Reform overtakes Tories in poll for first time

Nigel Farage welcomed the poll while out on the stump in Clacton
Nigel Farage welcomed the poll while out on the stump in Clacton - Jason Bye

Reform UK has overtaken the Conservatives in an opinion poll for the first time, prompting Nigel Farage to declare: “We are now the opposition”.

A YouGov survey put Mr Farage’s party on 19 per cent, ahead of the Tories on 18 per cent. Labour remains ahead on 37 per cent, a lead of 18 percentage points, while the Liberal Democrats are placed fourth on 14 per cent.

It is the first poll to put Reform ahead of the Tories. Conservative MPs and strategists had feared a “crossover moment” in the polls since Mr Farage returned to front-line politics last week, succeeding Richard Tice as Reform leader.

The poll was carried out after Tuesday’s launch of the Tory manifesto. In recent days, senior party figures have warned that Labour could win a “super majority” if Reform splits the Right-wing vote.

On Thursday night, on a seven-way election debate on ITV Mr Farage said: “Just before we came on air we overtook the Conservatives in a national opinion poll. We are now the opposition to Labour.”

In a video on Twitter, Mr Farage said: “We have now overtaken the Conservatives, we’re in second position in the country.

“In fact we’re leading the Conservative Party in every single region apart from Scotland.

“This is the inflection point. The only wasted vote now is a Conservative vote. We are the challengers to Labour and we’re on our way.”

During the ITV debate, Penny Mordaunt, the Tory House of Commons leader accused Mr Farage directly of being a “Labour enabler”.

However, Mr Farage responded by inverting the Tory attack: “As for being the Labour enabler, we are now ahead of you in the national polls. A vote for you is actually now a vote for Labour.”

Mr Tice, the chairman of Reform, told The Telegraph: “We’re absolutely delighted and YouGov is the gold standard of pollsters. We think they’ve been closest to our real support.

“And the direction of travel is that we’re heading north and the Tories are heading south. The people’s revolt is just gathering momentum.”

On Monday, Mr Farage will hold Reform’s manifesto launch in the Welsh valleys as he opens up a new front by taking the fight to Labour.

Mr Farage believes Reform can take seats from Labour in Wales, which voted strongly to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

He believes working-class communities in the principality have been forgotten by Westminster in the years since devolution, and that they have been poorly served by the Labour-controlled Welsh Assembly.

All but five council areas in Wales voted Leave in 2016, including the former mining communities in the valleys in South Wales.

The Reform manifesto will contain plenty of criticism of the Conservative government, but will also highlight “the disaster of the devolved Labour government in a left behind part of the country”, according to a party source.

The Tory campaign has been hit by a series of setbacks. Last week Rishi Sunak was forced to apologise after leaving D-Day commemorations in Normandy early, and this week, the Prime Minister was dragged into another row after one of his aides placed a £100 bet on a July election three days before the PM announced it would take place on July 4.

The matter is being examined by the Gambling Commission.

Lee Anderson, a former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party who defected to Reform in February, said: “It’s happened, the crossover has actually happened.

“We are now polling ahead of the Conservative Party. Vote Conservative, get Labour.”

A Tory MP in a marginal Red Wall constituency said: “This is what happens when you fail to deliver on immigration.”

Tory strategists blindsided

Reform has almost doubled its support since from the level it was polling at just before Mr Farage revealed he was taking up the helm once more.

A YouGov survey released hours before Mr Farage made his announcement on June 3 had put Reform on 10pc, while the Tories were comfortable in second on 25pc.

His decision blindsided Tory strategists, who thought that by calling a snap election they had headed off the threat of having to face him at the election.

Mr Farage had initially ruled out standing to become an MP once more, saying that he wanted to focus on the upcoming US presidential election.

That decision had meant that businessman Mr Tice, who had been Reform leader since March 2021, was set to lead the party into the election.

The early days of the Tory campaign heavily targeted Reform voters with policies including a boost to the triple lock and the return of National Service.

But that strategy backfired as it is said to have been a key motivating factor in Mr Farage’s decision to reverse his initial decision and take back control of the party.

Andrew Wells, head of European political and social research at YouGov, said: “Obviously all polls have a margin of error, so we can’t conclude for certain that more voters now back Nigel Farage’s party over the Conservatives.

“But what it does make clear is that at the very least the Conservatives and Reform are at a very similar level of support to each other.

“That in itself is remarkable given how close we are to an election when we might otherwise have expected smaller parties’ votes to be squeezed.”

David Davis, the former Conservative Brexit secretary, said voters should not believe the polls.

“On the doorstep in my constituency, I don’t see it,” he said.

Speaking to The Telegraph in the spin room ahead of the ITV debate he added: “I’m sure the polls are right today. But the other thing I know from my 10 different campaigns is the polls are off always.

“There’s only one opinion poll that’s not off and it’s the one they take as people come out of the polling station. All the others are off by between 6 and 20 per cent.”

The warnings from Tories about a Labour super-majority came after Tory social media adverts suggested the party could be reduced to a rump of just 57 seats and be overtaken as the largest opposition party by the Liberal Democrats.