The man who was supposed to stand for the Brexit Party in Bristol North West but whose name was missing from the candidate list has rejected rumours he stood aside for the Tories.
The anti-EU party had originally lined up Stephen Burge as its candidate in Bristol North West, a Labour marginal which the Tories are gunning for in this election.
However, when the final candidate lists were released on November 14, Mr Burge’s name, along with that of his party, were both absent.
Mr Burge told Bristol Live he did not end up standing as a candidate for “personal reasons”.
“I’m bitterly disappointed that there is no candidate in Bristol North West. I was fully prepared to stand but family issues arose and I just couldn’t find the time needed to stand.”
Mr Burge said he had informed the party of his decision. It appears that after he decided not to stand no-one was chosen to replace him.
“I informed the party but there was some miscommunication along the way,” he said. “If I had known we weren’t going to put a candidate in, I would have done the best I could.
“I think Bristol North West is one of the key seats where we could have made some impact. I can assure you I had no contact with the Tory party whatsoever.
“If something comes around in the future I’d be more than happy to stand.”
The surprise move came just weeks after Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage confirmed he would not field candidates in the 317 seats the Tories won at the last election.
And earlier in the month one of its candidates, Peter Udale, stood down in the Cotswolds to give the Conservative candidate the best chance of winning.
A Brexit Party source referenced Mr Udale’s decision in the Cotswolds but said it was “absolutely not the case” that Mr Burge had stood aside for the Tories. “He shouldn’t be tarred with that brush,” they said. “Stephen was on board and on side. It was utterly c***-up and not conspiracy. “
The Brexit Party error means that the Conservatives’ Mark Weston is the only candidate representing the leave vote in the constituency, which is currently held by Labour’s Darren Jones with a 4,000 majority.
Mr Jones is battling the Liberal Democrats and the Green party for the remain vote in the seat, which voted to stay in the EU by 61 per cent in the 2016 referendum.
Mr Jones had been considered at risk of losing his seat due to the fact Bristol North West has switched from Labour to Tory for decades throughout its electoral history. It was held by Tory Charlotte Leslie before Mr Jones won it back for Labour.
However, an MRP poll by YouGov earlier this week found the seat is set to stay in the hands of Mr Jones who is on course to take 46 per cent of the vote, compared with 38 per cent for Mr Weston.
The poll also predicted Boris Johnson is on course to win a thumping majority in this election, winning 359 seats overall compared with 211 for Labour.
- The candidates standing in Bristol North West are Darren Jones for the Labour party, Mark Weston for the Conservatives, Heather Mack for the Green party and Chris Coleman.
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