Nigel Farage has ruled out standing as a Conservative candidate while Rishi Sunak is leader – but hinted that a return to politics is still on the cards.
Interviewed on television after coming third on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here, the former MEP said the Conservatives have “literally lied to the electorate at four successive general elections” about immigration numbers and “broken every promise” they have made.
Asked on Good Morning Britain if he will stand as a Conservative candidate at the next election, Mr Farage said: “I don’t think under this leadership there is very much prospect of that.
“I am looking at a Conservative Government that is in total shambles, facing tomorrow effectively a confidence vote on an issue that affects every single living human being in our country, namely immigration on a level that never happened even during Tony Blair’s days.
“Rishi is a lame duck walking and the Conservative Party are headed for total defeat.”
Tuesday will see MPs get their first opportunity to vote on Mr Sunak’s Rwanda legislation, and although the Prime Minister said he does not regard it as a confidence vote, he will face intense questions about his leadership should the legislation fail.
Mr Farage, former Ukip and Brexit Party leader, did not completely rule out a return to politics, or even the possibility that he could join the Conservatives under a different leader, saying “never say never”.
The possibility that Mr Farage might try to stand as a Conservative candidate has been rumoured since his appearance at the party conference in Manchester in October.
Several senior Conservatives, including Mr Sunak, have said they would welcome his membership of the party, but standing in the next general election would require him to pass the Tories’ selection board and then be adopted as a candidate by a local party, something that is far from guaranteed.
Over the weekend, there were further rumours that some Conservative MPs wanted to see Mr Farage form an electoral pact with former prime minister Boris Johnson to take over leadership of the party.
Asked about the possibility of a deal with Mr Johnson on GB News, he said: “Never say never. I can’t predict right now what will happen.”
Another option would be for Mr Farage, who has tried seven times without success to become an MP, to return to Reform UK, the renamed Brexit Party he founded in 2018.
As the owner of Reform UK – which is not a traditional political party but a private company – it may be easier for him to stand as one of its candidates, and the party’s polling position appears to have improved in recent months.
Reform is now averaging 8% in the polls, although there is a wide spread among pollsters, with figures for the party ranging from 2% to 9%.
But the party has repeatedly underperformed its polling figures in by-elections, averaging less than 4% of the vote in six contests this year.
Mr Farage suggested he would not make an immediate decision, telling GB News: “Somehow to think that we’re going to walk out of a jungle of the 23 nights and announce a relaunch in British politics, frankly, is for the birds.
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