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Nigel Farage could help destroy the Conservatives

The former Brexit Party leader is still coy about his political intentions.

By Freddie Hayward

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer sound as if they speak differently on stage than they do in private. Nigel Farage does not. He sounds like a “normal person”. Notwithstanding his Dulwich days, his cadence, vocabulary and tenor are familiar to the average listener. Normal people do not speak about “mission-driven government” or “fiscal responsibility” or “AI-enabled public sector productivity gains”. If you think they do, then I have news: you are not normal.

At the same time, Farage can pre-empt changes in the political wind. He deftly moves from declaring China as the enemy in 2021, to posing in an anorak on the White Cliffs of Dover as a defender against migrant boats before either main party had taken notice. His antennae pick up the nation’s latent mood with MRI-level accuracy.

Which leads us to his third attribute: Farage is a modern man; he evolves with the times. He ferrets his way into issues that have nothing to do with him. His adaptability is driven by a desire for relevance. It’s an addiction that has been proven by his numerous attempts to retire, all of which failed.

This third attribute is why Tory MPs will have nervously observed a new JL Partners poll for the Sun that showed Farage’s return would take Reform to 16 per cent in the polls, pushing the Tories down to 21 points – which, according to the New Statesman’s model, would leave the Conservatives with a paltry 141 seats.

Farage’s Achilles heel has always been his limited attraction. Loads of people like him; more people do not. He repels a certain Cotswolds habitué with his off-colour remarks about Romanians and transatlantic love affair with Donald Trump, a man for whom democracy is like a ball of playdough: to be toyed with, stretched and moulded, but never taken seriously. This is why Dominic Cummings is wary to use a figure such as Farage for his planned new party. Remember, Cummings’ Vote Leave kept Farage away from the primary Brexit campaign for this reason.

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But none of that means Farage does not present an existential threat to the Tories. Reform performed averagely in the locals. It lacks a ground operation because it lacks councillors and activists. The party’s infrastructure is weak. But it does have an ability to snatch voters away from the Tories. The question is what Farage decides to do.

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; receive it every morning by subscribing on Substack here.

[See also: What Westminster isn’t telling you about our GDP figures]

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