Nigel Farage Wins Commons Seat Amid Reform UK Election Surge

(Bloomberg) -- Brexit architect Nigel Farage won a seat in Parliament at his eighth attempt, giving the populist Reform UK party leader a fresh platform in his bid to overturn the traditional Tory-Labour duopoly of British politics.

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Farage, 60, comfortably won a seat in Clacton, a town on England’s east coast that overwhelmingly backed the 2016 decision to leave the European Union and had already elected a Member of Parliament for a Farage-led party in the 2015 general election. With results declared in the bulk of seats, Reform UK had at least three others, standing on about 15% of the national vote.

Farage’s surprise entry into the campaign was a body blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Tories as his energetic campaigning pulled right wing voters away from the governing party.

The decision — reversing his previous call not to stand, was “the most significant moment of the general election campaign”, said Keiran Pedley, UK Director of Politics at Ipsos. He said Reform had picked up Conservative voters attracted by the party’s strong anti-immigration stance.

Farage is now set to play a key role in the next parliament, particularly if he makes good on his threat of a “reverse takeover” of the Conservatives. But he’s also pledging to come for Labour now, after Keir Starmer’s party won power with a large majority — even before all seats had declared.

“My plan is to build a mass national movement over the course of the next few years, and hopefully be big enough to challenge properly in the general election in 2029,” Farage said in his victory speech. “We are now the opposition in most of the country, not the Conservatives. Really, it’s them who should stand aside as to not split our vote.”

Reform’s strong performance is likely to spark a battle for the soul of the Conservative Party, with some on the right likely to call for a pact — indeed some, including the former home secretary Suella Braverman, have even said they welcome Farage into the party. That’s opposed by more moderate Tories. Tory peer Jo Johnson — an ex-MP who’s also the brother of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, told Sky News “what I think the big mistake is, is to be a sort of reform-lite type of party.”

Throughout the campaign Farage has said he has “no intention” of joining the Tories, adding “the better thing to do would be to take it over”. He named his party Reform UK after the populist Reform party of Canada, which merged with the country’s Conservative party some years after decimating it in the 1993 election.

The initial exit poll suggested Reform UK was on course to win 13 seats, outperforming expectations — though as results have come in, it appears likely it will come in below that number. Nevertheless, it’s a strong performance for a new party that was hit by a string of scandals during the campaign relating to past racist comments made by its candidates. Farage put down to poor candidate vetting and the party’s relative youth.

“I’ve got to professionalize it, I’ve got to democratize it, I’ve got to get rid of a few idiots that found it too easy to get on board”, Farage told reporters at the count center. “We will be a non-racist, nonsectarian party.”

Farage also drew Tory attacks in the final weeks of the campaign for blaming the European Union and NATO for “provoking” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Sunak calling him a “Putin appeaser.”

Other Reform UK winners included former party leader Richard Tice in Boston and Skegness, and former Tory Lee Anderson in Ashfield.

“There is a massive gap on the center-right of politics and my job is to fill it,” Farage said in his speech. “This Labour government will be in trouble very, very quickly. We’re coming for Labour, be in no doubt about that.”

--With assistance from Jacob Reid.

(Updates with Farage remarks starting in sixth paragraph.)

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