Farage Attacks Sunak on Immigration in First UK Campaign Speech

(Bloomberg) -- Nigel Farage entered the UK election campaign in his trademark fashion on Tuesday, saying Rishi Sunak called an early vote to distract from the failure of his anti-immigration policy and that any support for the prime minister’s ruling Conservative Party on July 4 would be a “wasted vote.”

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The Brexit campaigner has cast a long shadow over Sunak’s Tories for months, amid fears that his resurgent Reform UK party would split right-wing voters and allow the opposition Labour Party to pick up seats. Senior Conservative officials warned over the weekend that about 100 members of Parliament are at risk.

Read more: Why Tiny Reform UK Holds Conservative Party in Thrall: QuickTake

So all eyes were on Farage for his first campaign speech. He chose familiar territory in Dover on England’s southern coast — where he used to shoot videos warning about what he called an “invasion” of asylum-seekers arriving in small boats from across the English Channel — and took aim at Sunak’s government.

“This election is a foregone conclusion. Labour are going to win and they’re going to win quite big,” Farage said speaking in front of a lectern with “Rishi can’t stop the boats” pinned to it. “So you could argue actually that a vote for the Conservative party is a wasted vote.”

Farage said he is certain the premier called an early general election — almost everyone in Westminster thought it would be in the autumn — because he knew his “desperate” policy to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda would fail. The morning after Sunak made the announcement, he acknowledged the first deportation flights would not come until after the election.

Polls suggest Reform is taking votes away from the Tories, and Sunak’s party has announced a slew of policy promises aimed directly at shoring up support on its right flank. That includes a plan to reintroduce national service, which Sunak said was needed to boost social “cohesion” and to promote integration and security — all themes Farage has talked about on his GB News shows.

But on Tuesday, standing in front of a union jack with “Britain needs reform” emblazoned on either side, Farage tried to ramp up the pressure on Sunak.

The prime minister looks “more like a frightened rabbit than someone who is bold,” he said. “Given that, you know, Labour are going to win, why not vote for something that you actually believe in?”

Read more: Even From the Jungle, Nigel Farage Pulls Sunak’s UK Tories Apart

In practice, Reform remain a fringe party without a seat in Westminster. Having secured only two out of over 300 council seats the party contested in May’s local elections, that looks unlikely to change despite their rise in the polls.

Farage said Reform has a six-year plan to build up to “a serious assault at the next election,” due in 2029.

But he also had to tackle the biggest question facing Reform UK — his decision not to stand as a candidate. He said he had planned to do so had the election been in November, but that he was “disappointed” the earlier-than-expected vote had not given him time to find a constituency.

With Farage, though, there’s always another angle. The summer election, he said, had freed him up for to help his “good friend” Donald Trump’s UK presidential campaign in November.

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