Brexit Architect Nigel Farage Joins UK Election Fray, Adding Pressure on Sunak's Conservatives (2024)

Nigel Farage, known as the key figure behind Brexit and a constant source of controversy in British politics, has revealed his plan to run for office with the hard-right Reform UK party in the upcoming July 4 general election.

During a sudden press briefing on Monday, Farage declared his candidacy for the seat in Clacton, a struggling town located on the southeastern coast of England, where Reform has shown strong support. Additionally, he announced his new role as the leader of the party.

Despite his previous failures to be elected as a Member of Parliament seven times, Farage's candidacy could bring new energy to the Reform campaign and create more challenges for the embattled Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose Conservative Party has been worried about losing voters to the right.

Just a month ago, Farage had stated that he would not run in the general election. Instead, he planned to assist with the grassroots campaign to support former US President Donald Trump's reelection bid. However, Trump was recently convicted by a Manhattan jury on all 34 charges of falsifying business records.

Farage, speaking from London, mentioned that he had started to reconsider his decision over the weekend. When voters questioned him about not running for election, Farage explained that he had his own "logical, rational reasons" for it.

Brexit Architect Nigel Farage Joins UK Election Fray, Adding Pressure on Sunak's Conservatives (1)

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech calling for a general election, outside Number 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave a speech outside Number 10 Downing Street in London on May 22, 2024, calling for a general election. The event was captured by Maja Smiejkowska from Reuters.

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He said, "But after each exchange, I couldn't shake the feeling that they thought I was disappointing them. I have made a decision. I have changed my mind. It's okay, you know. It doesn't always mean you're weak."

Farage has been a controversial figure in British politics for thirty years, turning the Eurosceptic movement from a fringe idea into the UK's decision to leave the EU in 2016.

He became a member of the emerging Reform UK party in 2018. The party has gained popularity, reaching around 10% in most national polls. This growth is largely due to its strong stance against immigration and the government's net zero plans.

Smaller parties often face challenges in the UK's electoral system. Despite having significant national support, they struggle to win seats in Parliament. This was a problem for Farage's previous party, UK Independence Party (UKIP), which only managed to secure one seat despite winning 12.6% of the vote in the 2015 general election.

In a speech on Monday, Farage mentioned that Reform aims to secure more votes than UKIP did in the previous election, with the goal of becoming the UK's official opposition.

Farage also expressed uncertainty about how many seats in Parliament Reform could potentially win under the current system.

Farage’s candidacy may end up hurting the Conservatives more than helping Reform. The Conservatives have been trying to attract more conservative voters by pledging to tighten immigration policies, such as proposing to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Reform has criticized the Conservatives for not delivering on their promises to reduce net migration, despite two years of efforts to implement the policy. The Conservatives, currently lagging behind the Labour Party in polls by over 20 points, are at risk of losing more votes to Reform. While this may not result in significant gains for Reform in terms of seats, it could lead to the Conservatives losing even more seats to Labour.

Sunak is now confronted with a challenging decision. He needs to figure out whether to invest more resources in attracting Reform voters or to concentrate on keeping the support of moderate Tories to maintain the Conservatives’ diverse yet sometimes divided coalition.

The issue of the Conservatives’ Farage predicament is not going away anytime soon. Farage, in addition to taking on a leadership role, has declared his intention to remain active for the next five years.

"We know that the Conservative Party will be in opposition after the election. However, it may not be the typical kind of opposition," he mentioned, hinting that the Conservatives could potentially drop to third place in July's election after being in power for 14 years.

The weaker the Conservative Party becomes post-election, the more pressure Farage can exert on them. As they transition into opposition, the Conservatives will need to search for a new leader and chart a new course for the party. This could lead to internal conflicts regarding whether to move back towards the center or align with Farage's right-wing approach.

There are just as many people in the Conservative Party who are disgusted by Farage as there are who want him to become a member of the party. If one side of the Conservative party wins this internal argument, it could mean the other side leaving the party, especially those on the right who might join Reform.

It is evident that Farage still has a special talent for controlling the political conversation with just one public statement during an election. This will likely be a major point of discussion when Sunak and Starmer face off in their first televised debate on Tuesday.

Editor's P/S:

Nigel Farage's decision to run for office with Reform UK is a significant development in British politics. Farage is a controversial figure, but he has a proven track record of energizing voters and influencing the political landscape. His candidacy could pose a significant challenge to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party, who are already facing an uphill battle in the upcoming general election.

Reform UK is a hard-right party that has gained popularity in recent years due to its strong stance against immigration and the government's net zero plans. The party has been criticized for its divisive rhetoric, but it has also tapped into a growing sense of dissatisfaction among some voters. Farage's leadership could help Reform UK win more seats in Parliament and become a more influential force in British politics. However, it could also lead to further divisions within the Conservative Party, which is already struggling to maintain its diverse coalition.

Brexit Architect Nigel Farage Joins UK Election Fray, Adding Pressure on Sunak's Conservatives (2024)
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