Nigel Farage says Reform's 'real ambition' is the next general election

Nigel Farage has acknowledged Reform UK will not form a government after 4 July - but said the general election campaign is the "first big push" towards the next contest.

Launching his party's offer to the electorate - which he is calling a "contract" rather than a manifesto - Mr Farage said his campaign has "momentum" around the country, including the support of a "rapidly increasing" number of 18 to 24-year-olds.

Election latest: Farage challenged over spending plans

Speaking in Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, he said there had been a "breakdown of trust" in politics and hoped Reform would "establish a bridgehead in parliament" to "become a real opposition" to a Labour government.

"We are not pretending that we are going to win this general election, we are a very, very new political party," he said.

"This is step one. Our real ambition is the 2029 general election. But this is our first big push."

Mr Farage earlier confirmed his ambitions to become prime minister at the next general election, which could be in 2029.

Reform's policy document runs to 25 pages - compared with 133 published by Labour - with the first two of the party's five core pledges on immigration, including promising to freeze "all non-essential immigration".

The party claims it will "stop the boats" in its first 100 days in power, with a plan that would involve leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), with zero illegal immigrants being resettled in the UK, a new government department for immigration, and migrants crossing the Channel in small boats being returned to France.

The other three core pledges ask voters to "imagine no NHS waiting lists", to "imagine good wages for a hard day's work" and also "imagine affordable, stable energy bills".

Reform are also promising a raft of tax cuts, including raising the minimum threshold of income tax to £20,000 a year, abolishing stamp duty, and abolishing inheritance tax for all estates under £2m.

The party plans to fund its policies with measures including abandoning net zero targets, the introduction of an immigration tax, and through £50bn savings on "wasteful government spending".

On health, Reform wants to create an "NHS voucher scheme" for private treatment if people cannot get seen by a GP within three days and to hold a public inquiry into excess deaths and "vaccine harms" from the COVID vaccine.

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Further offers include ditching all net-zero policies, ending "woke" policing, and legislating for "comprehensive free speech" that promises "no more de-banking, cancel culture, left-wing hate mobs or political bias in public institutions", as well as stopping "sharia law being used in the UK".

Sky News' deputy political editor Sam Coates questioned Mr Farage over the proposed additional £141bn of spending every year, asking: "The scale of this is deeply unserious, isn't it?"

Mr Farage said the plan is "radical, it's fresh thinking - it's outside the box".

In a lengthy exchange, the Reform leader said he has no intention of joining the Conservatives but stopped short of categorically ruling out his future membership of the party.

Read more from Sky News:
What the parties are promising
Reform candidate resigns over social media comments

His party last week overtook the Conservatives for the first time in a single YouGov poll for The Times, but the Tories are currently an average of seven points ahead.

Rishi Sunak has repeatedly said a vote for Mr Farage's party amounted to handing a "blank cheque" to Labour, whom the polls predict will form the next government.

Reform has faced questions over the vetting of its candidates, with Grant StClair-Armstrong, who was standing in Saffron Walden, the Essex constituency where Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch was the most recent MP, offering his resignation on Sunday.

It followed reports in The Times that he had previously called on people to vote for the British National Party (BNP).

Last week another Reform candidate apologised for an old internet post which said Britain should have "taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality" instead of fighting the Nazis in the Second World War.

Ian Gribbin, who is standing in the East Sussex seat of Bexhill and Battle, told Sky News that he apologised and withdrew the comments "unreservedly".