Change UK reveal Rachel Johnson and Gavin Esler as European Parliament candidates

23 April 2019, 13:37 | Updated: 23 April 2019, 14:51

Rachel Johnson and Gavin Esler have been unveiled as some of Change UK's candidates for the upcoming European elections.

They were among 70 people from a mix of backgrounds who gathered in Bristol on Tuesday to present themselves as the "Remain alliance".

Leader Heidi Allen said more than 3,500 people had offered to stand in the election to choose a new cohort of MEPs next month for the political party wing of The Independent Group.

She described the candidates as from "every corner of the UK" and from "all walks of life".

Gavin Esler, a former BBC Newsnight presenter with more than 40 years' experience in journalism, said he had never been a member of a political party before - but called the current system a "worldwide joke".

The London region candidate criticised Brexiteers Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg as "pretend men of the people".

He described them as the "posers of Brexit" and said they were "selling the same old snake oil", adding: "They stole our patriotism and I want it back."

Writer Rachel Johnson was also unveiled as a candidate.

The 53-year-old, sister of Brexiteer MP Boris and Remainer MP Jo Johnson - said she did not want to see Brexit "rubbing out" her children's chances of living, travelling and working in Europe.

"These are chances that the politicians who decided to campaign to Leave have enjoyed themselves," Ms Johnson told the Evening Standard.

"It is simply not fair - and sometimes one has to stand up and be counted. It is now that time for me."

She added: "I'm sure that Boris understands why this is not a vote against Boris."

A former Labour activist who stood as a candidate for the party in 2015 will also now run to be an MEP for Change UK.

Victoria Groulef said she had held "pretty much every volunteer role in the Labour Party" but that last year it became clear it was "no longer my political home".

It made her feel "deeply uncomfortable and no longer valued", but she knew she had to quit to support a party backing another referendum, Ms Groulef added.

Reflecting on the candidates, MP Anna Soubry vowed that "our MEPs will actually turn up in the European Parliament" and not be "brawling in the corridors".

At a news conference, Sky News challenged Change UK to say what a good result looked like on 23 May.

MP Chris Leslie dodged the question, responding that: "Our aim is to give the public a choice to clearly and unequivocally to call for a people's vote."

The government still hopes it can avoid holding European Parliament elections, but has begun selecting Conservative candidates and started the necessary procedures to be ready if a poll does need to be held.