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November 14 general election planned to ‘neutralise’ Nigel Farage | Politics | News

Rishi Sunak is considering a general election on November 14 to stop Nigel Farage wreaking havoc on the Tories‘ campaign.

The Prime Minister is looking at a poll one week after the United States presidential race in the hope the Reform UK honorary president will be kept busy in Washington by his friend Donald Trump.

It comes after a shock poll found Mr Farage would wipe four points off the Conservative Party’s rating if he returned to the political front line, pushing the party down to 21 percent.

The former UK Independence Party leader has said he is “very tempted by a big offer” in the US.

A source close to Mr Farage said: “No 10 have every reason to fear a Farage comeback, as the latest polling shows.

“But after 14 years of failure, the Conservatives are doomed regardless of what Nigel decides to do next. My current understanding is he’s very tempted by a big offer in the US.”

A poll by JL Partners found Mr Farage would give Reform a major boost, also wiping four points off Labour’s 45 percent rating.

Director Scarlett Maguire said it would be a “knockout blow” for the Conservatives.

Reform has been nipping at Tory heels consistently in the polls. However, experts still believe it is unlikely to take any seats at the general election under the first-past-the-post voting system.

The party’s only MP, Lee Anderson, who joined after having the party whip withdrawn by the Conservatives, is facing a tough fight in his Ashfield constituency from Labour.

But the Conservatives fear Reform will do untold damage even without taking a seat, by splitting the vote on the Right and allowing Labour an easy win.

Reform leader Richard Tice has said the more help Mr Farage can give the party, the better.

He has publicly called for the Tories to be “smashed and destroyed” and said he is on a mission to ensure they « never have a majority government again ».

Under the Brexit Party banner in 2019, Mr Farage agreed to step aside in a number of seats in the general elction to allow Boris Johnson a clear run.

But Mr Tice has ruled out standing aside this time round, insisting there will be “absolutely no deals”.

Mr Sunak has repeatedly insisted the general election will be in the second half of the year, but has not ruled out calling a vote in July.

Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, damped down speculation over a summer vote at the weekend, insisting voters should be given more time to see “the plan is working” and suggesting the PM should go “long”.

But senior Labour figures are understood to privately believe July is still an option.

The uncertainty over the timing is one of Mr Sunak’s remaining secret weapons against Sir Keir Starmer’s increasingly bullish party.

Using the date to his advantage over Reform by forcing Mr Farage to choose whether to fight for a Westminster seat for an eighth time or or be on hand for Mr Trump in the final weeks of his campaign is something strategists are considering, according to senior MPs and Whitehall insiders.

One Tory said: “Nigel Farage at the helm of Reform would be a nightmare for us, so a November poll is an obvious way to neutralise him.

“Does he really want to fight a general election and lose again when he could be in Washington with Trump?”

Lord Finkelstein, a former Tory strategist, said he expected Mr Sunak to now run an election campaign on the basis it is “better the devil you know” like Sir John Major in 1992, when he secured a shock victory.

The peer said senior party strategists will be thinking they are definitely going to lose but that they can make a difference to the result.

He told Times Radio: “The problem is that ‘better the devil you know’ is the least potent.

“You can win on those things. I mean, I think 1992 was won on ‘better the devil you know’. So you can win on ‘better the devil you know’, and you can run ‘time for a change’ when you’re in government, as Boris Johnson demonstrated. So these strategies have flexibility, but it’s better to run either ‘time for a change’ or ‘Britain’s on the right track, don’t turn back’.”

Mr Sunak will tomorrow be braced for another defection following Natalie Elphicke’s desertion last week, after senior Labour figures suggested more MPs were in talks to cross the floor.

But one Tory said: “After the bad feeling caused by Natalie’s defection, colleagues thinking about it have probably thought again.

“No one likes a turncoat and the fallout has been brutal.”

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