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Nigel Farage is (more) bad news for UK Tories

Nigel Farage gets hit with a milkshake

Source: X/Farrukh

Brexit cheerleader and Trump-fanatic Nigel Farage’s decision to run in the British election has created a huge headache for the struggling Conservative Party and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, as Farage’s Reform Party threatens to take votes from a government struggling to stay in power.

Ahead of Britain’s election on July 4, Farage announced this week he would try to win the seat of Clacton in a return to politics.

Tom Howe, a PhD researcher at Monash University, said Farage and the Reform Party appealed to older voters who were unhappy with high levels of immigration and would usually vote for the Conservative Party.

“It’s the over 55s that tip the balance and who are the top target audience in the election campaign and they’re the people who are more likely to vote Reform,” Howe said.

“It is only really in the over-70s that we still have more people supporting the Tories than any other party.”

The Conservatives and Sunak had launched several policies in an effort to fight off Reform cannibalising their vote, he said.

“The national service appeals to the socially conservative, ‘the kids have it too good these days’ type of Reform voter,” Howe said.

“Most of their moves now are appealing to that Reform voter, rather than making moves to the softer moderate voter.”

Divisive

Farage is a divisive figure in British politics, made clear by a recent milkshaking while spruiking for votes, after he campaigned for Brexit while holding a seat in the European Union Parliament.

Howe said Farage has a decent chance of winning Clacton, a Conservative Party seat that voted strongly in favour of Brexit.

“In the same way as some like Trump, some people really like him, but the overwhelming opinion is negative,” he said.

“Richard Tice is supposed to be the leader of Reform, but the fact that Farage has come back probably tells you something about his leadership future.”

Tice stepped aside for Farage as leader of the party in early June.

Farage did not run candidates in seats held by the Conservative Party, known colloquially as the Tories, in 2019 to avoid splitting their vote. He has ruled out doing the same this year after claiming he’d been “betrayed by a Conservative Party I have given considerable help to”.

Farage has previously led the UKIP Party, but formed the Brexit Party in 2018 before renaming it the Reform Party, which became an anti-lockdown party during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reform holds a single seat in the British Parliament after Lee Anderson, a senior figure in the Conservative Party, defected after being suspended for claiming Islamists had control of London’s mayor.

Dire polling

Farage’s entrance into the fray could spell bad news for the Conservatives, after a series of polls showed that Reform was closing in on a government set for a historically bad result.

Rishi Sunak EDM

Rishi Sunak and his Conservative Party are facing an electoral wipeout. Photo: Getty

A recent YouGov poll had Labour with 40 per cent of the vote, while the Tories had 19 per cent to Reform’s 17 per cent.

Howe said Sunak’s unpopularity and gaffes had opened the door for Reform.

“There’s strong potential at this election that the Tories could be wiped out and have their worst performance in history,” he said.

“Farage and Reform already get an inordinate amount of media coverage, and if they start making claims that appeal to young voters, like that they’ll build a million houses, he could be the spearhead of the movement.”

Topics: Rishi Sunak
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