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Will Reform UK, Heritage Party and Alliance for Democracy and Freedom take votes from Conservative Julie Marson in Hertford and Stortford?

Should Conservative Julie Marson be worried that Hertford and Stortford voters now have a choice of seven candidates on July 4, including the representatives of two little-known parties?

Barry Hensall, of the Heritage Party, and Jane Fowler, of the Alliance for Democracy and Freedom (ADF), will have to work hard to hold on to their £500 deposit by winning at least 5% of the votes cast.

Immigration is top of their agenda. Both parties have roots in the UK Independence Party, once headed by Nigel Farage before he launched the Brexit Party – now Reform UK.

The “socially conservative” Heritage Party, which has 41 General Election candidates, is led by David Kurten, who held a London Assembly seat for UKIP.

Founded in 2020, it claims to have 10 councillors on town and parish councils in Cornwall, Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Sussex, Wiltshire and Wigtownshire in Scotland.

For a flavour of its policies, Mr Kurten highlights: no more lockdowns, no experimental injections, peace with Russia, ceasefire in Gaza, free speech for all and traditional family values.

Jane Fowler and Barry Hensall
Jane Fowler and Barry Hensall

On immigration, the party’s website is clear: “More robust checks should be conducted at harbours and airports to prevent illegal immigration, and all means of forced entry to the country by migrants should be made unviable.

“There must be an end to rewards and incentives which encourage spurious claims of asylum by illegal immigrants who have travelled through a number of safe countries to claim benefits in the UK.”

The ADF describes itself as “a political party, not left or right, but centre sensible”.

Its leader, Dr Teck Khong, stood in the General Elections of 2005 and 2017, representing, respectively, the Conservative Party and UKIP. He fought the 2019 General Election as an Independent Brexit candidate.

The party’s website lists 19 policies ranging from elderly care to HGV drivers. Like the Heritage Party, immigration is a big-ticket item for the alliance.

“Our priority is to put the rights of the settled population above the rights of illegal immigrants. Nothing else will work until we do,” it says. “We would adopt a no-nonsense policy when dealing with illegal immigrants. To stem the flow, we will change their expectations of what happens to them if they enter illegally.”

According to some polls and models, Julie Marson was already trailing in the seat she won easily in December 2019 before her new right-wing rivals were confirmed, ramping up the pressure she was already facing from Reform UK’s John Burmicz. Together, how much of her remaining support will they shave away?

The Hertford and Stortford seat has a long tradition of fringe candidates taking part, most recently barman Brian Percival, who stood as an Independent in 2019. He came last of six contenders with 308 votes – 33,404 behind Mrs Marson.

Before the election, he explained why he was putting his head above the political parapet: “I am standing as an Independent to show that anyone is able to stand and, every now and then, anyone should.”

As the dust settled, he had some prescient thoughts about the result, which saw the Tories led by Boris Johnson sweep to victory with 365 MPs.

He said: “This seems to have been less about Brexit and more about communities that feel forgotten by their representatives. I hope everyone in British politics today looks at this situation and realises never to take their electorate for granted again.

“My further hope is that now that our Prime Minister has a much wider majority he doesn’t need to pander to the right wing of his party quite so much any more and perhaps even swing more towards the centre of politics.”

So much has changed in the five years since then. Perhaps if the Tories had heeded his words, Labour would not be so far ahead in the polls.

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