UK Politics

EU elections: Heidi Allen calls Nigel Farage 'a coward' over live TV debate refusal

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Media captionHeidi Allen wanted to go head-to-head with The Brexit Party leader

Change UK leader Heidi Allen has called Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage "a coward" after he refused to take part in a live TV debate with her ahead of the European elections.

Speaking to BBC Politics Live, Ms Allen, whose party backs remaining in the EU, accused Mr Farage of arrogance.

Ms Allen had said she thought a debate was "overdue" as there was "so much at stake" in the vote on 23 May.

Mr Farage declined her offer, asking: "Who is she?"

The challenge was made on Monday night at a Change UK rally in Cardiff.

Ms Allen - who left the Conservatives to join the recently-formed party - said she wanted to put the case for the "open, global, outward Britain that I know that we are".

Told of Mr Farage's refusal, she said: "That's very disappointing.

"In all seriousness, if he has said 'no' that displays to me a level of arrogance that says he thinks that his view is the only one that matters and that the British people are only entitled to listen to his view.

"Well, I have to tell you that he's wrong, and hope sincerely that he changes his mind."

At the Change UK rally: By James Williams, BBC Wales Brexit correspondent

Image copyright AFP

In a conference room at the home of Welsh rugby, Heidi Allen referenced the men in red's 14-match unbeaten run and the Principality Stadium in Cardiff as the venue of many David and Goliath-style battles.

Change UK, she said, faces an equally big battle in achieving its main aim - a second EU referendum and the reversal of Brexit.

But, from my conversations with people after the speeches, many of the people in the 100-150 strong crowd are up for the fight.

They were a mixture of former Labour and Conservative voters who felt politically homeless because of Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May's Brexit stance.

"Politics is broken" was a common refrain from the Change UK MPs and candidates.

Few would argue. But how many believe Change UK is the party to fix it?

Anna Soubry, another Conservative who left to join Change UK, told the BBC that Brexit presented a real predicament for both her old party and Labour.

She said politics in this country was now "broken".

"It is quite astonishing to think that the Labour Party is, in effect, prepared to facilitate Brexit," Ms Soubry said, referring to the ongoing talks.

"Labour is all over the place and it really is a disgraceful situation to see the party of opposition taking such an unprincipled and such a precarious and differing and argumentative stance within their own party.

"But the Tories are in the same predicament."

But Labour MP Yvette Cooper has urged "all political parties to come together" to find a way through the Brexit impasse.

The UK had been due to leave the EU on 29 March, but the deadline was pushed back to 31 October after Parliament was unable to agree a way forward.

Who is standing in the European elections?

Image copyright PA

The UK is divided into 12 regions, each represented by between three and 10 MEPs depending on population size.

Seats in England, Scotland and Wales are awarded to parties according to their share of the vote, to candidates on lists drawn up by the parties.

Northern Ireland elects MEPs using a single transferable vote system, with voters able to rank candidates in order of preference.

Read more on the main parties standing in the election.

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