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Labour Warned Against Celebrating Nigel Farage’s Commons Bid

Nigel Farage holds a milkshake after having one thrown in his face at his first visit to Clacton as an election candidate (Credit: Mark Thomas/Alamy Live News)

3 min read

Labour has been warned against feeling positive about Nigel Farage standing for Parliament. Baroness Chakrabarti believes that while the move will hurt the Conservatives at the 4 July general election, it is “not good news” for Keir Starmer in the long term.

Farage announced on Monday that he will be standing for Parliament as the Reform UK candidate in the Essex constituency of Clacton, which is currently Tory-held. It is the only seat that has ever elected a UKIP MP and recent polling suggests Farage is in a strong position to win it.

His decision is seen as a boost to Reform UK's prospects at the upcoming election and a further blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's chances of pulling off what currently looks like an unlikely electoral recovery. The latest polling from YouGov, conducted after Farage’s announcement, shows the right-wing party taking 17 per cent of the vote share, compared to the Conservatives on 19 and Labour on 40. 

Even if Reform UK doesn't win any House of Commons seats of its own, it is well-placed to punish the Tories in numerous seats nationwide by taking votes from Sunak's party. This, in turn, will make it easier for Keir Starmer's Labour to win them. 

In an exclusive interview with The House magazine, Labour peer Baroness Chakrabarti, a former shadow cabinet member and director of Liberty, warned her party against celebrating Farage's decision because "nobody should be heartened by an emboldened populist far right”.

“I am sure that many of my Labour colleagues will have felt a boost that he was standing because that will undoubtedly take some votes to Reform that wouldn't otherwise have gone there. It certainly put it on the map,” she said.

“I'm sure that some Labour colleagues will go, 'great, he's taking away from the Conservatives'. I'm not a psephologist – that may or may not be the case at this election – but longer-term the rise of the populist far right is not good news for anybody.

“In a two-party system, and frankly in any democracy, nobody should be heartened by an emboldened populist far right, particularly if you care about rights and freedoms and the rule of law.”

Shami Chakrabarti (Alamy)

Chakrabarti said Farage's influence resulted in the Tory government delivering "the worst possible kind" of exit from the European Union, and that her party should not underestimate "what influence he would have in Parliament".

She said: “Nigel Farage was incredibly influential in making sure that the kind of Brexit that we had was the worst possible kind, and that the campaign that was 'take back control' became xenophobic and contrary to the rule of law, and that's the influence he's had even without being in Parliament."

She went on to say for Farage, who succeeded Rice Tice as Reform UK leader, to stand at this time is “particularly perilous because one-nation conservatism is on its knees”. She said Prime Minister Sunak “has presided over the decimation and collapse” of the moderate Tory tradition.

The Labour peer added: “Farage is more effective in the Trumpian sense than a lot of the others who are currently inhabiting whatever they call themselves – New Conservatism and so on. He's much more effective than, say, a Suella Braverman, in terms of communication.”

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