Local Elections 2023: Candidate Round-up

02 05 23

  • Radical- and far-right parties are targeting a larger number of seats this year, with hundreds more candidates standing across England compared to 2022. However, numbers are still down drastically from 2019, the last time most of these seats were up for election.
  • Reform UK, which claims to be ready for a General Election, is fielding a much enlarged slate of 475 candidates, but included in this number is an embarrassing number of extreme conspiracy theorists.
  • Also fielding additional candidates this year are UKIP, the Heritage Party and the Alliance for Democracy and Freedom.
  • The more extreme far-right parties Britain First and British Democrats are targeting eight and five seats respectively and are putting considerable energy into campaigning in their target wards.

The past few years have been miserable for the electoral far right, with the highlights of the Brexit Referendum result and the Brexit Party’s victory at the 2019 European Elections now a distant memory. No parties have managed to replicate the (limited) successes of UKIP or the BNP following their respective implosions, and each year has seen a progressively smaller number of candidates pitching themselves to the right of the Conservatives.

However, this year’s nominations suggest some on the right believe that the recent strife in the Conservative Party and widespread dissatisfaction among voters could represent a window of opportunity, with Reform UK, UKIP, Heritage Party and the Alliance for Democracy & Freedom are all fielding significantly more candidates than last year.

There is less prospect for the more extreme wing of the far right to make gains, though last year’s collapse of For Britain has given more room to Britain First and the British Democrats to lay claim on being the natural home for electorally-minded bigots.

Far-Right Parties

Britain First

Britain First (BF) has thrown itself into electioneering since it re-registered with the Electoral Commission in September 2021 and is standing eight candidates this year, up from just three in 2022. Party Leader Paul Golding is standing in Swanscombe ward in Dartford, having previously been barred from standing for office for five years due to a 2018 conviction under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. 

BF’s Deputy Leader Ashlea Simon is standing again in Walkden North, Salford, where she came second last year and will be hoping for another strong showing this time around. However, the party has already angrily objected to the addition of Salford’s sole Reform UK candidate to the Walkden North ballot this year, worrying that it might syphon off some of her prospective voter base.

Always keen to deny their racism, BF have put out a leaflet pointing to the fact that one of their candidates this year is of mixed heritage. Unfortunately, that candidate – Donald Southworth of Broadheath ward, Trafford Borough Council – is perhaps the most profoundly racist of their candidates, with HOPE not hate having previously exposed his foul ranting when he was a BNP member back in 2014:

British Democrats

The British Democrats, a small group that consists almost entirely of ageing ex-BNP officials, is standing five candidates in this year’s polls. 

The party has succeeded in getting a few of its members elected to parish councils in the past few years, and has one incumbent district councillor in Julian Leppert, who was elected to Epping Forest council as part of the now-defunct For Britain party and gained notoriety for saying he’d like Epping to be a “whites-only” enclave.

Another new addition to the British Democrats roster is David Haslett, a former Conservative Party candidate who was expelled in 2019 for racism.

Patriotic Alternative

Despite continually failing to register as a political party – one of the issues that prompted a massive and acrimonious schism in the group last week – there are nonetheless some candidates running as independents that have close ties to the neo-nazi Patriotic Alternative group.
Members of PA’s West Midlands branch – many of whom have now split from the group – have been delivering leaflets for David Hyden-Milakovic, who spoke at a PA-organised anti-migrant demo in Cannock back in March, and is standing in Cannock South ward for Cannock Chase council. Until recently, Hyden-Milakovic also ran an antisemitic TikTok channel. While the channel has  now been removed, archived versions show that it pushed antisemitic conspiracy theories about Jewish control of world governments: 

Paul Carnell, who spoke at the PA-organised demo in Cannock last month alongside Hyden-Milakovic, is also standing as an Independent in Cannock North.

Also benefiting from PA manpower is the leader of the English Democrats, Robin Tilbrook, who is standing in Shelley ward, Epping Forest and has had PA members delivering his leaflets locally. Tilbrook is a longstanding ally of PA’s leader Mark Collett, having reportedly been giving him legal advice.  

Populist Right Parties

Reform UK

Reform UK (REFUK) is fielding 475 candidates this year, a small proportion of the 8,092 available seats but a significant uptick on the 124 the group ran in 2022. This comes after a year in which its polling numbers briefly headed towards double-digits in the wake of the Conservative’s slide, eliciting breathless commentary from right-wing pundits about their chances of challenging the party at the next General Election.

However, REFUK’s polling numbers have since dipped back down towards the 5% mark, and a quick review of its chosen candidates suggests the party still has a long way to go to be GE-ready. Despite being less forthright in promoting anti-vaccine rhetoric than some of its smaller rivals – with leader Richard Tice and Deputy Leader David Bull even supporting vaccine mandates for healthcare workers at one point – the party has nevertheless flirted with the COVID-conspiracy movement enough to ensure that its base is riddled with extreme cranks. 

These include Brian Aspinall, the candidate for Golborne & Lowton West ward on Wigan Borough Council. Aspinall is an avowed “Flat Earther”, QAnon devotee and anti-vaxxer, as even a cursory glance at his social media profiles would reveal if the party were truly vetting its candidates.

Some of the names in REFUK’s candidate list are familiar, such as that of Padmini Nissanga. Having been elected twice as UKIP councillor for Sheppey East ward on Swale Borough Council, Nissanga is now seeking reelection under the Reform banner, despite her well-documented history of bizarre and extreme Facebook posts:

“Where are the ENGLISH gone?? They don’t care about the country. Why don’t they get together and wipe out all the traitors out from this country.  It is too late now. Our  greatest Capital in the World,LONDON!!  Control by Muslims . Mayor is going to bring another1.5 million Musllims to London.  English people are voting for foreigners”

Other parties

The ever-embarrassing UKIP is also fielding a larger candidate list this year than last, though the increase from 17 to 46 candidates looks less impressive when you consider that the party stood more than 1,300 candidates when these seats were last contested back in 2019. Not standing for re-election is Tendring councillor Peter Cawthron, who HOPE not hate exposed as having a secret account on the Telegram messaging app on which he spouted sickening racism and boasted of his own incompetence and corruption. 

UKIP has also been overtaken in terms of candidate numbers by splinter group the Heritage Party, led by former UKIP official David Kurten, with 63 candidates across the country. The Alliance for Democracy & Freedom, led by fellow UKIP veteran Teck Khong, is bringing up the rear with 23 nominations. All three groups are increasingly conspiracy-oriented and extreme, with their traditional bogeyman of the EU having since been replaced by a more nebulous conspiracy of vaccines, Net Zero and “globalists” of any description. 

One particularly extreme example is the ADF’s Mark Vallance, standing in Hawkwell East. A former UKIP candidate, Vallance has posted a number of alarming statements on his Facebook profile, including sharing his fantasies of civil war in the aftermath of the 2017 General Election results and disturbing posts about “eradicating” Muslims:


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