Tory donors in secret talks with Farage over electoral pact
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.”