Nigel Farage has said he wants to shake up the British political system as he launched his Brexit Party in time to stand in the European elections.
The former UKIP leader announced the first candidates of the newly-formed Brexit Party at a launch event in Coventry, revealing its new chairman was businessman and entrepreneur Richard Tice.
In a surprise standing, Annunziata Rees-Mogg, journalist and sister of Conservative backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg announced she would be a candidate for Mr Farage’s party.
Mr Farage said: “All over the world, people look on with incredulity because they still think that we are a great country.
“And the funny thing is that we, the people, still think that we are a great country.
“But our leaders are happy to continue down the path of managed decline.
“I genuinely believe right now, this nation, we are lions led by donkeys.
“Not only are our leaders weak, not only have they wilfully betrayed this result, but they are also pretty much incompetent.
“They are not actually very good at what they do, they are not very good at anything.”
He said there were too many “classic career politicians” who he said would “embrace the European project” because it provided a “safety net for anyone who fails in national politics”.
Mr Farage has stood in seven UK national elections and lost every time. He has been a member of the European Parliament since 1999.
Addressing party finances, Mr Farage said the new website had already brought in £750,000 in 10 days in small donations from members of the public.
He said he would welcome big donors, but thought it would be more exciting if hundreds of thousands of small donors funded the “rebirth of democracy”.
The leader announced several candidates, including Ms Rees-Mogg, the sister of the ERG chairman and a former Conservative candidate herself, and Richard Tice, a businessman who will be the party’s new chairman.
Ms Rees-Mogg said: “I joined the Conservative Party in 1984 and this is not a decision I have made lightly – to leave a party for which I have fought at every election since 1987, from Maggie Thatcher through to Theresa May.
“I know which one I’d rather have representing us now.”
She added: “We’ve got to rescue our democracy.”
Mr Tice said: “We know this country deserves so much better. That is why the Brexit Party is going to do things differently.
“If we carry on under this leadership we will be here on Halloween night writing another begging letter. It must stop.
“There’s a huge movement ladies and gentlemen. This is a time to change politics for good.”
The campaign launch comes on the day the UK had been set to leave the EU without a deal, but for a last minute second extension to the Article 50 date which was granted by leaders this week.
It means the UK will have to hold the European Parliament elections, which has sparked outrage among many in the Conservative Party. There is speculation the votes could be split among more parties this year, although estimates of turnout vary from very high to very low. The turnout at the last European Parliament elections was about 36%.
Reaction came from Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who tweeted: “You preach fear, hatred and division, Nigel. But the vast majority of the British people are crying out for a politics of hope, respect and community.
“We will face you down, and we will defeat you. Bring it.”
The new party has already faced controversy. Its first leader quit after Islamophobic tweets were uncovered, a matter Mr Farage referred to as “teething problems”.
He also said the party would be “intolerant of intolerance”, saying he would make it different in terms of “personnel” to his last party, UKIP.
In its current form, UKIP has admitted members from the EDL and the BNP, something Mr Farage has been very critical of.
The Brexit Party has also already been targeted by anti-Brexit campaigners. Activists Led By Donkeys bought the registration for TheBrexitParty.com and put a message on it reading: “Nigel Farage Doesn’t Represent Britain.
“Nigel Farage wants to register a huge victory in the European elections, but he can’t even register his own website.
“Seven times he’s failed to get elected to Westminster. But he did get himself a seat in the European Parliament because at the time hardly any of us cared. Well we do now.
“Nobody is more responsible than Farage for the diminished state of our nation.
“Now he’s seeking to exploit the turmoil he himself created to get re-elected to Brussels on the 23rd May – Register to vote by May 7th to stop him.”