Nigel Farage still ‘assessing’ what role he will play in general election, says Reform UK leader

Politics

Nigel Farage is still “assessing” what role he will play in the upcoming general election, the leader of Reform UK has said.

Holding a news conference to kick off the long campaign for the general election expected this year, Reform UK leader Richard Tice revealed he had been talking to Mr Farage over the festive break about what role he would play.

“We’ve been talking over the Christmas period and he’s obviously giving a lot of thought as to the extent of the role he wants to play in helping Reform UK, frankly, save Britain,” Mr Tice said.

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“He is still assessing that.

“Nigel is the master of political timing but I’m very clear the job at hand is so big to save Britain, the more help that Nigel is able to give in the election campaign, frankly, the better.”

Mr Farage, who is currently Reform UK’s honorary president, stood down as party leader in 2021, when he was replaced by Mr Tice.

There has been speculation Mr Farage, who founded Reform, could make a political comeback to challenge the Tories over issues including legal and illegal migration.

Mr Tice claimed the Conservatives were “terrified” of the threat his party poses at the ballot box and that they needed a wake up call because a Labour win – which he branded “Starmergeddon” – would be a “disaster” for Britain economically.

He insisted his party would not do any “deals” with the Tories and would instead stand in every seat, with the party having already approved 500 candidates that will be unveiled at a rally next month.

Asked by Sky News how he would feel if Labour won a majority because Reform had split the Conservative vote, Mr Tice said: “I would feel pleased that I’ve helped punish the utter failure of the Conservative Party who have broken Britain.

“They must be punished. They must be ousted. You cannot reward failure with more incumbency.”

Pressed on whether he would contemplate doing a deal with the Conservatives after the election if not before, the Reform leader replied: “Let’s see what happens. I’m focusing on before the election, not after.”

What will a good result look like for Reform UK at the general election?

“Winning it”, said the party’s leader Richard Tice. Of course, it’s not going to happen but others in the room said they would be happy with a handful of seats.

However, if current polling is anything to go by, its main contribution will be to split the Conservative vote. That could pave the way for a Labour majority.

For Reform UK, Labour and the Conservatives are “two sides of the same coin”.

It accuses Mr Sunak of “breaking Britain”, while Sir Keir Starmer will “bankrupt Britain”.

It’s presenting itself as the only meaningful alternative to the status quo and has been buoyed by a bounce in the polls.

Mr Tice said the party’s current polling of about 1 % means the Tories “aren’t laughing anymore” but Labour may well be.

It will not be lost on them that the Labour majorities in the Tamworth and mid-Bedfordshire by-elections were smaller than the number of votes cast for Reform UK. In neither seat was Reform able to sufficiently capitalise on Conservative disenchantment. The winner was Labour.

Mr Tice rubbished the suggestion that his party may be an enabler for Labour.

He said he was “optimistic politically”, but the party has struggled to forge an identity for itself beyond being a meeting ground for disaffected Conservative voters.

For all his bluster about winning the election, the party is thin on policy.

Mr Tice said he wanted to boost economic growth and he presented some vague ideas. Chief among them was a plan to raise the personal allowance to £20,000.

It was an entirely unfunded pledge that may remind some of the Liz Truss era.

If today was about presenting Reform UK as more than just an agitator, it didn’t quite do the job.

Mr Tice accused the Conservatives of failing to bring down immigration in what he called a “betrayal” of Brexit voters.

He said there should be a policy of “one in, one out” and that businesses should “stop relying on the sort of cocaine-like addictive drug of cheap, low skilled immigration”.

He also criticised the party for overseeing tax hikes that mean the UK’s tax burden is still on course to reach its highest level since the Second World War by the next election.

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Mr Tice said in the news conference that the income tax threshold should to be raised to £20,000, allowing potentially millions to avoid paying tax at all.

The Reform leader told Sky News that he believed his income tax policy would cost around £40bn, depending on how many people were in work.

He said the policy would gift workers a net £30 a week in their pay packets and that money could be saved for the policy by scrapping the remaining leg of HS2 after the prime minister cancelled the northern leg last year.

rexit Party presentation on postal votes
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage (left) and party chairman Richard Tice at a presentation on postal votes at Carlton House Terrace in London.
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Picture by: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/PA Images
Date taken: 24-Jun-2019
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Mr Tice says he discussed a potential comeback with Mr Farage

The poll average for Reform currently stands at 9%, behind Labour which is sitting on an average of 42.5%, with the Tories on 25.5%.

The Lib Dems, meanwhile, are polling on average 11% of the vote, according to the Sky News live poll tracker, followed by Reform and the Greens on 5.9% and the SNP on 3.1%.

Conservative Party chair Richard Holden said: “A vote for Reform will only strengthen Labour’s hand – that means a vote for Labour’s £28bn a year spending splurge, driving up taxes for hardworking families.

“The Conservative government is focused on long-term decisions for the country – stopping the boats, driving down inflation and cutting taxes. If voters want real action to deliver a brighter future, the Conservatives are the only choice.”

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