Nigel Farage ‘open-minded’ about joining Tories after election

Nigel Farage is attending the launch of the Popular Conservatives group in his role as a GB News presenter
Nigel Farage is attending the launch of the Popular Conservatives group in his role as a GB News presenter - Tayfun Salci/Aalamy Stock Photo
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Nigel Farage has said he is “open-minded” about joining the Conservative Party after the next election as he pushes for a “major” realignment of the Right.

The former Ukip and Brexit Party leader, the honorary president of Reform UK, hinted at a move ahead of his attendance at a launch event for the new Popular Conservatives group on Tuesday.

Liz Truss, the former prime minister, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former business secretary, and Lee Anderson, who quit as deputy Tory chairman over the Rwanda Bill, will all speak at the event.

The Popular Conservatives group is attempting to push the Tories further to the Right on issues such as the scale of tax cuts and a willingness to consider leaving the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Farage will be in the audience, attending in his role as a GB News presenter, but his presence has renewed speculation about whether he hopes to attempt a populist takeover of the Conservatives, as suspected by some Number 10 insiders.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Farage said he would not try to join the Tories before the election, expected to take place in the autumn, saying he disagreed with too many of their policies.

However, asked whether he could seek to join the party after the election, Mr Farage said it depended on how the Right of British politics realigned.

“I think we just have to wait to see,” he said. “I’m open-minded about anything that happens after the election.”

Pointing to factors such as the size of a potential Labour victory, how well Reform does in the vote and how the Tories then change, he went on: “Let’s see. But for me the thought that the official Conservative Party is ever going to move, it doesn’t look very likely. But who knows?”

In 2019, the Brexit Party, then led by Mr Farage, agreed to stand down candidates in seats held by the Tories to help Boris Johnson get enough MPs to pass a deal to take the UK out of the European Union.

But ahead of this election, Reform, the Brexit Party’s successor, which is led by Richard Tice, has made no such promise, complicating Rishi Sunak’s attempts to win his party a fifth term in office.

Support for Reform has surged in recent months amid Tory infighting over direction. The Telegraph’s election poll tracker has the party on 10 per cent and the Tories on 25 per cent. Labour remains way ahead on 45 per cent.

Mr Farage said leading members of the new Popular Conservatives group, described as “PopCon” by some, are arguing for similar policy stances to those adopted by Reform.

He added: “If you look at what I anticipate Truss is going to say and what Richard Tice is saying, then you have to think that at some point in time these people will all be together. I think there is the possibility of a post-election major realignment occurring and I can see PopCon potentially as being part of that process.”

Nigel Farage and Richard Tice, pictured at a Brexit Party event in 2019
Nigel Farage and Richard Tice, pictured at a Brexit Party event in 2019 - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Only Conservative MPs can run to be party leader. Should Mr Farage seek to become a Tory member or a Tory MP after the election, the party leadership would have to approve it.

If the Tories lose the election and Mr Sunak resigns, his potential successors – Kemi Badenoch and Suella Braverman rank highly in Tory membership polls – would be likely to be asked if they would let Mr Farage join.

Mr Anderson, one of the speakers on the stage on Tuesday, indicated on Sunday that he would not oppose such a move.

Discussing the prospect of Mr Farage becoming a Tory member, he told The Telegraph: “Anybody who ticks the boxes with strong Conservative values should be welcomed into the Conservative Party.” However, he made it clear that he was not endorsing Mr Farage’s return.

The breadth of support on the Tory benches for the Popular Conservatives remains unclear. Already, five different Tory groups are occupying similar political space.

According to an excerpt of what he plans to argue at the launch event, Sir Jacob will say: “There is a global disconnect between the elected and the electors. This is showing itself in the protests seen recently in France, Germany and Brussels, as well as the election results in Holland and election debate in the United States.

“Domestically, we have seen power go from the democratic parts of the constitution to the appointed parts. This has made the Government less responsive to the needs of the people and closer to those who have a hierarchical, internationalist view of government.

“Popular conservatism is about restoring this balance and returning power to Parliament while taking it away from quangos and a judiciary that has become more political.”

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