Thursday, June 20, 2024

Nigel Farage decides not to stand in UK general election -Dlight News

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Nigel Farage will not stand as a candidate in this year’s general election, a decision that leaves the right-wing Reform UK party without its most prominent name on the ballot and eases pressure on the Conservatives.

Farage, one of the party’s founders and honorary president, said he would “do his bit” in the UK, but will focus on campaigning with grassroots groups ahead of November’s US election between Donald Trump and incumbent Joe Biden, a contest he said had “global significance”.

Reform UK launched its election campaign in London on Thursday, with party leader Richard Tice, who replaced Farage in 2021, confirming his party would stand candidates in all constituencies in Great Britain.

Tice said Sunak had “bottled it” in calling an early election for July 4. 

“The truth is he’s bottled it, he’s absolutely cut and run, because he’s absolutely terrified because Reform is going up and up in the polls.” 

The party is currently polling at about 12 per cent and is expected to eat into the Tory’s right flank in the election, while also drawing some votes from Labour in certain areas of the country.

There had been fears among senior Tory officials that Reform would bleed sufficient votes from the Conservatives to rob the party of several seats in the upcoming ballot.

“As honorary president of Reform UK, I am fully supportive of Richard Tice’s leadership and urge voters to put their trust in him and Lee Anderson,” Farage posted on social media platform X.

Farage’s decision means that Tice will lead the party into this year’s election, with the arch-Brexiter playing a more muted role in the campaign. 

Tice said he was “delighted” to have Farage’s “help during the election”, although it is not yet clear exactly how prominent the former stockbroker intends to be in the coming six weeks.

The reaction from Tory MPs was mixed. Some felt that without Farage centrestage, the threat from Reform had receded.

One former minister at risk from a strong Reform vote in their constituency said they were “delighted, locally and nationally” about Farage’s decision not to stand.

Another Tory insider said: “The Farage thing is huge. It saves us 30-40 seats.”

Other Conservatives were still pessimistic. Adam Holloway, Tory MP for Gravesham in Kent, told the Financial Times that Reform was on track to split the right-wing vote, see the Tories defeated and “will help Labour to remain in power for at least 10 to 15 years”. 

“I’m concerned about them. They will smash the Tories,” he added.

Reform currently has one MP, Lee Anderson, who defected from the Conservatives in March following his suspension from the party after claiming “Islamists” had “control” of London’s mayor Sadiq Khan. Tice will stand for the seat of Boston and Skegness in Lincolnshire. 

Its performance in May’s local elections, where it stood in roughly 12 per cent of council seats and took only two, fell short of expectations. 

The party has also struggled to raise large donations, and has only recently hired a vetting company after several candidates were found to have posted inflammatory remarks on social media, according to party officials.

Farage, who took a paid position at right-wing broadcaster GB News as a host after stepping down from Reform in 2021, remains a director and majority shareholder in the party, which is structured as a limited company. 

He recently told Talk TV that he had a “very firm job offer” in the US that would enable him to “indirectly” support Trump’s election campaign.  

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