From Ann Widdecombe to Sargon of Akkad, the EU elections are starting to look like a dinner party from hell

As Change UK candidates drop like flies, the remaining am-dram troupe of European parliament hopefuls look like a sorry bunch 

Sean O'Grady
Wednesday 24 April 2019 15:08
Comments
Former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe stands for Brexit Party

There’s an old saying that a country gets the politicians it deserves. If so, then I wonder about the Change UK candidates having to resign after a matter of hours on the party slate due to various past misdeeds and mistweets. This, after all, is supposed to be the group that will fix our “broken politics”, but which seems to have quite a few broken reputations of its own littering the scene.

Indeed, the candidates for the European parliament generally have an eccentric air to them. I also ask myself what the good people of the southwest of England (plus Gibraltar) have done to deserve the most, shall we say, diverse group of candidates ever assembled for a democratic election.

According to the party candidate lists so far published for the European elections, some of them will be on their way to Brussels and Strasbourg to represent British interests. The names read like the dinner party from hell: Rachel Johnson, “Sargon of Akkad”, Andrew Adonis, Molly Scott Cato, Ann Widdecombe. Imagine that lot trying to make small talk together on the Eurostar to Brussels or finding themselves, through some diabolical error, plonked on the only free table in the European parliament in-house brasserie.

They are an intriguing bunch. In a sense, it is a joy to see Ann Widdecombe back on the public stage. As an older woman in politics she suffers the same kind of routine discrimination that older actresses face in Hollywood. When she was in the Commons, her Tory colleagues called her “Doris Karloff”, which was unkind.

She got her own back when she scuppered Michael Howard’s first attempt to become Tory leader with her famous remark that he had “something of the night” about him. She was his prisons minister, during which tenure she declared herself quite content that female prisoners should be shackled while giving birth, in case they tried to escape, something that tarnished her feminist credentials.

Since leaving the Commons she’s galumphed her way through the gamut of sleb TV and theatrical work – Strictly Come Dancing, The Widdecombe Project (as an unlikely agony aunt – not inflicting the agony this time), Celebrity Fit Club, Have I Got News for You, Celebrity Antiques Road Trip, all of it culminating in her appearance as the Empress of China in Aladdin at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft.

An ideal candidate, then, for Nigel Farage’s am-dram troupe in the European parliament. The big time still awaits.

“Lord Adonis” is not, like “Sargon of Akkad”, some self-regarding made-up title. It is not an ironically devised nickname to be hung around the neck of the decidedly un-Adonis-like frame of a weedy public intellectual by his enemies. Andrew Adonis “is” (as they say in the booming Hollywood trailers) Lord Adonis because he is a full-on, balls-out New Labour member of the House of Lords, dispatched there by Tony Blair.

The rationale there was that Adonis’ decision to educate his offspring privately would be unacceptable to every constituency Labour Party and, thus, the usual safe seat in the Commons would be denied him. A refugee from the Liberal Democrats, and before that the SDP, New Labour’s Europhilia nourished and comforted him.

Corbyn’s Labour and Brexit Britain is not so congenial, and his anguish at the consequences of the 2016 referendum is all too palpable. The only thing that could be said for his candidature is that it might help to salve the pain; the worst thing is if his European parliamentary career was cut short by some unexpected breakthrough on Brexit. Then he might just flip. His tireless dedication to the cause of a second referendum is almost saintly, it has to be said.

Sargon of Akkad, though, is not a real name. His real name is Carl Benjamin, and he is a foot soldier in Gerard Batten’s Ukip. So Private Benjamin might be a better name. He is not an obviously likeable man. His is the one who, in response to Labour MP Jess Phillips’ statement that rape threats are commonplace for her, responded “I wouldn’t even rape you” in a YouTube video and repeated this on Twitter.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Like “Count Dankula”, the bloke who trained his dog to do a Nazi salute on the command words “gas the Jews” and “sieg heil”, he is what Batten describes as a “free speech merchant”. People of Devon, Somerset and Cornwall... Sargon is all yours.

Varied as they might be, almost all of these big – some might say oversized – personalities, including radical Green Molly Scott Cato and journalist Rachel Johnson have one thing in common; they all attended the University of Oxford (with the exception of Sargon, that is, whose educational attainments are not known). What was that phrase of David Cameron’s about Ukip? Oh yes, “fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists mostly”. Seems about right. Ladies and gentlemen, the next European parliament.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in