Scotland Yard is ‘assessing’ claims of electoral fraud following allegations the Conservatives offered peerages to senior Brexit Party figures to sway them into standing down in the General Election.
It comes after Lord Falconer wrote to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and Director of Public Prosecutions calling for a probe into what he named ‘exceptionally serious allegations’.
His letter to Dame Cressida Dick and Max Hill QC referred to claims made by Nigel Farage stating he and eight other senior figures within the Brexit Party had been offered peerages.
Farage claims he was repeatedly offered a seat in the House of Lords in attempts to persuade him to ‘go quietly’.
When that failed, he says people working ‘deep inside Number 10’ tried to bypass him, suggesting senior Brexit Party figures could be made peers if the party withdrew more candidates.
In Lord Falconer’s letter, the former lord chancellor said Farage’s allegations should be looked into ‘urgently’ in order to maintain the integrity of the upcoming election.
He wrote: ‘I wish to raise with you as a matter of urgency a number of recent reports in which senior figures in the Brexit Party have alleged that some of their candidates had been approached by the Conservative Party in an effort to persuade them to withdraw their candidacies from the upcoming General Election.
‘I believe these allegations raise serious questions about the integrity of the upcoming General Election, and in particular whether senior individuals at CCHQ or No. 10 have breached two sections of the Representation of the People Act 1983.’
The Labour peer then cited the parts of the Act which refers to ‘bribery’ and ‘corruptly’, inducing or procuring someone to withdraw from being a candidate at an election. Lord Falconer said he is ‘formally requesting’ that the Director of Public Prosecutions launch an investigation into the ‘exceptionally serious allegations’.
He added: ‘In addition, in order to maintain public confidence in the integrity of our electoral processes and this election, it is crucial that the Metropolitan Police also examine these accusations.’
A spokesperson for the Met said the force has received reports of two allegations of electoral fraud and malpractice in relation to the 2019 General Election.
They said the accusations are ‘currently being assessed’ by a special enquiry team responsible for investigating such claims.
Boris Johnson has acknowledged that there may have been ‘conversations’ between senior Tories and people in the Brexit Party in the past. However, he has strongly denied there were any offers of peerages, stating it is ‘just not the way we operate’.
Farage announced this week that the Brexit Party would not contest the 317 seats the Tories won in the 2017 election. However, pressure was put on the party leader to stand down candidates in all but a few dozen constituencies to avoid splitting the pro-Leave vote.
Lord Falconer’s letter mentions Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory MP now standing for the Brexit Party in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport.
Widdecombe claimed she was offered a role in the Brexit negotiations if she was prepared to stand aside.
Suspicions that Brexit Party candidates were under pressure to stand down were also heightened when Rupert Lowe, a Brexit Party MEP and former chairman of Southampton FC, revealed that he would not run as nominations were closing.
This meant it was too late for the party to put forward an alternative.