General election: Johnson hopes for last-minute deal with Brexit Party's Farage

14 November 2019, 01:36 | Updated: 14 November 2019, 08:39

Parties have until 4pm to confirm their candidates for the general election, with the Tories desperate for an 11th-hour deal with Nigel Farage.

In the hours before the deadline, the Conservatives are expected to pile pressure on the Brexit Party leader not to field candidates in Labour-held marginal seats.

But to the dismay of Boris Johnson and his allies, Mr Farage is so far standing firm, refusing to make further concessions beyond the 317 candidates he has already stood down in seats won by the Tories in 2017.

It comes as today on the campaign trail:

  • Home Secretary Priti Patel will warn that Labour's immigration policy would put a strain on the NHS and schools
  • Unite's Len McCluskey causes a headache for Mr Corbyn, saying Labour must be tougher on free movement
  • Mr Corbyn remains in Scotland, as two of his biggest allies will pledge to close the gender pay gap
  • The Lib Dems' Luciana Berger criticises both Mr Corbyn and Mr Johnson over discrimination as the party plans changes to equalities and human rights

After Mr Farage announced his retreat on Monday the Conservatives offered him an electoral pact that would have meant the Brexit Party targeting just 40 key seats, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The prime minister was said to be willing to put up "paper candidates" in Labour marginals, with the Tories carrying out only minimal campaigning in order to give an advantage to their Brexit Party rivals.

But according to the newspaper, the deal was turned down by Mr Farage, who said Tories should withdraw their candidates from the seats because he was worried that they would still attract votes.

"I would have stood down in lots of key marginals in return for a few on the other side," Mr Farage told the Telegraph. "I would not have even asked for 40. There would have been a guaranteed Leave majority in parliament and they refused to do it.

"It is completely maddening. I said to them: 'I can win you the general election now', and they chose not to take that option."

:: Listen to Campaign Unwrapped on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Spreaker

The deadlock means the Brexit Party is set to contest those key Labour marginals that Mr Johnson needs to win to deliver a majority. It is understood 270 Brexit Party candidates have already submitted their nomination papers.

For the two big parties, Labour and the Conservatives, the final hours before nominations close will also see a number of candidates imposed by their party HQs on constituencies which have still not selected.

In moves which will provoke fury among many constituency activists, these candidates are almost certain to be leadership loyalists - in some cases party staffers - with local candidates pushed aside.

And as yet there is still no official confirmation that the prime minister is defending his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat, where his majority is just 5,034, instead of moving to a much safer Tory seat.

On the day nominations close, the election battleground is moving on to immigration, with the Tories claiming Labour policies could see net migration rise to 840,000 a year, and equal pay, with Labour pledging to close the gender pay gap.

Home Secretary Priti Patel claims Tory analysis of Labour's proposals for open borders - using official figures and the government's own methodology - would mean the equivalent to the combined populations of Manchester and Newcastle moving to the UK every single year.

"Under Corbyn's Labour, immigration would surge, and put huge strain on schools and our NHS," said Ms Patel. "Jeremy Corbyn has no credible plan for how to deal with the consequences of his open borders policy."

More worryingly for Labour, Mr Corbyn's chief union cheerleader, Len McCluskey of Unite, has told The Guardian that Labour must take a tough line on free movement of workers.

Ahead of a conference this weekend to agree Labour's manifesto, Mr McCluskey said the party must prevent pay and conditions from being undercut before it could consider relaxing its stance.

"It's wrong in my view to have any greater free movement of labour unless you get stricter labour market regulation," he told The Guardian.

Out on the campaign trail, meanwhile, Labour is pledging to close the gender pay gap - which currently sees women paid an average of 13% less than men - within a decade.

Two of Mr Corbyn's most loyal allies and rising stars in the party, Laura Pidcock and Dawn Butler, are unveiling a 10-point plan including fining employers and boosting maternity pay.

The proposals are being launched on Equal Pay Day, when women effectively stop getting paid for the rest of the year compared to their male counterparts, according to campaigners.

The pledge also comes ahead of next year's 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, introduced by Barbara Castle after a Ford sewing machinists' equal pay strike immortalised in the film Made in Dagenham.

Setting a target of closing the gender pay gap by 2030, the party's proposals include:

  • A living wage of £10 an hour
  • Fining organisations that fail to report gender pay, publish plans to reduce pay gaps or take satisfactory measures to close the gap
  • Extending statutory maternity pay from nine to 12 months and introducing free childcare for all 2-4 year olds
  • Stronger protection against unfair dismissal and redundancies, with extra rights for pregnant women
  • Rolling out sectoral collective bargaining to raise the floor on pay across entire sectors
  • National pay scales in low paid sectors with overwhelmingly female workforces
  • A menopause workplace policy in large companies

"For far too long the interests of working women have been at the bottom of the list of priorities for government," Ms Pidcock, the shadow employment rights secretary, said.

"Employers will no longer be able to treat the issue of the gender pay gap as an afterthought. Instead, they will be expected to take proactive steps to close it."

"Labour will deliver the real change that women need in the workplace."

Ms Butler, the shadow women and equalities secretary, added: "It's not good enough that under the current government's plans, it will take another 60 years to close the gender pay gap.

"Labour's real living wage, robust gender pay auditing - including fining organisations that fail to take action, will help us deliver real change and meet this ambitious target."

The Brexit Election on Sky News - the fastest results and in-depth analysis on mobile, TV and radio.

  • Watch Dermot Murnaghan live from 9pm on 12 December
  • See the exit poll at 10pm
  • Watch KayBurley@Breakfast election special on 13 December
  • Find out what happens next in All Out Politics special from 9am with Adam Boulton