Nigel Farage’s project falls flat as Brexit party set to win zero seats

Farage expected to focus on supporting Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as Brexit party flounders

The Brexit party is on course for a total wipeout with none of its 273 candidates expected to make the green benches of Westminster.

Nigel Farage’s party failed its first test in Peter Mandelson’s former constituency of Hartlepool in north-east England, where its chairman and most senior candidate, the property millionaire Richard Tice, was hoping to end 55 years of red rule.

Labour’s Mike Hill held on to the seat with 15,464 votes – a majority of 3,595 – seeing off Tice, who got just over 10,000 votes. But the Brexit party got 25.8% of the vote, just behind the Tories at 28.5%, suggesting the Conservative landslide would have been even greater had Farage given Boris Johnson a clear run in all seats.

Its hopes of taking another key Labour marginal, Tony’s Blair’s former seat of Sedgefield, also failed but Jeremy Corbyn’s party was left reeling nonetheless, down 17 percentage points on 2017.

Labour’s Phil Wilson, who was defending a majority of more than 6,000 votes in the seat, hit out on social media at his party’s “delusional” leadership.

Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory MP, was not expected to win for the Brexit party in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport.

Farage said his political life was not over, claiming a new party would rise from the ashes. “It will become the reform party, it will campaign, one of the reforms being getting rid of the first past the post system and giving people a choice,” he told the BBC.

The Brexit party appeared to scupper its own electoral chances in early November, announcing it would not contest the 317 seats won by the Conservatives at the 2017 general election.

Its support subsequently crashed in the polls and a further blow came when four MEPs, including Annunziata Rees-Mogg, Jacob Rees Mogg’s sister, quit the party urging voters to support the Conservatives instead, arguing it was splitting the leave vote and giving remain alliances a boost.

Their fears proved correct on the night, suggesting the Tory landslide would have been bigger had Farage stood down in all seats. In Barnsley, it took 29.2% of the vote, two points ahead of the Tories. In Gower, it was neck and neck with the Conservatives, with both parties taking 29.9%.

In Blyth Valley, a tight marginal snatched from Labour by the Conservatives, the Brexit party took 8.3% of the vote.

Following the election, Farage is expected to focus his efforts on supporting Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. “If I am asked to help I will,” he told the BBC. But he said he would stay in Britain to fight for what he believed was a proper Brexit.

Farage said: “The truth of it is, half the cabinet voted remain. Michael Gove – I was with him earlier – clearly wants the softest of all Brexits.

“Boris, whilst he is committed to leave, has never really, I don’t think, been keen on leaving on WTO terms.

“My view is a big majority means that the influence of the ERG [European Research Group], the influence of those who are committed Eurosceptics, becomes a lot weaker and I would expect, I’ll predict, by 1 July we will be extending the transition period out until 2022.”

Contributor

Lisa O'Carroll

The GuardianTramp

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