Reform rules out Tory pact as Sunak faces pressure to call election
Reform UK has ruled out entering into any electoral pacts with the “terrified” Tories as Rishi Sunak came under fresh pressure from his political opponents to call a general election.
Richard Tice, the leader of the Nigel Farage-linked party, said he could be “absolutely categoric” there will be no deals despite the alleged pleading of some Conservatives.
The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, demanded that the Prime Minister should launch a general election for May rather than “clinging on to power”.
Holding a press conference near Parliament, Mr Tice said the country wants to go to the polls “sooner rather than later” as voters want to “punish the Tories for breaking Britain”.
“The truth is the Tories are terrified,” he told an audience gathered at a plush hotel on Wednesday.
“Yes, in the new year the special pleading has already started: ‘Oh, please don’t stand here, please don’t stand there, I’m one of the nice guys, I believe in everything that you believe in.’”
But Mr Tice insisted he would stand candidates in every constituency, unlike in 2019 when his party – then the Brexit Party – stood down candidates to help Boris Johnson.
“You’ve all broken Britain, you’re all responsible, so there’s no special deals, we stand in every single seat in England, Scotland and Wales,” Mr Tice said.
He said he could be “absolutely categoric that we are not doing any deals with the Tories … under any circumstances”.
Mr Tice said he was “very confident” Mr Farage will play a role for Reform as he eyes a return to frontline politics, but was unable to say how.
But he said that “the more help that Nigel is able to give in the election campaign, frankly, the better” after the Brexit campaigner’s stint in the I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! jungle.
But he declined to say how many Tory MPs or councillors he was talking to, insisting it was “quite a lot”, and claimed many “disgruntled” Tory donors were also speaking to him.
Mr Tice attacked the Conservatives on taxation and record levels of immigration, and said that Reform wanted a “one-in-one-out” policy.
He also attacked Labour’s economic vision, claiming it would be “Starmergeddon” under Sir Keir Starmer, whose party remains riding high in the polls.
Tory party chairman Richard Holden countered by claiming that “a vote for Reform will only strengthen Labour’s hand”, as he insisted the “Conservatives are the only choice”.
Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson has claimed that Reform is a “bigger threat to the country” than Labour as he suggested his own seat was among those at risk from the party.
But the MP for Ashfield, in Nottinghamshire, said that Mr Farage was doing “fantastic things” and had to stand in the next election and become party leader for Reform to make inroads.
Mr Tice said: “Lee is very worried, he’s terrified that we’re going to basically put him out of the job.
“The honest truth is, there are quite a number of Tory MPs in a similar position – stop staying with the toxic Tories, stop defending the indefensible, be brave, be bold, come on over.”
Reform also revealed that former MEP Ben Habib would contest the Wellingborough by-election for the party following the recall of scandal-hit MP Peter Bone.
Mr Bone held the Northamptonshire seat for the Tories in 2019 with 18,540 more votes than second placed Labour.
Reform is polling at around 10% nationally and there are fears in the Conservatives that the outfit could dent their electoral chances.
As the Tories lag around 18 points behind Labour, Reform could make Mr Sunak’s chances of winning a majority narrower by splitting the right-wing vote.
Campaigning in Surrey, the Liberal Democrats demanded a general election on May 2 – Mr Sunak has the power to hold the vote as late as January 2025.
Party leader Sir Ed Davey said: “It shouldn’t be up to Rishi Sunak to cling on for another 12 months, desperate for something to turn up.
“He knows the time is up, that’s why he hasn’t called the general election so far.”
In a campaign stunt, Sir Ed unveiled a “Tory removal service” poster to highlight the Lib Dems’ four by-election gains from the Conservatives since 2019’s election.
Sir Ed was visiting Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt’s constituencies, with the Lib Dems hoping they can snatch the Cabinet ministers’ seats.
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