John Curtice says Nigel Farage could cost Tories up to 60 seats

Polling guru Professor Sir John Curtice has said Nigel Farage’s decision to take over as leader of Reform UK will deal a significant blow to the Conservatives, potentially costing them as many as 60 seats.

Mr Curtice noted Mr Farage’s announcement, as first revealed exclusively by The Independent at Monday lunchtime, came on the same afternoon as the release of YouGov’s first MRP poll for this election, which has the Conservatives down nearly 20 points in the vote and at risk of losing three in five of their seats.

These polling figures are at least partly due to the steady 10 per cent support for the Reform party, led by Mr Farage, which attracts former Conservative voters who supported Brexit in 2019, he said.

Mr Farage on Monday electrified the general election campaign by announcing yet another bid to become an MP and run in Tory-held Clacton in Essex, amid what was already being described as “an existential risk” for the Tories in the 4 July election.

The decision comes as a major blow to Rishi Sunak’s electoral hopes, as the former Ukip leader – who had said he would not run to be an MP – confirmed he had changed his mind and decided to contest the general election.

Writing in The Times, Mr Curtice noted that most of Reform’s support came from those who supported Boris Johnson’s 2019 “Get Brexit Done” appeal. Many of those supporters would support the Conservatives if Reform were not an option, he suggests.

Mr Farage’s decision five years ago to withdraw his Brexit Party candidates from constituencies that were being defended by the Conservatives led to a dramatic decrease in support for his party.

His pledge to challenge Tory-held seats makes it more probable that Reform will perform better in this election, Mr Curtice said.

Reform’s decision to challenge Conservative-held seats “is but one reason why YouGov’s estimate that the Conservatives could find themselves with just 140 seats is credible”, he said.

The professor at the University of Strathclyde said that “implies that the party could lose as many as 60 more seats than would be the case if its support were to fall by the same amount everywhere.”

Explaining his bid to become an MP, Mr Farage said he could not let down “millions of people” who had supported his past political projects.

At what he dubbed an emergency press conference, he added: “Something is happening out there.

“There is a rejection of the political class going on in this country in a way that has not been seen in modern times.”