field candidates across the country but chose to stand only 377 because of promises made to its local branches by many pro-Brexit Conservative candidates and two Labour candidates.
His claim suggests a number of Conservative MPs and candidates have in effect made pacts with Ukip in their local area, without publicly informing their voters.
The only Tory to go public about his deal so far is Philip Hollobone, who is seeking re-election as MP for Kettering, and has promised to meet local Ukip members “every three months or when mutually agreed to discuss the progress of Brexit and provide a forum for questions, answers and feedback relating to Brexit”.
The pacts pose a serious threat to Labour, as dozens of the party’s MPs defending marginal seats have majorities smaller than the Ukip vote from 2015 in their constitutency.
O’Flynn made the remarks after a speech attacking the Conservatives for their approach to the economy, arguing the self-employed should not vote for a party that will put up national insurance for them, as that was like “handing the chancellor the very dagger he is planning to plunge into your back”.
Asked how Ukip could lambast the Conservatives while it is in effect helping so many of its candidates, he said the party has been “guided by our branches” that have been speaking to Tory MPs.