Tory donors in se­cret talks with Farage over elec­toral pact

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Christo­pher Hope

CON­SER­VA­TIVE Party donors have opened se­cret talks with Nigel Farage about an elec­toral pact un­der which the Tories would not stand can­di­dates against the Brexit Party in dozens of seats at a snap gen­eral elec­tion.

Speculatio­n is grow­ing that the next Tory leader will have to call a snap elec­tion to bring in new MPS who will agree to take the UK out of the EU by the end of Oc­to­ber. A poll in The Sun­day Times yes­ter­day put Mr Farage’s Brexit Party in first place on 24 per cent, three points ahead of the Tories and Labour on 21 per cent.

It comes as Johnny Leaves­ley, the head of the Mid­lands In­dus­trial Coun­cil – the Tories’ big­gest donor group – writes in The Daily Tele­graph that the next prime min­is­ter “needs to be will­ing to work with Farage”.

Rory Ste­wart, the se­cond favourite to be crowned Con­ser­va­tive leader, also per­son­ally reached out to Mr Farage, telling him on his LBC ra­dio phone-in that the Tories had “to find a way, as a party, of reach­ing out to you”.

Un­der the idea, the Brexit Party could agree not to stand against Tory Brex­i­teer can­di­dates, while the Tories would not fight met­ro­pol­i­tan Labour seats in the north of Eng­land where the Brexit Party is strong.

Sup­port­ers of a pact say it could stop Con­ser­va­tive MPS jump­ing ship to the Brexit Party if they be­come dis­il­lu­sioned with the new leader. An­other busi­ness­man fa­mil­iar with the talks said they were “very pre­lim­i­nary”, adding “you have to get Boris on board and that is go­ing to be very tricky [be­fore the lead­er­ship race is over]”.

Two ma­jor Con­ser­va­tive donors have raised the is­sue in talks with Mr Farage. Tory donors are ex­pected to press the re­main­ing two Con­ser­va­tive Party chal­lengers at a pri­vate hus­tings for donors this Satur­day.

Mr Farage is also ex­pected to be pressed on the pos­si­bil­ity of a tie-up when he is ques­tioned by an au­di­ence

of up to 1,000 read­ers of The Tele­graph at an event in Lon­don to­mor­row night. Last night, Mr Farage con­firmed that he had dis­cussed the plans.

He said: “I have had a cou­ple of ap­proaches from peo­ple say­ing ‘wouldn’t this be a good idea?’ To which I say ‘to do what? Just to keep the Tories in­side No10 and us in the EU?’” He added: “I don’t trust any of them [the lead­er­ship can­di­dates] to de­liver a gen­uine Brexit and un­less that sit­u­a­tion changes, we are gear­ing up as an or­gan­i­sa­tion to fight ev­ery seat in the coun­try.”

Mr Ste­wart, who is now rated as around 12-1 to be crowned Con­ser­va­tive leader – ahead of Jeremy Hunt (141) but be­hind Mr John­son (1-7) – said that he wanted to “use the Brexit Party’s suc­cess to put an elec­tric shock through Par­lia­ment and get it through”.

He told Mr Farage on LBC ra­dio: “We need to find a way, as a party, of reach­ing out to you and bring you in to try to work out how we crack this, how do we get this (Brexit) through Par­lia­ment.”

Mr Farage replied: “I would do a deal with the devil to get a proper Brexit.”

Writ­ing in The Tele­graph, Mr Leaves­ley, whose Mid­lands In­dus­trial Coun­cil do­nates mil­lions of pounds to the Tories ev­ery year, said: “Many se­nior Tories would no doubt find al­liance with the ‘Mar­mite Farage’ a re­pug­nant propo­si­tion, but re­al­ity should force what could be a very con­ve­nient mar­riage.

“Farage knows he can’t win a gen­eral elec­tion out­right and many Con­ser­va­tives will re­alise that is also their truth. A Brexit-con­ser­va­tive pact might lose the Tories much of their lib­eral wing, but it would give clar­ity over Brexit and be the key to enough pop­u­lar­ity to save them. In essence, the next prime min­is­ter needs to be will­ing to work with Farage.”

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