Nigel Farage ‘was all set to run as MP’ but changed mind over early election

Nigel Farage in a pub
Mr Farage is honorary president of Reform UK but will not stand to become an MP - Jonathan Buckmaster/Daily Express

Nigel Farage was preparing to announce his candidacy for the general election next week, but ditched the idea when Rishi Sunak called an early election, sources have told The Telegraph.

The honorary president of Reform UK confirmed on Thursday morning that he would not be standing at July’s election, insisting now was not “the right time” for him to stand and pointing to the importance of the US election.

The fact that Mr Sunak has killed off any chance of Mr Farage standing in the election will be seen as a victory by Conservative Campaign Headquarters.

Despite Thursday’s announcement, insiders have told The Telegraph that Mr Farage had previously told aides to organise a launch event at which he would have declared: “I’m standing.”

However, Mr Farage calculated that he would need a lengthy period of campaigning in order to win the Westminster seat that has eluded him seven times in the past, and Mr Sunak’s announcement of a six-week campaign killed off the idea.

Several sources had told The Telegraph that Mr Farage was “very strongly” considering standing for Parliament, and although he had not made a final decision he wanted a launch event to be arranged so that everything would be in place if he decided to go for it.

Instead, Mr Farage will support Richard Tice, the Reform UK leader, at an event likely to take place in Boston and Skegness, the constituency in which Mr Tice is standing.

It comes as Reform UK announced plans to stand in every seat in England, Wales and Scotland in a major blow to Mr Sunak’s hopes of returning to Downing Street.

Mr Tice said it would take on the Conservatives right across the three nations because they “need to be punished”.

Addressing a packed room in central London he said that his party would put up MP hopefuls in every seat except the 18 constituencies in Northern Ireland.

There, it will support the hard-line Traditional Unionist Voice to stand as many candidates as possible against the Democratic Unionist Party.

To applause from party activists, Mr Tice said: “We will be standing in 630 seats across the whole of England, Scotland and Wales. No ifs, no buts.”

The Reform UK leader later said that “about 500” candidates have already been approved, with “hundreds more” currently going through vetting.

He added that all 630 will have been selected by June 7, the deadline by which MP hopefuls have to submit their papers to the Electoral Commission.

Richard Tice
Richard Tice said his party intended to punish the Tories at the polls - Carl Court/Getty Images

The Right-wing party presents a big threat to Mr Sunak’s election hopes, with its presence threatening to tip dozens of constituencies in Labour’s favour.

Analysis for The Telegraph by the polling group More in Common found that if Reform secures 9pc of the vote the Conservatives will win 35 fewer seats as a result.

But if it won 14pc, a level at which it has consistently polled in recent months, then the impact would be even starker, costing the Tories 64 MPs.

Mr Tice said he would not be bothered if his party opened the door to No 10 for Sir Keir Starmer because the Conservatives had failed Britain.

“I want to reform this great nation, I want to get it back on track,” he said when asked about Tory warnings that a vote for Reform is a vote for Labour.

“The Tories have broken Britain and they need to be punished for what they’ve done for breaking all these promises. Bluntly, they need to be replaced.”

Mr Tice insisted that a vote for Reform was not just a protest, adding that “contrary to what all the commentators say, we are going to win seats”.

“The choice for people is, whether you vote Tory or whether you vote Labour, you will get the same form of socialism,” the Reform leader said.

“You will get higher taxes, lower wages, mass immigration that will make us all worse off and our quality of life will diminish.”

Shown a Tory attack advert, which parodied a Scooby Doo reveal to argue that a vote for him is a vote for Sir Keir, he said: “The more memes the better. It’s all part of it. The fact that they’re focused on us shows just how worried they are.”

‘Ready to save Britain’

Mr Tice, standing in front of his party’s election slogan of “Ready to save Britain” said he would fight the campaign on the issue of immigration.

Accusing the Prime Minister of “bottling” the Rwanda plan, he said Reform UK would effectively implement a net zero approach to migration.

The policy would mean that the number of people arriving could not exceed those emigrating, which typically comes to around 500,000 a year.

He argued that the impact of high levels of immigration on house prices, NHS waiting lists and wages had been “simply unfair for British people”.

Mr Tice announced that he will be standing in Boston and Skegness, moving from Hartlepool which he contested for the Brexit Party back in 2019.

He also insisted that Mr Farage, who has given up his GB News show for the election period, would be hitting the campaign trail on behalf of the party.

“No one loves and is more experienced at campaigns than Nigel. He’ll be in Boston, he’ll be everywhere, you won’t be able to hold him back,” he said.

Mr Farage had been mulling several different constituencies for a potential eighth run at Parliament, but Boston was not one of them.

Intriguingly, despite his decision not to run in this election, he has not ruled out a comeback at the next one, likely to be held in 2029, when he might stand a better chance of winning.

A source close to Mr Farage said: “Nigel can only play his final card once, and this was not the right moment.”

Mr Farage has made it clear recently that Reform UK is a six-year project, with 2024 being used to make serious inroads into the Right-wing vote before an all-out assault on winning power in the election that follows that.

His statement on Thursday read: “As honorary president of Reform UK, I am fully supportive of Richard Tice’s leadership and urge voters to put their trust in him and Lee Anderson. I will do my bit to help in the campaign, but it is not the right time for me to go any further than that.

“Important though the general election is, the contest in the United States of America on November 5 has huge global significance. A strong America as a close ally is vital for our peace and security. I intend to help with the grassroots campaign in the USA in any way that I can.

“The choice between Labour and the Conservatives is uninspiring, and only Reform have the radical agenda that is needed to end decline in this country.”

Mr Farage’s reference to the US election echoed remarks earlier this month, when he said the presidential race was more important than the UK vote.

Speaking to The Telegraph from the US, where he spent the week of the local elections instead of campaigning for Reform, he said: “Yes, we’ve got an election year, but the biggest election in the world is taking place here.

“While I’m not ruling out anything in the UK completely, I think where I am this week is an indication of my thinking.”

Mr Farage has been a prominent supporter of Donald Trump since the 2016 presidential race and has cultivated a friendship with him. There is speculation he could be offered a job in a second Trump administration.