Reform deputy hits back at suggestion Nigel Farage could join Tories, after leader tells LBC he could lead merged party

15 June 2024, 12:19

Ben Habib 'would not welcome' Nigel Farage defecting to the Tories

By Kit Heren

Nigel Farage's deputy has told LBC that he wouldn't welcome the Reform chief joining the Conservatives, after Mr Farage said that he could lead a merged centre-right party.

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Ben Habib insisted that Reform UK are "not a pressure group for the Conservative Party," in an interview with LBC's Matt Frei on Saturday.

"We are our own party," he said. "People keep thinking were some sort of surrogates for the for the Tories, some sort of pressure group or weather-vane and as soon as there's a rapprochement we'll all just capitulate and join them.

"No, we are an independent party and we want to we have a very different agenda to the Tories."

Mr Farage said on Thursday that he would lead a 'centre-right' party that would stand in opposition to a Labour government, but said he would not want to lead the Conservative party as it currently stands.

Read more: Nigel Farage reveals he would lead a Conservative-Reform merged party

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Mr Habib said: "I have no expectations of him defecting to the Tory party. And if he did, I certainly would not welcome it."

Some on the right of the Conservatives, such as former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, have said they would welcome Mr Farage to the party.

Others, such as Foreign Secretary and former Prime Minister David Cameron, have criticised the Reform leader. Lord Cameron said on Saturday that Mr Farage is trying to destroy the Conservatives.

And speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on Thursday, Mr Farage took aim at the current Conservative administration, warning LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast that "something new is going to emerge on the centre right."

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage. Picture: Alamy

"I don't know what it's called, but do I think I could end up leading a national opposition to a Labour party with a big majority, where I can stand up and hold them to account on issues? Yes," confirmed Mr Farage.

Asked by Nick whether he'd "be happy to lead a merged party," Mr Farage responded adamantly: "Yes".

"Would you be happy to lead the Conservative Party?" Nick pushed.

"Well, not as it currently is," admitted Mr Farage, admitting the current Conservative party "may well be dead".

Watch Again: Nick Ferrari is joined by Nigel Farage | 13/06/24

But when pushed by Nick on a future leadership race, the Reform UK leader refused to rule out leading a new centre-right opposition.

"If it were re-worked?" asked Nick.

"I would be prepared to lead the centre right in this country; a centre right that stands up for small business, a centre right that believes in borders, a centre right that isn't scared about standing up for the British people," Mr Farage said.