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  1. Election 2024
3 June 2024

Nigel Farage’s entrance should terrify the Tories

It would be quite an irony if the ultimate victim of the Brexit revolt became the Conservative Party

By Andrew Marr

On the evening of Monday 3 June, British politics changed. Nigel Farage did not only announce that he would be standing as Reform UK’s candidate in Clacton – he may well fail – and that he was taking over from Richard Tice as party leader but he raised the flag of open political revolt. He wants to replace the Conservatives. Because of the electoral system that will be very difficult but they should, frankly, be terrified.

It would be quite a political irony if the ultimate victim of the Brexit revolt was the Conservative Party. In his stump speech to journalists in south London – and Farage, whatever you think of him, remains one of the best political communicators in the country – he spoke about taxation, the condition of public services including the NHS, and what he called “moral decline”. But like Tice he was also absolutely clear he wanted to make this the “immigration election”.

The Tories have been playing with immigration for years and tried very hard to weaponise it against Keir Starmer with their Rwanda plan. But feed an angry and suspicious crocodile and you will not sate it: sooner or later it will gobble you up.

Now, the croc is coming for the Conservatives. Or, to change the metaphor (but sticking with JM Barrie) Farage is raising the pirate flag of what he calls “a political revolt” against the entire Westminster class; but in particular against the listing, drifting and battered galleon that is the Tory party. After the promise of secure borders following Brexit, he accuses it of letting in 2.4 million people, an enormous migration by any standard.

His threat is against the Labour Party and, ultimately, peaceful community relations, specifically between Muslims and non-Muslims, across the UK. Think Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Giorgia Meloni in Italy and Marine Le Pen in France. Tonight, with yet another major poll showing a catastrophic crumbling of the Tory vote, Britain ceased to be an observer of the rise of European right-wing nationalism. Our politics has changed. Keir Starmer’s Labour Party will inherit the consequences.

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[See also: Why this election has become a meme]

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