19:09 GMT +322 September 2019
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    A Scottish Saltire (C) flies between a Union flag (L) and a European Union (EU) flag in front of the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh, Scotland on June 27, 2016.

    European Elections: Conservatives Face 'Disaster', Change UK Applications Rocket

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    Such is the deluge the party's leading inner circle of MPs are working overtime to whittle down the list to just 100, from which they'll select an final short-list.

    Over 3,000 British citizens have applied to stand as European parliament candidates for Change UK — the fledgling centrist party born out of ‘The Independent Group', it has been reported.

    The Independent Group was founded in February, and boasts 11 MPs — eight former Labour members and three former Conservatives. Vetting the backgrounds of each potential candidate is said to be paramount, due to concerns individuals with potentially controversial backgrounds could make it to the election list. The task is made all the more arduous by the party only having one full-time staff member, its active chief executive.

    Still, insiders suggest the enthusiastic response is in total contrast to the Conservatives' stumbling efforts — their campaign is likely to be allocated an absolute bare minimum of funding, as the party is holding onto its cash reserves in the event of a snap General Election. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has acknowledged the vote, due to be held 23rd May, is likely to be "disastrous" for the government — and there are suggestions the party are yet to decide whether to publish a manifesto or convene an official campaign launch.

    "We don't want to be in those polls from a political point of view but actually the bigger principle for people in Britain is that we voted to leave the EU and they want the politicians to get on with it. [If May's deal isn't passed] that would be a very serious situation — I don't pretend otherwise — but we aren't at that point," Hunt told the BBC.

    Conservative poll ratings have been in free-fall since Prime Minister Theresa May opted to delay Brexit rather than depart the EU without a deal, and her party colleagues are deeply unhappy about her decision to hold talks with Labour chiefs over a potential new Brexit deal. Some local Conservative associations have even threatened to boycott the European election campaign outright.

    Party chair Brandon Lewis is expected to sign off the party's candidate slate within the next few days. It's been suggested the Conservatives could campaign purely on the basis that only they could deliver Brexit — although this sure to be a vote loser for pro-EU elements within the party.

    Renew, a pro-EU centrist party launched in 2017, has announced that it will wind up operations in favour of supporting Change UK once the Electoral Commission had approved it as a political party.

    "Due to the Brexit threat, it is essential the pro-European vote is not split on May 23rd. This strategic move will ensure that voters are presented with a clear, pro-European choice at the ballot box. I know Renew's work at the grassroots levels can help The Independent Group's established MPs build a better political system. Renew was founded in order to change the conversation on political reform and provide millions of disenfranchised voters with a voice. We can now do that with The Independent Group, who can provide invaluable expertise and leadership at this crucial time.I hope this move will provide a platform for doing politics differently," Renew leader Annabel Mullin said.

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    Tags:
    European Parliament elections, party politics, European elections, Brexit, 2019 European Parliament Elections, Brexit, Change UK, Independent Group, Conservative Party, United Kingdom
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