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Conservatives face ‘existential risk’ as Farage says he will stand as candidate for Reform UK

Nigel Farage electrified the general election campaign, taking the helm of Reform UK and launching a bid to become an MP.

As first revealed The independentMr Farage will stand in Tory-held Clacton, Essex, in what is already being described as “an existential risk” for the Tories.

The move comes as a blow to Rishi Sunak’s electoral hopes, as the former UKIP leader – who had said he would not stand in the general election – confirmed he had changed his mind and decided to stand in the legislative elections.

Hours after the revelation, Tory MPs and candidates were invited to attend a briefing on an ‘immigration lock’ pledge, meaning a Tory government would set a legal limit on annual immigration figures . The move was seen as an attempt to prevent Reform UK and Farage from splitting votes on the right.

Mr Farage’s announcement comes on a day when two major polls suggested the Conservatives were already heading for a historically serious defeat. A Yougov MRP poll of 12,000 people predicts Labor will win its biggest majority in more than 100 years on 194 seats, with the Conservatives stuck on 140 seats.

Earlier, a Redfield and Wilton poll of 10,000 voters placed Labor 26 points ahead of Labor on just 20 per cent, suggesting the party could end up just 24 seats short. This followed a weekend MRP poll suggesting the Conservatives could be reduced to 66 votes.

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Nigel Farage at a press conference with Reform UK leader Richard Tice (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)Nigel Farage at a press conference with Reform UK leader Richard Tice (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Nigel Farage at a press conference with Reform UK leader Richard Tice (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

However, the news of Mr Farage’s candidacy makes the outlook for the Conservatives even worse, according to leading pollsters.

Polling guru Professor Sir John Curtice described the intervention as “important”.

Lord Hayward, a Conservative peer and leading pollster, said The independent that Mr Farage’s initial decision not to stand meant the Reform vote would be far lower than reflected in the polls and “had been the most damaging thing for any individual party”.

Luke Tryl of pollsters More in Common tweeted: “Given our MRP pre-dated Nigel Farage announcing he was taking over as leader of Reform UK and the Tories lost 185 seats and held another 50 under 4 percent, I think that’s the case. It is fair to say that his decision poses an existential risk for the Conservative party.

Mr Farage’s return to head Reform UK came with a promise to serve for five years alongside the opposition Conservatives. Former leader Richard Tice will become party president.

Explaining his bid to become an MP, as first revealed exclusively by The independent On Monday lunchtime, Mr Farage said he could not disappoint “the millions of people” who had supported his past political plans.

At what he called an emergency press conference, he added: “There’s something going on there.

“There is in this country a rejection of the political class in a way never seen in modern times. »

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “Nigel Farage risks giving Keir Starmer a blank check to rejoin the EU, impose pension tax on pensioners and raise taxes on hard-working Britons across the country. United Kingdom.

“Farage knows Reform won’t win any seats, but he doesn’t seem to care that a vote for Reform only helps Labour. He is doing exactly what Keir Starmer wants him to do.

“Only yesterday, EU actors openly expressed their expectation that Starmer would seek a softer Brexit deal, opening the door to comprehensive reintegration into the EU. This would mean uncontrolled immigration and a betrayal of the will of the British people. Is Farage really prepared to risk destroying his life’s work by handing Starmer a blank check to rejoin the EU?

Mr Farage is taking a risk as he has never won a parliamentary seat after seven attempts. He did, however, win national elections to the European Parliament as leader of UKIP and the Brexit Party (now Reform UK).

On Monday, he said he had only run “seriously” once, once he said conservatives cheated. “All the previous times it was like a pressure group to get the word out about why we thought leaving the EU made sense when no one else in Parliament was saying it. »

Rishi Sunak heads for historically bad defeat (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)Rishi Sunak heads for historically bad defeat (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)

Rishi Sunak heads for historically bad defeat (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Wire)

He also said Labor had already won the election and there was no contest between Mr Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer. And he added that the Reform Party believes the current general election campaign is “the dullest, most boring election we have ever seen.” “We think this election needs a little preparation,” he added.

Outlining the reformers’ long-term ambitions, Mr Farage said they would form the opposition in the next parliament and be the largest party in the 2029 general election. ‘It’s ambition, simple as that’ , he added.

And he said the party would surprise everyone, securing far more votes than the 3.9 million UKIP won in 2015.

He added: “When people start to realize the red wall, with Reform behind Labour, when they start to realize that in reality, in these seats, it is a Tory vote that is a vote for the Labor Party, a Conservative vote is a wasted vote. , so I think we might surprise everyone.

“We appeal to Conservative voters, we appeal to Labor voters.”

Responding to the announcement, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said: “The Conservative Party has already become a reflection of Nigel Farage’s reform.

“Rishi Sunak’s continued pandering to reformists has horrified former lifelong Tory voters at the centre.

“Sunak must show courage and rule out Farage joining the Conservative Party in the future, including if he is elected as an MP.”

The Yougov MRP poll, before Mr Farage’s statement, gave the Conservatives the most optimistic result, but nevertheless faced them with the worst defeat in their 346-year history.

It suggested Labor would gain a 194-seat majority with 422 seats, compared to just 140 for the Conservatives and 48 for the Liberal Democrats, bolstered by a tactical voting campaign revealed by The independent during the weekend.

The result would mean big names including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, House Leader Penny Mordaunt and Brexit supporter Jacob Rees-Mogg would lose their seats.

But other polls suggest the outcome could be even worse – even before Mr Farage decides to run. The Redfield and Wilton poll of 10,000 voters puts Labor 26 points behind the Conservatives, 46 per cent to 20 per cent. This could leave the Conservatives with just 24 seats and research director Philip Can Scheltinga confidently predicted they would get “less than 100 seats”.

Techne UK has been forecasting fewer than 100 seats for the Conservatives for months since the fall of Boris Johnson.

Techne chief executive Michela Morizzo suggested Tuesday night’s leaders’ debate between Mr Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer could be a last chance for the Prime Minister.

She said: “In this particular case, I think the debate will be useful in consolidating the opinion of those who have already formed their own opinions and have clear ideas about who to vote for. Certainly, even some undecided voters may have clearer ideas after the debate – especially the less informed – but it is difficult to say today whether this can reduce the gap, but above all difficult to achieve.

Lord Hayward noted: “There are many undecided voters, particularly 2019 Conservative voters. The Prime Minister’s best hope is to try to woo them. This means that, in an unusual way, this debate may offer him a chance.”

However, Sir John Curtice warned that televised debates are unlikely to change things, with the only major change coming with ‘Cleggmania’, when former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg stormed the first debate of 2010.

He said: “It’s a chance (for Sunak) but no more. Both 2019 showdowns were followed by only marginal changes in the polls – slightly to Labor’s advantage. Nothing has ever replicated the impact of the first (three-way) debate in 2010.”

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