Patrick O’Flynn Patrick O’Flynn

Could Farage save the Tory right?

Nigel Farage (Photo: Getty)

Talk to almost any right-wing Tory MP these days and one of the first things they raise – with me anyway – is whether or not the Reform party is going to cost them their seats.

‘It makes no sense getting rid of people like me. The way we are going, we will only send 100 MPs back after the election and nearly all of them will be from the One Nation wing. They are the ones who tend to have the big majorities. So we get a Labour landslide and a left-wing Conservative party. How is that going to help anyone?’ one MP complained to me recently.

Plenty of Tory MPs in the Red Wall and beyond believe that even a soft or informal endorsement from Farage could be worth 3,000 votes to them

There is mounting incredulity that Reform leader Richard Tice appears to be sticking to his rule that the party should stand everywhere and to be positively delighting in the prospect of more Tory carnage to match Andy Street’s ousting as West Midlands metro mayor – partly thanks to a chunky Reform vote.

Now one senior Conservative right-winger has gone public suggesting a full pact between his party and Reform.

Jacob Rees-Mogg last night used his GB News ‘Moggologue’ to call for ‘re-uniting the right’. ‘What we need is a big, open and comprehensive offer to those in Reform,’ he told viewers, making a comparison with the coalition agreement with the Lib Dems after the 2010 election.

His plan, hazy as it was around the edges, seemed to involve a pre-election pact. It certainly envisaged Nigel Farage sitting in a Conservative cabinet and implied senior berths should also reserved for the likes of Tice and Reform deputy leader Ben Habib.

When asked about it on the same channel a couple of hours later, Farage baldly declared: ‘It’s just not going to happen.’

But the reasoning behind his dismissiveness was instructive: ‘Rishi is not bold, he has no leadership whatsoever and the truth is that the vast majority of Conservative MPs are social democrat, “One Nation” careerists. They have no courage, they have no vision,’ said Farage. So not because it was an intrinsically nonsensical idea then.

Farage is surely correct that no such offer will be made from Tory high command. But that does not preclude him extending some kind of olive branch to the select group of Conservative MPs who share his world view.

Increasingly Farage regards himself as the overall leader of the authentic right in UK politics, rather than just honorary president of Reform. This means he does not quite follow the Tice line, which can be summarised as ‘the only good Tory is a dead Tory.’

Farage told GB viewers last night: ‘There is no Conservative party, it does not exist. Oh, their members are conservative and patriotic, their voters are conservative and patriotic. Their parliamentary party is not. We have Jacob Rees-Mogg. There are others – like Liz Truss and Mark Francois – who have views similar to me. They are a tiny minority.’

Farage is a crafty and subtle enough operator to take the initiative here. I think he will find a way over the summer to reach out to this ‘tiny minority’, offering them a way to show they are genuine ideological soulmates and causing palpitations in Sunak’s inner-circle by doing so.

Perhaps the likes of Rees-Mogg will be offered a chance to sign up to Reform’s key policies and promise to vote and campaign for those positions in the next parliament. Sunak would come under pressure to withdraw the whip from any MP giving a rival party such succour. But remember, when he did that to Lee Anderson the result was a full-on defection and a lot more wind in Reform’s sails.

Plenty of sitting Tory MPs in the Red Wall and beyond believe that even a soft or informal endorsement from Farage could be worth 3,000 votes to them and give them a fighting chance of holding their seats. They would be hugely tempted by an avenue to demonstrate Reform-friendly credentials.

Nigel Farage had his fingers burned in the 2019 general election after making a rare mistake under immense pressure: when it transpired that Boris Johnson’s boldness was proving hugely persuasive to Brexiteer voters, Farage decided to stand down against every sitting Tory MP. That meant he ended up giving a free pass to ardent anti-Brexit Tories such as Caroline Nokes and Tobias Ellwood. The debacle occurred because, rarely, he had not thought hard enough about his position in advance.

This time round, with his reach into the Tory right vastly extended thanks to his GB News bully pulpit, he will surely seek to be the instigator of events rather than a victim of circumstances. It is pointless Jacob Rees-Mogg making plans for Nigel. But just maybe Nigel is making plans for him.


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