Election poll shows Nigel Farage tightening Reform UK's grip on Tory defectors

Farage made a headline-grabbing intervention this week, announcing he would stand as an MP and take over as Reform UK's leader

TOPSHOT - Newly appointed leader of Britain's right-wing populist party, Reform UK, and the party's parliamentary candidate for Clacton, Nigel Farage, addresses supporters during his general election campaign launch in Clacton-on-Sea, eastern England, on June 4, 2024. Nigel Farage on Monday said he would stand as a candidate for the anti-immigration Reform UK party in Britain's general election next month, after initially ruling out running.
Nigel Farage addresses supporters during his campaign launch in Clacton-on-Sea. (AFP via Getty Images)

Nigel Farage’s grip on disillusioned Tory voters appears to be tightening following this week’s announcement that he would be standing as an MP.

In yet another blow to Rishi Sunak, a YouGov poll of 540 Reform UK supporters, including 366 who voted Conservative in the 2019 general election, shows they have become more determined to vote for Reform UK since Farage’s headline-grabbing intervention.

When the first survey was carried out between 23 and 30 May, 52% of those voters said they were “almost certain” to choose Reform UK in the 4 July election.

Then came Farage’s announcement on Monday that he would be standing in the seaside town of Clacton-on-Sea, and also taking over the party leadership from Richard Tice.

In the subsequent surveys carried out between Tuesday and Thursday, YouGov found the share of those voters now saying they will definitely vote for Reform UK has risen by 12 percentage points to 64%.

64% of 2019 Tory voters are now saying they will vote for Reform UK. (YouGov)
64% of 2019 Tory voters are now saying they will vote for Reform UK. (YouGov)

YouGov also reported: “There has likewise been an increase in the number dismissing the idea of voting Conservative out of hand. While 34% of Tory defectors to Reform had described their willingness to return to the Conservatives as a 0 out of 10 last week, that figure has since increased to 43%.”

Farage’s announcement was seen as a major setback to Sunak, given Reform UK’s ability to split the Tory vote.

And the former Brexit Party and Ukip leader has been explicit about his intentions in this respect, having set out his goal for Reform UK to effectively replace the Conservative Party.

Read more: When is the next UK general election TV debate?

Suggesting a “chunk” of Conservatives could join his party, he said on Tuesday: “I don’t want to join the Conservative Party, I think the better thing to do would be to take it over.”

The Tories appear on course for a heavy defeat on 4 July, with YouGov suggesting in a separate poll earlier this week they could be reduced to just 140 seats, with Labour winning 422 and a landslide majority of 194.

Under Boris Johnson, the Conservatives won 365 seats, and a majority of 80, in 2019.

TOPSHOT - Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (L) talks with D-Day and WWII Normandy veterans following the UK's national commemorative event to mark the 80th anniversary commemorations of Allied amphibious landing (D-Day Landings) in France in 1944, in Southsea Common, southern England, on June 5, 2024. Heads of state and veterans are due to mark the anniversary of D-Day on June 6, a date that was key to Allied Europe's eventual victory against the Nazis in World War II. (Photo by Leon Neal / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEON NEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak talks with veterans at the D-Day 80th anniversary events, which he left early. (AFP via Getty Images)

It has been a torrid week for Sunak.

Following Farage's unwelcome (from a Conservative perspective) intervention, the prime minister endured perhaps the most significant setback of the campaign so far on Friday over criticism for skipping a major international ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day in order to take part in a TV interview. One Normandy veteran accused Sunak of letting the country down.

The PM admitted “on reflection” he should have stayed for the event where world leaders including US president Joe Biden marked the sacrifice made by troops landing on the Normandy beaches in 1944.

Ken Hay, 98, who was captured as a prisoner of war just weeks after D-Day, told Sky News: “He lets the country down. It’s not the representation of how we’re trying to weld things together to keep the peace.”

Farage seized on the saga, saying he helped raise £100,000 for the Taxi Charity to send veterans back to Normandy but “Rishi Sunak could not even be bothered to attend the international event above Omaha Beach”.

Questioning Sunak’s patriotism, he added: “Who really believes in our people, him or me?”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also said Sunak “will have to answer for his own actions” in leaving Normandy ahead of the event and that “for me there was nowhere else I was going to be”.