Andrew Bridgen: former Conservative MP joins Laurence Fox’s Reclaim Party but refuses to call by-election
Andrew Bridgen criticised both main parties, saying it is ‘almost as if parliament works for another master’
Former Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen has confirmed that he will join the Reclaim Party, becoming its first MP, as he criticised both the Conservatives and Labour, describing Rishi Sunak as “out of touch”.
Bridgen, who was expelled from the Conservative Party over a tweet comparing harms associated with the Covid vaccine rollout to the holocaust, said his constituents would not want him to call a by-election now, but confirmed he will stand at the next general election.
Laurence Fox, the former actor and musician who founded Reclaim with the financial backing of longtime Conservative donor Jeremy Hosking, said the party will target “problematic Tories” and Labour MPs, in a “very targeted campaign”.
Fox also left open the possibility of more sitting MPs joining Reclaim, and a possible pact with Reform UK, pointing out that Ben Habib, a prominent member of Reform, was in attendance at the press conference.
What did Andrew Bridgen say?
At a press conference in Westminster this morning (10 May), Bridgen formally announced that he is joining Reclaim, saying there is a “chasm” between Parliament and the people. The North West Leicestershire MP said there is “a huge chasm now between our Parliament and what goes on in Westminster and the people.”
He said he was joining Laurence Fox’s party “because they respect free speech as the basis for every aspect of our democracy and our society”.
The conference began with a video message from Bridgen in which the former Conservative MP talked up his credentials as a constituency MP, focusing on conventional political talking points rather than culture war issues.
But following the video, Fox spoke at length about accusations of racism, transgenderism and so-called “cancel culture,” saying he had been cancelled following an appearance on BBC Question Time. Following Fox, Bridgen gave a speech relating primarily to his views on Covid vaccines, describing them as unsafe and experimental.
Bridgen, who said he has received encouragement in private from a number of backbench MPs, described his former party’s leadership as out of touch, before going on to suggest that it is “almost as if parliament works for another master”. He predicted that there will be more Reclaim MPs in the future.
Asked if he would call a by-election, Bridgen said he wouldn’t like to put his constituents through two elections. Fox added that “perhaps Rishi Sunak should call a by-election”.
Asked whether the party is in talks with other MPs, particularly a number of former Conservatives who’ve lost the whip and currently sit as independent, Fox declined to comment, saying only that “all will be revealed”.
He said Reclaim’s strategy will not be to stand candidates in all 650 constituencies, but to target “problematic Tories and Labour”.
Bridgen said he will send out a letter to all constituents in the coming days, adding that he will be in “full campaigning mode from next week”.
What is the Reclaim Party - and what are Bridgen’s chances?
Bridgen, who was first elected in 2010, currently enjoys a sizeable majority of more than 20,000 votes, having achieved a 62.8% vote share in 2019 compared with Labour’s 24.9%.
Generally, sitting MPs who stand for election as an independent or a different party to the one they were elected to represent tend not to succeed. A number of former Labour and Conservative MPs stood in 2019 for the newly formed Change UK, with all of them losing their seats.
The Reclaim Party was officially launched in 2020 by Laurence Fox, with support from major Conservative donor Jeremy Hoksing, who has business interests in a variety of industries, including significant investments in oil and gas.
Fox ran for London mayor in 2021 under the Reclaim banner, centring his campaign on an “anti-woke” platform. He received less than 2% of the vote and lost his deposit.
Between March 2019 and October 2022, Hosking gave £2.9 million in donations and services to Reclaim.
Hosking, a strong supporter of Brexit, has previously funded Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which later became Reform UK, and has backed anti-net zero campaigns in the past. In the press conference today, Fox referred to net zero as a major policy which does not have public support.