Nigel Farage warns against Swiss-style deal
Senior Tory MPs have told Express.co.uk they are “frustrated” with Rishi Sunak and the Tory leadership for ignoring their repeated warnings over the resurgence of Nigel Farage and Richard Tice’s Reform Party (previously the Brexit Party). It comes as the Techne UK tracker poll for this website has revealed the Conservatives have now dropped to 23 points behind Labour but is losing votes to the Reform Party who are on at least 4.5 percent.
A large number of Tory backbenchers believe the flood of former Conservative members and voters now heading towards the Reform Party will guarantee defeat at the next election.
The tracker poll put Labour on 50 percent, the Conservatives down one on 27 percent, Lib Dems on 9 percent, Greens and SNP both on 4 percent.
But the new party in the calculation was Reform on about 4.5 percent – taking it up most of the “other” on 6 percent of the 1,624 people surveyed on November 23 and 24.
Previously Techne has not listed support for Reform, which was on 2 percent or lower, but the rapid growth in support means that from next week it will feature formally in the tracker poll.
Worryingly for the Tories “other” goes up to 12 percent of Leave voters from 2016 and, according to Techne this could mean around 10 percent for Reform.
Added to that traditional Tory rural areas, support for Reform is significantly higher eating into the Conservative vote.
According to Electoral Calculus such a result would give the Conservatives just 95 seats and Labour a majority of 278.
Rishi Sunak has been warned that Richard Tice and his Reform Party are taking Tory votes
One senior Conservative backbencher told Express.co.uk: “They [the party leadership] are just not listening. Reform could absolutely kill us at the polls.
“They are getting these sorts of figures without Nigel Farage. If Nigel decides to properly re-enter the political arena then we will be talking about 15 percent or more potentially.”
The veteran MP speculated that fury over Jeremy Hunt’s tax-raising Budget last week “could be the final nail in the coffin”.
Several more seasoned MPs have also noted how similar things feel to the mid-1990s when support for the Tories began to evaporate in John Major’s government.
The key moment may have been Norman Lamont’s tax raising budget in 1993 which is seen by some as more damaging than Black Wednesday when the pound crashed and is drawing comparisons to Jeremy Hunt’s tax raising Autumn Statement last week.
Tory MPs have already dubbed it “the shirkers’ budget” because it hits people who work with more taxes while increasing support for those who stay at home.
In 1997 Major’s Tories lost a record defeat to Labour but some now believe it could be worse next time.
One veteran MP noted: “In 1997 we only had the Referendum Party to contend with, nothing like the Reform Party. This could actually be much worse.”
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Tory MPs fear a return to frontline politics by Nigel Farage
Mr Farage, who is life President of the Reform Party after steping down as leader in 2021, confirmed that it would not be standing candidates against any Conservative MPs in the next election as the Brexit Party did in 2019.
Reform leader Richard Tice told Express.co.uk he believes the current government could be “the last ever majority Conservative government.”
He added: “If I play a role in achieving that and securing that I will be absolutely delighted.”
Mr Tice focussed on last week’s Autumn Statement which saw Jeremy Hunt increase taxes across the board.
“It’s an unprincipled Con-socialist government,” Mr Tice said.
“From the moment Hunt took his seat again on Thursday we have picked up more than 1,000 members [for Reform], mostly former Conservative members or activists or voters who are just incredibly frustrated with what is going on.”
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Mr Tice also believes if polling companies start asking directly about his party it will show their support is even bigger.
He added: “I am pleased that polling companies are beginning to ask about whether people support us.
“When people are prompted it will show we are on six or seven percent or even more.”
Meanwhile, another driver of support for Reform was the apparent attempt to push for a Swiss-style Brexit which would mean the UK is forced to accept freedom of movement of people and EU rules.
Again, MPs are blaming Mr Hunt for the misstep.
In his message to Reform Party members Mr Farage warned it means the fight is back on to save Brexit.
He said: “So, are we close to another ‘Chequers deal’ surrender, as we saw under Theresa May in 2018? The fierce denials from government ministers and Rishi Sunak in his address to the CBI this week may reassure some, but I’m far from convinced.
“The appointment of Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor of the Exchequer on 14 October and the installation of Sunak as Prime Minister 10 days later represent nothing less than a coup. Any belief in a growth-driven strategy, or of encouraging the enterprise of Britain’s millions of small businesses, has died. There can be no more pretence.
“This government is a high tax, big state, social democrat betrayal of all that the Conservatives have ever stood for. A softening of our relationship with the bully boys of Brussels would be entirely in keeping with its current identity.”
Rishi Sunak could be the last Prime Minister of a majority Conservative government
But the real fear among Tory MPs is the immigration crisis both legal and illegal.
Conservative MPs, particularly from Red Wall seats won off Labour in 2019, fear a large number of supporters will switch to Reform allowing Labour back in with a split vote.
The legal migration figures showed record numbers of 504,000 arriving in a 12-month period to June 2022.
This on top of the approaching 50,000 of illegal migrants arriving on small boats this year across the English Channel has sparked a massive crisis.
One Red Wall MP said: “It will lose me my seat. This comes up time and again on the doorsteps.”
A veteran MP added: “When people see hotels full of migrants and we are struggling with housing and the cost of living it is playing really badly and right into Farage’s hands.”
Dudley North MP Marco Longhi described the migration figures as “a betrayal”.
He said: “These numbers are horrific and what is astounding is that some in government actually say more is needed for growth.
“There are over 1.2 million people who are unemployed, why shouldn’t they be trained up with the skills needed instead of importing cheap labour? Productivity through skills and investment – not cheap labour.
“The more we import the more pressure on housing. Then their families come over and even more pressure is put on housing and public services.
“It’s economically short-sighted and it’s morally wrong. How do I explain this all to the women and children at my surgeries who are sofa-surfing? I can’t, I won’t, I’ll call it for what it is: it’s a betrayal.”
As Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been tasked with ending the migration crisis
Underlining the point, Reform today launched a video on social media targeted at 12 years of promises by successive Tory leaders to end illegal migration and culminating with the Home Secretary Suella Braverman admitting the system is broken.
Techne UK chief executive Michela Morizzo identified the economy and migrant crisis as key factors in the Tories losing ground for a second week in a row.
After gaining 11 points on Labour in the first two weeks from a 30 percent deficit under Liz Truss to just 19 percent, the two polls since the Autumn Statement last week have shown the Tories lose ground first to 22 points behind in the immediate aftermath and then to 23 points this week.
In last week’s poll immediately after the Autumn Statement 51 percent said they disapproved of the measures.
Ms Morizzo said: “It is clear that the challenges buffeting the new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are not going to go away anytime soon.
“The cost-of-living crisis, rampant inflation, Trade Union disputes and recently reported immigration figures of over 500,000 people in the last year, are just some of the complex issues Government are struggling with on a day by day basis.
“Against this difficult backdrop, it is perhaps not surprising the Conservatives continue to slip further – down 1 point to 27% national vote share. The Labour Party stays steady at a dominant 50 percent of national vote share.
“Given the consistent picture of main party national shares it is no doubt the growth in support for the Lib Dems and Reform U.K. which will set the short-term future political agenda, and we will monitor this closely in the weeks ahead.”