Making plans for Nigel: could Farage return to the Tories?

Brexiteer has been linked with party leadership after creating a 'buzz' at conference

Nigel Farage with a cigarette
Farage told reporters he had 'achieved a lot more outside of the Tory party than I ever could have done from within it'
(Image credit: Julian Tallis/Getty Images)

Nigel Farage would be welcome to return to the Conservative Party, signalled Rishi Sunak after the former Ukip leader attended the Tory conference.

Asked by GB News whether he would accept Farage back into the Conservative fold, the PM said the party is "a very broad church", adding that he welcomes "lots of people who want to subscribe to our values".

But the BBC recalled that Farage "tore up his Tory membership card in the early 1990s" after the then leader, John Major, signed the Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union. So how realistic is talk of a return?

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'Roll out the red carpet'

The former Ukip leader, who has been a "thorn in the side of successive Tory leaders for decades", does "not seem to be unwelcome" at the conference, noted Westminster Producer, Lewis Denison, for ITV News.

Members have been "dashing for selfies" with him and "a crowd has swarmed him almost everywhere he's gone", added Denison, and he has joined former home secretary Priti Patel for a spot of karaoke.

Perhaps the "buzz" around Farage shows the parliamentary Conservative Party "could do with more animated politicians like him", especially with the "aura" of Boris Johnson gone, he wrote.

Having "walked into conference" with Farage, Tory commentator Tim Montgomerie agreed. He wrote on social media that the politician got "quite the reception", adding that he's "convinced" party members would "choose him as leader if they could".  

Amid the frenzy, Farage told reporters that "he has stayed the same, but that much of the Tory party has moved towards him", summarised Marina Hyde for The Guardian. She described this claim as "somewhat smug, but no word of a lie".

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a friend of Farage, told the BBC's Politics Live that he has always been a Tory at heart and suggested the party should "roll out the red carpet" if he ever wanted to rejoin.

But long-term ally of Farage told the broadcaster that "there is no way he would ever join the Tories after the way they have treated him," adding that Farage "just enjoys winding them up".


Not all Tories are Farage fans. Greg Hands, the Conservative Party chairman, said he would not welcome a return of the former member, noted The Times. Hands pointed out that Farage had consistently advocated voting for other parties over recent years, and said that is "not consistent with being a member of the Conservative Party".

The man himself has put out mixed messages on the question. He told GB News he could not join a party that had "put the tax rate up to the highest in over 70 years", allowed net migration "to run at over half a million a year" and not "used Brexit to deregulate to help small businesses".

He added that he has "achieved a lot more outside of the Tory party than I ever could have done from within it", but he has also hinted that he could be more involved in the party "if it went in the direction he wanted".

Talk of Farage becoming a future Tory leader is "outlandish", wrote Rachel Cunliffe, associate political editor of the New Statesman, because he would "have to stand and win as a Conservative MP first – which is highly unlikely". Nevertheless, he will "certainly play a role in shaping the debate around Sunak's successor" and though "never a king" he could be a "kingmaker", she added.

Or could his future be in the House of Lords? Rees-Mogg thinks so. He told a Spectator conference fringe event that his fellow Brexiteer's "contribution to public life" meant that Farage deserved a peerage. "Arise, Sir Nigel?" asked the magazine.


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