Nigel Farage’s decision to pull hundreds of Brexit Party candidates from the upcoming general election will “make very little difference”, a pollster has said.
On Monday, the Brexit Party leader revealed his party will not field candidates in the 317 seats won by the Conservative Party at the last general election in 2017.
The move is seen as a major win for prime minister Boris Johnson, amid Tory fears that the Brexit Party could split the Leave vote on December 12.
It marked a huge U-turn from Mr Farage, who had previously promised to run more than 600 Brexit Party candidates across the UK.
While the decision has been welcomed by many Tories, pollsters have pointed out the lack of Brexit Party candidates may not have a substantial effect on the result of the general election.
Chris Curtis, political research manager at YouGov, said: “Farage’s decision to stand aside in Conservative-held seats and not in Labour-held seats will likely make very little difference.”
He said current polling shows a 4% swing away from Labour to the Conservatives since the last general election, meaning the Tories would gain “a large chunk of seats off Labour”, while few, if any, would go in the other direction.
He added: “Whilst there has been a swing towards the Tories in their battle against Labour, the increase in Lib Dem and SNP vote share means that there is likely to be a swing against them in seats where they are battling against those parties.
“However, there are not as many of these seats as there are Labour/Conservative marginals, and most of them will be the kind of places where the Brexit Party wouldn’t have won many votes anyway, such as Scotland or the more Remain-leaning seats in the south.”
Mr Curtis said: “We don’t know what effect Farage’s message might have on broader perceptions of the parties. It could be that even in seats where the Brexit Party is standing, voters that might otherwise have supported the party now feel more comfortable voting Tory after Farage’s comments.
“However, given the Brexit Party was already trending downwards in the polls, it looked like this was happening already. So overall, despite today’s drama, this is unlikely to be a game-changing moment.”
Will Jennings, professor of political science and public policy at the University of Southampton, said: “On the face of it, the Brexit Party not contesting Conservative seats should increase the likelihood of a majority for Boris Johnson, but it may not have the seismic effect some expect.
“While it should favour Conservative incumbents where the Brexit Party could have otherwise split the vote, it won't help them as much in Remain-voting seats or in Scotland.
“The Brexit Party may also still split the Leave vote in constituencies held by Labour - where it isn't standing down. As a result, it won't hugely change the outcome of the election, other than making it more difficult for Labour to win seats.”