Tory MPs in talks with Richard Tice and Nigel Farage’s party to defect have been ongoing for many weeks, Guido understands.
Contrary to suggestions in an i exclusive on Monday, discussions occurred well before Liz Truss become PM, and weren’t necessarily sparked by Rishi Sunak’s ascension to No. 10. Guido’s not sure whether this will reassure or worry Rishi…
Two days ago, The i reported that Red Wall MPs are “being courted by the Reform Party as it seeks a wave of Ukip-style defections among dissatisfied Tories,” Tice told the paper:
“I think it’s fair to say, without saying too much, that there’s some very disaffected ‘Red Wall’, industrial heartland, Tory MPs who thought they were joining a Conservative Party and have found themselves in a socialist party. They’re very, very unhappy.”
Guido understands a handful are responding positively, given the ongoing migrant crisis and failures by the Government. If Farage does return to the fray, and the Government fails to address the migrant crisis effectively, Rishi could be facing a major headache.
Reform UK is stepping up their charge on the Conservative party, by targeting elected defectors. A co-conspirator has been in touch to share a Reform party mail-out, sent en masse to Conservative councillors asking them to “put country before party” and abandon ship. They’ve even set up a helpline.
Guido called the number, where Reform claimed there had been “quite a bit of interest” and said any Tory defectors would be “front of the queue” for selection to a parliamentary constituency. Loyal Reform candidates might not be so pleased…
It comes as the party continues to make gains in membership as they see near unprecedented highs in recent polls. A Reform source says “many thousand” Tories have paid up. They estimate they’ve taken 5-10% of Tory Members.
Reform UK have been quick to capitalise on the growing dissatisfaction amongst Tory Members over the coronation of Rishi Sunak. The party has gained over 1,056 members in the past 36 hours in addition to 6-figure donations over the last week. It also boasts over 500 vetted candidates and claims to be election-ready. Quite the headache for the new Prime Minister…
Guido spoke to Reform’s founder and sole shareholder Nigel Farage. When asked if he would step in and help lead the party, he responded:
“That’s the great mystery. All options are open”
Watch that space…
Even without one of the most successful political campaigners of recent British history as an opponent, Rishi faces significant internal problems. The Prime Minister was far from the favourite of Tory grassroots supporters and they’re not letting the absence of a contest prevent their grievances being heard. Not least in Guido’s inbox.
There was yet more evidence of a membership mass exodus as the page for membership cancellation on the Conservatives’ website went down due to high traffic yesterday. One fiery activist was especially keen to convey their discontent to Guido, even going so far as to tape a piece of paper to a rusty bin. Co-conspirators are clearly harbouring some burning resentment…
As the Tories languish 30 points behind Labour, and Tory MPs mull snubbing party members of their right to choose a replacement PM, we can only assume how bad things would be for the party were Nigel Farage still on the scene as a prominent political force. In the meantime Reform UK boxes on, with Richard Tice recently announcing his intention to fight for Hartlepool at the next election.
Guido can reveal that in the 48 hours before close of play yesterday afternoon, the old Brexit Party received almost 1000 new £25 membership sign-ups. That new five-figure cash boost was joined by 300 members registering a new interest in standing as a party candidate at the next election. The first time the Tories dipped below Labour in the polls – September 2021 – Reform saw one in 10 Tory voters switching to them. Can they continue capitalising on Liz’s woes?
A Reform UK source tells Guido:
“Since Saturday evening the systems have lit up like Blackpool lights.
In the Red Wall, Reform are polling equal to the Lib Dems and Greens combined. And that’s without media coverage.
Who knows what might happen if the fourth estate raised their eyes from the Westminster hall of mirrors?”
It’s not just Reform benefitting from the dire state of No. 10. Last night the LibDems revealed five new donors, each giving £50,000 to the party, one of whom is a former Tory donor. While the last 36 hours have been calmer for Truss, it does feel like the ship has sprung one too many leaks to be repaired by a strong PMQs performance…
Reform’s UK leader Richard Tice has called on the government to declare a “Force Majeure” situation in response to the energy crisis, calling on the government to “take control of UK energy production pricing”. In a speech this morning, Tice sets out a four-point plan to deal with energy pricing:
Reform UK proposes this wartime footing should exist “until normal market conditions return”, while paired with radical policies to deal with Britain’s supply issue. In order to accelerate new gas and nuclear supplies the party wants to offer compensation to local communities in return for unlocking shale gas “treasure”, which they calculate could be up to £1 trillion. This would be paired with:
They believe improvements to energy self-reliance would start within three years and a full resolution to the problem in 7-10 years. Whether you agree with the policies or not, it’s remarkable Reform UK now has the most comprehensive plan to deal with the energy crisis of any major UK party…
Tice’s PowerPoint can be read below:
Reform UK is finally parking their tanks firmly on the Tories’ lawn. For the first time since Boris became leader, the ex-Brexit party is offering a programme that will no doubt make Conservative heads turn; setting out a £74 billion tax-cutting stimulus plan, stimulating growth by putting a stop to the government’s current “classic socialist measures”, and reducing inflation by approximately 4% over the next 12 months. The stimulus plan in full:
According to Reform, the stimulus – worth 3.3% of GDP – would take taxes as a percentage of GDP back down to pre-lockdown levels. Richard Tice also argues growth is paramount, and the measures would be self-funding after 3 years; if the UK has matched Australia’s GDP growth since 2005, GDP would be £410 billion higher, and tax revenues £150 billion greater per year. All ideas that are supposed to be the bread and butter of conservative politics…