2024 Local Elections: Candidate Overview

23 04 24

Even by the woeful standards of recent years, the British far right is fielding a meagre slate at the local elections on 2 May.

The implosion of the Conservative Party’s support over the past two years may have created an opportunity for the UK’s beleaguered far right, but it is a gap they are unable to fully exploit.

  • Reform UK is fielding candidates in just 12% of the available seats, despite the group’s national ambitions, while smaller rivals like UKIP and the Heritage Party are standing in just a handful of seats.
  • The extreme right is even less equipped for the fight than in previous years, fielding just a few individuals.

Read on for a detailed breakdown of the local electoral landscape in 2024.

The Radical Right

Reform UK

Reform UK is fielding just under 330 candidates, a fall on the 475 candidates it put forward in 2023 but almost double the proportion of the seats (from 6% to 12%) due to the smaller number up for grabs this year. 

It is nonetheless a signal that the party has failed to generate an organic and enthused party structure in local areas, which along with its much-publicised struggle to form a well-vetted candidate list, might hamper the group at the general election later this year.

As in previous years, Reform’s candidates are unevenly spread; the party has put forward strong slates in Bolton, Hartlepool, Plymouth, Sunderland, Sandwell and Walsall, but no candidates at all in many other areas. In Rotherham, for example, one of the party’s top 20 target seats according to recent YouGov polling, the party is contesting just six of the 31 seats up for grabs.

The party’s strong field in Bolton is the result of a hybrid “Reform UK & Bolton For Change” ticket, organised locally by former Brexit Party candidate Trevor Jones, and it seems likely that other areas with strong slates are the result of proactive local organisers rather than significant support from party HQ. 

It is possible that Reform’s leadership is unwilling to test its recent boost in national polling by competing for too many council seats. Despite the hype generated in some parts of the right-wing press, recent parliamentary by-election results – such as the sixth-place finish on 6.3% of the vote in Rochdale – have not supported the view of Reform as a serious contender at the next GE.

The party is standing Ian Broadbent for Southcotes in Kingston upon Hull, despite having dropped him as a general election candidate. Broadbent was axed following the Daily Mail’s exposure of his extreme statements, but that came after nominations for the local elections had already closed.

Unsurprisingly, Reform’s vetting appears to be no better for local candidates than for the parliamentary elections. William Bertram, the party’s candidate in Efford and Lipson ward, Plymouth, has countless offensive posts on full view on his Facebook profile, including a demand that “No Muslim or Communist should be allowed to hold any public office”.

Heritage Party

Further towards the crankish fringes is David Kurten’s Heritage Party. The UKIP offshoot is also fielding a smaller slate for a higher proportion of seats, with 34 local council candidates and five for the London Assembly. This includes seven in Southend and three apiece in Crawley, Sheffield and Woking.

Having hitched the party’s brand to the now-dwindling anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine protest movements, Kurten has since shifted the party’s primary focus to anti-immigration rhetoric. He has also veered towards antisemitic rhetoric in the wake of the conflict in Gaza, recently sharing a post that described a Mexican politician as a “Jewess” who would “rule over” Mexico.

More extreme is the party’s General Secretary Madeleine Hunt, who is the candidate in the Ashburton and Buckfastleigh by-election in Teignbridge. Under the pseudonym “Mag Magz”, Hunt recently posted a comment under a Telegram post about Israel by stating that “anti-Christianity [and] anti white race” were “Talmudic principles”.

UKIP and the English Democrats

UKIP’s slow and humiliating decline continued this year, fielding just 16 candidates. Among this tattered mob is Leo Robinson, who is standing in Craven ward, Bradford. Well known for his bizarre activities in the area, Robinson has expressed disturbing views via his Telegram account, including urging his followers to prepare for war with “death jab agents” and accusing King Charles, The Pope and Dalai Lama of being Satanists. 

Be prepared to kill any agent who tries to force you go into some camp […] have a means to privately contact allies and friends, hopefully collab and hunt down or chase off other death jab agents

In a riot situation only kill the commander of riot police definitely never the rank and file.

If UN troops come onto UK streets plan and coordinate killing them off one by one. Ideally as a Sniper.”

Telegram post by Robinson, 29/05/2022

Despite announcing an unpromising electoral alliance between UKIP and English Democrats last year and applying for permission from the Electoral Commission for a joint entry on ballot papers, just two longtime UKIP candidates chose to adopt the “Patriots Alliance” tagline on the ballot paper, both in Dorset (Shaftesbury Town ward). 

The English Democrats have reselected five old hands: party leader Robin Tilbrook is standing in Epping Forest, alongside four other activists with a long history of failure at the polls: two in Barnsley and two in Bury.

The Extreme Right

Over the past year, there has been much heated debate among the UK’s fragmented fascist fringes about the viability of electoral politics, and new political parties have launched in the hope of recapturing the vote that once saw the British National Party (BNP) win dozens of council seats. 

It is therefore noteworthy that a measly smattering of fascist candidates are set to trouble the ballots this May, even fewer than in recent years.

Britain First

Britain First (BF) has pursued electioneering with renewed vigour since regaining party status in September 2021. However, this year it is contesting just two council seats – a quarter of its 2023 slate.

The drop owes in part to the disillusionment, burnout and infighting rife in the organisation, a result of its turbulent culture and the heavy demands made of activists by BF’s leader, Paul Golding.

BF is fielding its unimpressive Sussex organiser, David Bamber, in the Cokeham ward of Adur and Amanda Peel, an attendee of anti-migrant, anti-LGBT+ and Tommy Robinson-organised demonstrations, in Coventry (Bablake ward).

Meanwhile, Nick Scanlon is standing in the London Mayoral and Assembly elections. Scanlon first stood for the BNP in 2014 and later became a core member of Generation Identity UK (GI UK), a now defunct far-right youth group that advocated for a form of racial segregation. After GI UK folded, Scanlon flirted with Patriotic Alternative but soon left for Identity England, a microscopic GI UK successor group. He remains active in this irrelevant outfit despite being at the forefront of BF’s electoral efforts.

Nick Scanlon (left) and Nick Griffin in 2020

Patriotic Alternative

Meanwhile the fascist group Patriotic Alternative (PA) has failed yet again to deliver on its promises. 

The perceived indifference of the PA leadership towards electioneering, and in particular its repeated failure to register as a political party, was a crucial factor in the exodus of large chunks of its membership to the newly formed Homeland Party last year. 

Humiliated by Homeland’s successful registration this January, PA has offered financial and organisational backing to activists who wished to stand as independents, a move leader Mark Collett described as a “middle finger” to Homeland. 

However, while three PA-backed candidates were announced to stand in the North West – home of the group’s most active branch – only one appears on the candidate lists. 

Callum Hewitt, standing in Halton (Central & West Bank ward), is a former Britain First activist who is best known for pestering bypassers in shopping centres while dressed in crusader cosplay. 

Callum Hewitt in his Britain First days

Sam Melia, PA’s de facto third-in-command, was also planning to stand before his conviction and subsequent imprisonment for race hate-related charges in March.

That PA has proved incapable not only of registering as a party, but also of delivering most of its promised campaigns, is damning and Hewitt’s superficial effort is unlikely to enthuse any remaining PA supporters interested in the political process.

The Homeland Party

The Homeland Party, a PA splinter group, is similarly pinning its hopes on just a single candidate, Roger Robertson in Hart (Hartley Wintney ward). 

Robertson is the former South East Regional Organiser for the BNP, a role he later reprised as a member of For Britain, the anti-Muslim UKIP offshoot that collapsed in 2022. He then joined the British Democrats, but obscured his party affiliation when standing as an independent candidate in Hartley Wintney in 2023. He scraped second place with 569 votes (22.6%), a sizable increase on his results under the For Britain banner in 2019 (215 votes, 8.5%). 

That Homeland is channelling its energies into a single seat, after a year of trumpeting the virtues of local electioneering, may seem surprising. However, Robertson, who jumped ship to Homeland in February, is highly unusual among the group’s activists in that he has actual experience in local politics, having sat as a parish councillor for over a decade. 

Instead, Homeland is encouraging its activists to get co-opted into parish and community councils. This is the lowest tier of local government, which activists can often enter practically unopposed, but which Homeland views as a means to build local support. To this end the group is attempting to conceal its extreme ideology and present a “squeaky clean” image, despite the fact that leading activists have praised the Third Reich, been photographed making Nazi salutes, used extreme racial slurs and much else.

Having no local activist base, Homeland has drafted in activists as far as Fulford in Staffordshire, some 165 miles away, to campaign for Robertson.

British Democrats

Despite boasting that it has experienced “unprecedented growth” over the past two years, the British Democrats, an offshoot from the BNP, is fielding just four candidates this May.

These are leader Jim Lewthwaite, the perennial candidate in Bradford (Wyke ward), Julian Leppert in Epping Forest (in the newly formed Waltham Abbey North ward), Lawrence Rustem in Maidstone (Shepway ward) and Chris Bateman in Basildon (Castledon & Crouch). 

All four are previous BNP activists, while Lewthwaite, Leppert and Rustem are former BNP councillors. All but Lewthwaite have joined the British Democrats by way of the now-defunct For Britain. 

Leppert was elected to Epping Forest’s Waltham Abbey Paternoster ward under the For Britain banner in 2019 with 321 votes (40.7%), gaining further local notoriety for saying he would like Epping to be a “whites-only” enclave. He lost his seat last year, coming third with 187 (25%). 

Other far-right groups, independents and conspiracy theorists

Among the other minor far-right groups to stand is the National Housing Party UK, which is headed by John Lawrence and Pat McGinnis, former Britain First and BNP activists respectively. 

Lawrence is the group’s sole representative, standing in his hometown of Oldham (Hollinwood ward), where last year he came ninth of ten candidates. McGinnis has not stood himself since receiving a single (one) vote in the Camden Council by-election (Hampstead Town ward) in July 2022. 

A number of other far-right and conspiracy theory-oriented candidates are standing as independents. This includes Gary Butler, who has previously stood for the fascist National Front and the English Democrats. Frankie Rufolo, a former candidate for the now-defunct For Britain who is best known for setting fire to a Quran, is also standing in Exeter (Exwick ward). 

Elsewhere, Graham Steele, leader of the tiny but extreme conspiracy theory-driven, anti-5G group Save Us Now. Steele has failed to exceed double digit votes the past three years running.


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