'Serious threat!' Reform UK braces for war with Tories as only one party can survive on the centre-right

Rishi Sunak and Nigel Farage

'Reform UK and the Tory Party now need to brace for a bloody war to assert control of the centre-right,' says Jack Walters

Jack Walters

By Jack Walters

Published: 10/07/2024

- 10:03

Updated: 10/07/2024

- 14:50

GB News' reporter Jack Walters explores the imminent battle for the centre-right between the Tories and Reform UK

"There's space in British politics for only one conservative party and at the moment our place in that spectrum is under a serious threat," former Home Secretary Suella Braverman claimed at yesterday's Popular Conservatism event.

Insiders from both Reform UK and the Tory Party know a war of attrition is coming ahead of the 2029 General Election.

Both parties, which sit to the centre-right of British politics, will look to cement themselves as the leading voice of opposition to Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.

Despite suffering its worst result since 1906, the Conservative Party retained its position as His Majesty’s Official Opposition with a rump of just 121 MPs.

Reform UK helped end Nigel Farage’s electoral hoodoo and returned an additional quartet of MPs to the House of Commons, with more than four million votes.

Post-election analysis has suggested the populist party’s inclusion cost the Tories an additional 80 seats and inflated Labour’s majority from 48 to 172.

GB News has taken a look at around a dozen Tory-held or Brexit-backing seats where Reform UK failed to field a candidate.

The results show Tory support held up better than when a candidate from the populist party was pillaging support.

Hexham, which narrowly fell to Labour, saw Tory support drop by 15.2 per cent, with Labour surging by 14.6 per cent.

However, in neighbouring seats where the rebranded Brexit Party stood, including North Northumberland, the drop in support for the Conservative Party doubled and Reform UK won more than 15 per cent of the vote.

Rishi Sunak

Despite suffering its worst result since 1906, the Conservative Party retained its position as His Majesty’s Official Opposition with a rump of just 121 MPs


It was a similar story in Epping Forest. Conservative support fell by 21.2 per cent, with Labour increasing by 9.3 per cent.

Labour's support increased by a similar margin across other Essex seats, such as Brentwood & Ongar and Basildon & Billericay.

Reform UK's support surged by more than 30 per cent across much of Essex as the Brexit-backing county voiced its frustration with the Tory Establishment.

Looking at the results from a Reform perspective, the populist party managed to leapfrog Rishi Sunak’s candidates in a number of seats.

Reform UK now appears to pose a more significant threat to Labour in dozens of Brexit-backing constituencies, stretching from Llanelli to Thurrock.

And there is also some evidence to suggest that Reform UK performed better when the Tories did not put up a candidate in Rotherham.

The populist party's vote share soared by 13.3 per cent, with Labour increasing by a modest 4.4 per cent.

In comparison, Barnsley South and Doncaster Central witnessed Tory support plummet with a much more modest Reform bounce of between four and 5.2 per cent.

The situation shows that Reform UK and the Tory Party now need to brace for a bloody war to assert control of the centre-right.

Only one party can emerge from the skirmish if the Tories or Reform have any hope of entering power in 2029.

The other possible alternative, dismissed by the majority of runners and riders to succeed Sunak, is for the Tories to bring Farage into the Tory fold.

Some Conservative MPs have voiced support for doing a deal with Farage, including Braverman.

Romford MP Andrew Rossindell told GB News: “The situation we are in is perilous. Reform aren’t going to go away. They are going to be there for a long time and could even grow in strength.

"If they do, this is going to potentially lead to the Conservatives being out of office for a very, very long time.

"In the end, a merger would inevitably happen, just like it did in Canada between Reform and the Conservatives after 1993. I don’t want that to happen but I think we are very foolish if we think that we can just brush this aside and think, ‘Well, we can win the next election’."

He added: “The argument that a vote for Reform just lets Labour in falls on deaf ears now. On the doorstep, people don’t care.

"They’re just so disappointed with us. And Reform could start picking up Labour votes now. Labour is going to become unpopular. Those votes won’t go to us but they could go to Reform, meaning Reform could grow even bigger.

"We have a huge problem ahead of us but in the end, Reform can’t win a general election on its own. And in the end, if we can’t either, there has to be something to bring us together.

"Otherwise, we are just handing power to Labour for a long time and neither of us wants that.”

However, even leadership contenders sympathetic to Farage appear to have distanced themselves from an official merger.

Ex-Home Secretary Priti Patel and former Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick appear to intend on rebuilding the Tories with a plan to thwart Reform rather than embrace Farage.

And it would seem the Reform UK leader is not to keen on getting his hands dirty with the Tories either.

Farage is instead hoping to complete a “reverse takeover” of the centre-right, stressing he "doesn't care" which Conservative MP replaces Sunak as leader.

Sensing an opportunity ahead of yet another Tory leadership contest, the Clacton MP added: "They're already in civil war. With the election result, the ink is barely dry on the paper and they're at war."

And there is also no love lost between former Tory MP Lee Anderson and his ex-Conservative colleagues.

Anderson, who defected from Labour to stand for the Tories before switching to Reform UK earlier this year, told GB News: “The real Conservatives have lost their seats.

“The ones that are left, with a few exceptions, should join the Liberal Democrats.”

Despite Sir Robert Buckland and Damian Green being among the One Nation Tories toppled, a plurality of remaining Conservative MPs supported centrist candidates in the 2022 Tory leadership contest.

Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage is hoping to complete a “reverse takeover” of the centre-right


The proportion of MPs supporting culturally right or economically right leadership hopefuls stood at 12 and 17 per cent respectively, with the remainder being elected for the first time on July 4.

Anderson was likely referencing a number of his key Red Wall allies, including Jonathan Gullis and Nick Fletcher.

In a damning assessment of the Tory Party's defeat last week, a Reform UK source added: “The Tories don’t realise that the electoral alignment has changed. People feel that the last 14 years has been an utter betrayal of everything that was promised.

"The level of anger with swing voters is real. Reform aren’t just a centre-right alternative. We are populist and bring punchier centre-right politics.

“They don’t get it. Voters care more than just about immigration, it’s really important, but they care about so much more. The agenda and frustrations against the Tories is really wide-ranging.

"The Tories might think our voters will come back. That might have been the case when Ukip were there but that vote has hardened. They’ve been betrayed time after time after time. I don’t think many will look to go back.”

And Tory insiders have been split on how to deal with Reform UK ahead of the next election.

A bitter Conservative source said: “I hope Reform voters regret what they have done.”

However, another Tory insider stressed the Conservative Party needed to “diagnose” what went wrong on July 4 to “neutralise” the threat from Reform UK.

Fred de Fossard, who served as a special adviser to defeated ex-Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, told GB News: “The Tories aren’t ready to fix this right now. The party needs to think and diagnose what went wrong and what to do next.

“The strategy needs to address how to best take on Reform or it will never come back to power. It is terminal for the Tory Party not to neutralise Reform on the right flank at 15 per cent.

“The other side of the Tory Party will look at how insanely well the Lib Dems did in terms of seats, despite getting fewer votes than Reform. It’s all about balance and a trade off. The party is not yet united on this front. It was very split on doing a deal with Reform and much of that is ideological.”

Echoing concerns but from the right of the Tory Party, another Conservative source added: "We need to seek a way to work harmoniously together. I doubt it will be possible immediately.

"The 50/50 split in the centre right vote gave Labour this massive majority. We can’t repeat it in future.

"Conservative Party must move right to take its voters and members back from Reform."

However, ex-Environment Secretary George Eustice also warned Tories against pursuing a "tedious" debate rather than singularly pandering to Reform or to the Liberal Democrats.

"You lose power when that coalition falls apart," he told GB News. "That's what we saw last week with the Conservative coalition collapsing.

"Liberal Conservatives went to the Liberal Democrats and more traditional Conservatives switched to Reform. The Tories have had this terrible problem in recent years of not knowing which group to go after to salvage itself. It's ended up annoying everybody on every front.

"Historically, the Conservative Party has had a lot of endurance and resilience. It's been able to dust itself off from difficult defeats and pull back together. I think it'll do the same again but from a very low ebb."

Eustice, who believes only one centre-right party can survive if it has any hope of winning the keys to No10, added: "It might be difficult in the short-term. The people who have survived - Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat, for example - come from different wings of the party but either of them could have a reasonable go at putting it together.

"The issue though is that bringing the Conservative coalition back together might not happen on the first leader."

Ex-Environment Secretary George Eustice warned Tories against pursuing a "tedious" debate rather than singularly pandering to Reform or to the Liberal Democrats.



Offering some advice to Tory MPs, Eustice claimed: "You have to make yourself relevant to the issues that this country wants answered. It's about being in tune with public opinion, rather than pandering to the centre or right."

Eustice, who joined the Tories from Ukip, concluded: "I've known Nigel Farage for 25 years, my criticism of Nigel is much more that he always seems to undermine the causes he believes in. The biggest impact of him last week was to sink dozens of Conservatives, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, to get four MPs from his own party.

"But he does connect with people and I don't begrudge him his day in the sun after finally getting elected as an MP."

Lord David Frost appeared confident the Tory Party could see off Reform UK in the coming years.

Speaking at Tuesday's Popular Conservatism conference in Westminster, Lord Frost said: "By 2027, we can, if we work hard, get a single party on the right again, with no competitor to its right. That is absolutely doable if we get serious now."

However, a Tory source simply said: "Not a chance."

Another added: "It's going to be very, very difficult to see off Reform by 2027 even if we pivot to the right.

"We are acting as though Farage is a free agent. He's not. It will really depend on what he wants."

A senior Tory bigwig also told GB News: "If we campaign to leave the ECHR, then my Reform friends are in for a shock. That'll certainly stem the tide."

You may like