Nigel Farage claims Sunak called snap election over ‘fear’ of Reform

Mr Farage will not stand as a Reform UK candidate in the upcoming election but that he will ‘do my bit to help’ the party

Archie Mitchell
Friday 24 May 2024 09:00 BST
Nigel Farage says Rishi Sunak called snap election over 'fear' of Reform

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Nigel Farage has said Rishi Sunak called a snap general election to scupper his own plans of standing as a candidate for Reform UK.

The former UKIP leader and Reform honorary president said he was preparing to launch a campaign next week to become an MP, but was caught off guard by the prime minister’s announcement.

Six weeks isn’t long enough to find a constituency seat and campaign around the country,” Mr Farage said.

Nigel Farage said he had ‘put in place some preparations to launch next week’
Nigel Farage said he had ‘put in place some preparations to launch next week’ (@Nigel_Farage/Twitter)

On Thursday morning, the GB News host confirmed he would not stand in the 4 July election but that he will “do my bit to help” the party in the UK campaign. He also suggested he will run as a candidate in a future election, with the next contest likely to be held in 2029.

Appearing on GB News as a guest during his typical show slot, he said: “I have always said that there will be a moment when I throw my hat in the ring fully into British politics. I’ve also said aged 60, I’ve got one more card to play and it’s about when I play it.

“I had, to be honest with you, put in place some preparations to launch next week.

“I wonder whether the Conservative Party found out about it. I think the sense of panic that we saw yesterday, the badly prepared speech, might perhaps have prompted it a little bit.”

Asked to clarify that he was referring to launching a campaign to stand as an MP, he confirmed saying: “Yes, absolutely.”

Nigel Farage said he was ‘absolutely’ planning to stand as a candidate in the general election
Nigel Farage said he was ‘absolutely’ planning to stand as a candidate in the general election (PA Archive)

But Mr Farage admitted the Prime Minister had “wrong-footed” him by calling an election for July 4.

He said: “What I could not do in the space of six weeks… was to find a constituency from scratch and go around the country.”

He added he had not decided which constituency he would run in as of yet as there were “a variety of options” which he felt he could have gone for.

Mr Farage has stood for election to the House of Commons seven times, in five general elections and two by-elections, losing each time by significant margins.

Despite not running as a candidate, Mr Farage said he would campaign for Reform UK and stressed his support for party leader Richard Tice.

He told GB News: “Am I going to be campaigning? Yes. Am I backing Richard Tice? One hunderd per cent… I am utterly committed to Reform.

“I believe their agenda is the only one that can actually stop the sense of national decline that we’re in.”

There had been speculation that Reform UK’s honorary president could return to frontline politics for the national vote for which Rishi Sunak on Wednesday set the summer date.

I will do my bit to help in the campaign, but it is not the right time for me to go any further than that

Nigel Farage

But earlier on Thursday, Mr Farage said he would focus on getting Donald Trump re-elected rather than stand as a Reform UK candidate in the general election.

The arch Brexiteer also said he would “do my bit to help” the party in the UK campaign, but that it was not the right time “to go any further than that”.

Ahead of the launch of Reform UK’s campaign on Thursday, Mr Farage said in a statement posted on X: “I have thought long and hard as to whether I should stand in the upcoming general election.

“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.

“I will do my bit to help in the campaign, but it is not the right time for me to go any further than that.

“Important though the general election is, the contest in the United States of America on November 5 has huge global significance. A strong America as a close ally is vital for our peace and security. I intend to help with the grassroots campaign in the USA in any way that I can.

“The choice between Labour and the Conservatives is uninspiring, and only Reform have the radical agenda that is needed to end decline in this country.”

Mr Farage has a longstanding relationship with the former US president, having been the first UK politician to meet Mr Trump after his 2016 White House election victory.

Mr Farage is cancelling his GB News show to free up time for campaigning.

Reform UK leader Mr Tice, a multimillionaire former Tory donor, said on X: “Delighted to have Nigel’s help during the election campaign.

“If you want change, you must vote for @reformparty_uk on July 4th.”

Mr Tice inherited the leadership of Reform UK, originally called the Brexit Party, from Mr Farage when he decided to step back from frontline politics in 2021 in the aftermath of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

The party is seeking to attract disillusioned Conservative voters, mainly over the issues of immigration and net zero.

Many Tories fear it could put a real dent in Mr Sunak’s hopes of a return to Downing Street come polling day.

They are likely to be relieved ex-Ukip leader Mr Farage has decided against taking on a more prominent role, as this could have massively boosted Reform’s prospects.

Tory former Cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg previously said: “The fact that he’s not a candidate for an opposition party is inevitably helpful for the Conservatives.”

Mr Farage has unsuccessfully stood for Parliament several times, most recently in 2015.

In the 2019 election, he withdrew Brexit Party candidates in Conservative-held seats, a move that is thought to have contributed to Boris Johnson’s victory.

Mr Anderson, the former Tory deputy chairman, is the only current Reform UK MP following his defection from the Conservatives.

At Reform’s election launch event, former MEP Ben Habib appeared to take a coded dig at Mr Farage’s decision not to stand.

Mr Habib, who is standing in Wellingborough, said: “For any political movement to succeed, it needs a leader who is prepared to absolutely stay the distance and make the fight.”

He said Mr Tice “has the moral courage not to vacate either when the going gets tough, or when it might suit him”.

Asked if he was referencing Mr Farage, Mr Habib said: “You interpret (my comment) as you see fit. In any walk of life, you have to stay the distance.”

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