Farage hands big boost to John­son

Manchester Evening News - - NATIONAL -

NIGEL FARAGE has handed Boris John­son a Gen­eral Elec­tion boost after he dropped plans to stand Brexit Party can­di­dates in more than 300 of the 600 con­stituen­cies he had tar­geted.

The Brexit Party leader said he had taken the “dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion” not to con­test the 317 seats held by the Tories at the last elec­tion amid fears it could lead to a hung par­lia­ment and a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

The an­nounce­ment was wel­comed by the Prime Min­is­ter, who said it was recog­ni­tion that only the Con­ser­va­tives could “get Brexit done”.

How­ever, op­po­si­tion par­ties said it showed the Tories and the Brexit Party were now “one and the same”.

Mr Farage had pre­vi­ously threat­ened to stand can­di­dates in some 600 seats un­less Mr John­son aban­doned his with­drawal deal with the EU.

But after the Con­ser­va­tives re­jected his of­fer of a “Leave al­liance”, he came un­der in­tense pres­sure from within his own party not to risk split­ting the pro-Brexit vote.

His long-time ally – mil­lion­aire backer Ar­ron Banks – an­nounced plans for a tac­ti­cal vot­ing app which would have urged vot­ers in hun­dreds of con­stituen­cies to sup­port the Tories. Ad­dress­ing a Brexit Party rally in Hartle­pool, Mr Farage said he had de­cided to pull back amid con­cerns his party could have let in sig­nif­i­cant numbers of Lib­eral Democrats – open­ing up the prospect of a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

“I think this an­nounce­ment today pre­vents a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum from hap­pen­ing,” he said.

“And that to me, I think right now, is the sin­gle most im­por­tant thing in our coun­try.

“So in a sense, we now have a Leave al­liance, it’s just that we’ve done it uni­lat­er­ally.

“We’ve de­cided our­selves that we ab­so­lutely have to put coun­try be­fore party and take the fight to Labour.”

Polling ex­perts said the Brexit Party move would help the Tories in seats where they were un­der threat – par­tic­u­larly from the Lib Dems.

How­ever, they will still be con­test­ing Labour-held seats which the Tories need to win if they are to gain an over­all ma­jor­ity in the poll on De­cem­ber 12.

Chris Cur­tis, head of po­lit­i­cal re­search at poll­sters YouGov, said: “It is still the case that most mar­ginal seats are Labour-Con­ser­va­tive bat­tles and this is the most im­por­tant dy­namic in de­cid­ing who will be cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas in 10 Down­ing Street.

“Given this, Farage’s de­ci­sion to stand aside in cur­rent Con­ser­va­tive-held seats and not in Labour-held seats that the Tories will be look­ing to gain will likely make very lit­tle dif­fer­ence.”

Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn said Mr Farage’s move could pave the way to a US trade deal, giv­ing Amer­i­can phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies ac­cess to the NHS.

“One week ago, Don­ald Trump told Nigel Farage to make a pact with Boris John­son. Today, Trump got his wish. This Trump al­liance is Thatcheris­m on steroids,” he said.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage

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