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‘Should have given him a peerage’ Tory fury over failure to win Farage loyalty

Senior Tories have hit out at the party leadership’s failure to agree a deal with Nigel Farage after the Brexiteer announced his decision to stand in the general election.

The new leader of Reform UK dealt a significant blow to Rishi Sunak’s election plans when he revealed that he will stand as a candidate in Clacton, Essex.

The decision has left several Tories fearing for their political futures, with many believing that Mr Farage’s decision to stand will galvanise support for Reform and peel away potential Conservative voters.

One former minister lamented Boris Johnson’s refusal to hand the Reform leader a seat in the House of Lords after the 2019 election, when Mr Farage stood down his Brexit Party, opening the way for a commanding victory for the Tories.

“Boris should have given him a peerage a few days after that election,” the Tory said. “Boris wouldn’t have anything to do with him even though they agreed a deal behind the scenes and he should have done.”

Another Conservative warned the presence of Reform at the ballot box will hammer the party come election day.

“Even if they don’t put out a single leaflet, [if they stand] they will get 1,000 or 2,000 votes and that is going to cause us enormous damage. If the Reform candidate gets a couple of thousands votes that will really make a difference in some seats and that is going to hurt us.”

But a minister insisted the former Ukip leader would not be bought off with an agreement, even if one could be agreed.

“I don’t think Farage has any interest in deals,” the minister said. “He seems only concerned with himself – and the increased likelihood of a Labour victory.”

The grumblings within the Tory party came as Mr Farage set out his plans to effectively take over the Conservative Party after the election.

The veteran Eurosceptic claimed that a “chunk” of Tories could join his party now that he has decided to stand.

He compared the situation to Canadian politics, where Stephen Harper had been elected as a Reform MP but went on to head a “new Conservative” government.

Mr Farage on Monday U-turned on his previous suggestion he would not stand in this general election, opting to fight in Clacton and being installed as Reform leader in place of Richard Tice.

He had previously suggested he could be open to talks with the Tories, but suggested he could not work with them in their current form.

Instead, he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain his goal was to take the Conservative Party over, rather than join it.

“You can speculate as to what’ll happen in three or four years’ time, all I will tell you is if Reform succeed in the way that I think they can, then a chunk of the Conservative Party will join us – it’s the other way around,” he said.

He pointed to Canada, where “Reform did a reverse takeover of the Conservative Party, rebranded it and Stephen Harper – who was elected as a Reform MP – became the Canadian prime minister for 10 years”.

He said: “I don’t want to join the Conservative Party, I think the better thing to do would be to take it over.”

Election 2024

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are back out on the campaign trail – and take part in the first leader’s head-to-head debate on ITV on Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, i‘s general election live blog is the go-to place for 2024 general election coverage.

The Tories have announced proposed changes to gender laws, but the focus has been on Nigel Farage following his shock move to stand as an MP and become leader of Reform UK. Not long after that announcement, the Tories revealed proposals for a new immigration cap.

On migration, Labour has said it will be prepared to process asylum seekers abroad. In London, their former leader Jeremy Corbyn, now standing as an independent candidate, has a fight on his hands to keep his supporters from switching to Starmer.

Got a question for our politics experts? Email [email protected] or tweet us @theipaper during the first live leaders’ debate and it could be answered by Jane Merrick or Hugo Gye.

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