Three Tory candidates previously criticised party while backing others

Three Conservative candidates in key seats have previously backed other parties, it can be revealed, including criticising the Conservatives’ “inaction, delay and bluster” and posting the hashtag #NeverTrustATory.

Two are former candidates for the Brexit party standing in seats previously held by the Conservatives – against the Reform defector Lee Anderson in Ashfield and in North West Leicestershire, where the former Tory MP Andrew Bridgen was suspended from the party.

The third candidate in Pontefract, Castleford and Knottingley is contesting Labour’s Yvette Cooper’s seat, where the Conservatives came within 1,276 votes.

Debbie Soloman, who is standing against Anderson, stood for the Brexit party in Bassetlaw as recently as 2019 and did not stand down despite an electoral pact with the Conservatives.

In a series of tweets, Soloman used the hashtag #NeverTrustATory and retweeted campaigners asking why people would “trust the Tories again”.

Soloman refused to withdraw as a candidate for the Brexit party in 2019, saying the Tories had “failed to deliver” Brexit and that Conservative MPs had “betrayed the Conservative promise that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’.”

Craig Smith, the Conservative candidate for North West Leicestershire, was due to be the Brexit party candidate in Loughborough in 2019. He tweeted multiple times in support of the Brexit party during the 2019 election – writing: “Vote Conservative for more years of inaction, delay and bluster” in November 2019.

In another post, Smith said “Tories bottled it, we won’t” on an announcement by Reform to scrap inheritance tax.

The third candidate, Laura Weldon, is a former deputy leader of the Yorkshire party, who has previously been an outspoken critic of both Labour and the Tories and called for electoral reform. In tweets from 2019, she said that CCHQ “kneecap good tory candidates … I don’t like the fact that it’s about the game rather than the people”.

She also said that the two parties had “no place for committed locals, only willing sheep”. Weldon had previously stood for the Yorkshire party in the same seat, under the name Laura Walker.

The exodus of sitting Tory MPs from the party has broken the record from 1997, a total of 78 current MPs saying they would not stand again on 4 July. Anderson, a former Conservative party vice-chair, defected to Reform after having the whip suspended for comments he made about the Labour mayor, Sadiq Khan.

He is running again for the party in Ashfield. Anderson previously defected to the Conservatives before the 2019 elections, having been a Labour councillor.

Bridgen was expelled from the Conservatives after he compared Covid vaccines to the Holocaust. He is standing as an independent in the same constituency.

A Conservative spokesperson said: “The Conservative party is fighting for every vote at this election, and we are standing candidates with a fantastic breadth of experience across the country. We have a clear plan, and are taking bold action, to deliver a secure future for our country.”

The Guardian

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