EXCL Heidi Allen slams Change UK vetting company after candidates forced to quit
Heidi Allen has hit out at the “top end vetting company” which approved MEP candidates for Change UK who were later found to have posted offensive comments on social media.
In an interview with The House magazine, the party’s interim leader said she was “angry” at the “unprofessional” work done by the firm.
Two Change UK candidates were forced to stand down within 24 hours of the party’s European election launch this week.
Ali Sadjady quit as a candidate over comments he made in the past about “Romanian pickpockets”. Joseph Russo, who was number one of the party’s list in Scotland, later pulled out after a string of offensive social media posts were uncovered.
Ms Allen, who resigned from the Conservatives in February, said a conversation would have to take place internally to find out how the candidates were approved to stand for Change UK.
“We paid for a professional top end vetting company to do that work for us. They’ve missed a couple of things,” she told The House.
When asked how that made her feel, she replied: “Angry, disappointed. It’s unprofessional, it’s not good enough. But we’re not perfect, nobody’s perfect. In life, in any area of life, you accept you can’t do everything yourself. That’s why you pay other organisations or businesses to do things for you where they have the skills, recognising that you don’t.
“So, we were very clear that as MPs flipping through a list of names going ‘oh, I like the sound of that one, I’m not sure about them, I’ll do a quick Google’. That was never going to be good enough, so we paid for professionals to do this for us. So, there’s a conversation to be had there because clearly, they failed on that.”
Responding to the criticism of her party for the row, Ms Allen said: “It’s the reality of being in politics, isn’t it? I tell you what, if people weren’t jumping up and down on us and trying to pick holes, that would mean that we don’t matter.
“The fact that they’re having to says we must be a bit of a threat. What is it they say, there’s no such thing as bad news, bad press or whatever the phrase is? I definitely subscribe to that.
“But if we were indifferent, if we were insignificant they wouldn’t care. That tells me we must be doing something right.”
NO DEAL ON THE BALLOT
Elsewhere in the interview, Ms Allen argued that no deal should be on the ballot paper at a second EU referendum.
She argued that some “knocking around” in the Commons was needed to find out which type of Brexit – such as remaining in a customs union with the EU – had the support of Parliament.
Ms Allen said that would be put in a vote to the public against a Remain option – but expressed “sympathy” with those who would like to see a no deal exit option.
“The Electoral Commission would have a view about how it might split the vote or whether it might artificially give advantage in one direction or the other. That’s the argument people say, ‘well, you’ll be splitting the vote if it’s the leaving deal or the no deal’. If that is the conclusion, then clearly, we can’t have that,” she said.
“But I feel like we should be offering no deal to some people because that is clean Brexit. But one thing I am, without doubt, 100 per cent clear on is that Remain as we are has to be on the ballot paper because that’s what we’re comparing. We’re in it, versus whatever the brave new world might look like.”