Nigel Farage has ruled out personally voting for the Conservatives at the general election after he suggested in an interview that he would consider doing so depending on their manifesto.
Asked on Wednesday whether he could vote for the Tories in his own constituency on 12 December, the Brexit party leader told the Press Association: “I want to see the manifesto. Let me see what is in the manifesto.
“I’m hoping and believing that what Boris said last Sunday is going to be in the manifesto. If that is in the manifesto, then the deal as was is about to be changed in quite a big way.”
But shortly afterwards, Farage tweeted that he could not vote for the party “given the way [they] have behaved this week”.
Farage is understood to split his time between London, Kent and Brussels, where he is an MEP. Despite weighing up how he personally would vote, he insisted he would still stand 300 Brexit party candidates at the election, saying the Tories were threatening Brexit by holding out against his proposed leave alliance.
He accused Boris Johnson of favouring a hung parliament over getting Brexit done with the support of possible MPs from his Brexit party.
Speaking in a boxing club in Ilford, in the London borough of Redbridge, as he introduced local candidates for the 12 December election, Farage said the Tories would split the leave vote in seats across the country by not reciprocally standing down candidates.
He said: “I’ve just realised in the last 48 hours, for them [Tories], they would rather risk another hung parliament than getting a Brexit majority with Brexit party MPs as part of that, which is an extraordinary choice, but that is where we are at.
“It’s perfectly clear to me the Conservative party do not want the Brexit party to even have a voice in parliament and they are prepared to split the leave vote in areas where we are strongest. It’s madness.”
He said the Tories were a barrier to Brexit and had been “year after year”. He said he was “done” with trying to communicate with the Conservatives in the election.
Johnson struck a conciliatory tone towards Farage on Wednesday afternoon, saying he understood that it “was always difficult for a party leader to withdraw candidates”. But he reiterated his message to Farage and Brexit party voters that there was “only one way to ensure Brexit is done, and that is to vote Conservative”.
The Brexit party is now setting its sights on Labour heartland seats in south Wales, the north-east of England and east London after Farage announced on Monday that he would stand down candidates in the 317 Tory-held seats.
He said this was because Johnson had shown signs of backing the kind of Brexit he believed people had voted for by promising not to extend the transition period with the EU beyond 2020 and to pursue a Canada-style free trade agreement with no political alignment.
He said pressure for him to stand down even more candidates in seats the Tories wanted to take from Labour was “intimidation by the media” and he had no intention of doing so.
“There are one or two Highlands and Islands seats where we’re not organised,” he said. “We’re going to stand in every single remainer seat in England and Wales and most of Scotland. I’ve said 300, it might be a couple more than … it’s going to be 300.”
He said the party would stand in Labour seats even if the Labour candidate was a leave supporter, because of the party’s overall manifesto.
He admitted that some Brexit party supporters were “cheesed off” with his decision to stand down candidates in Tory-held areas, but said most had understood.
The Brexit party MEP for the South East, Alexandra Phillips, led the charge of disgruntled party members, saying on social media she would no longer vote in the election after being “disenfranchised by her own party”.
The Twitter account Brexit Party Essex tweeted that it had sought legal advice on Farage’s decision to stand down candidates in Tory-held areas. It claimed many people had invested in the Brexit party and now wanted answers and refunds. “Sold us down a river with no paddle,” the account said.
Farage said anyone who had paid £100 to apply to be a candidate and had been asked to stand down would get a refund.
He was asked what he thought about remarks by the former Ukip and Leave.EU donor, Arron Banks that the Brexit party should also pull out of Labour seats to save Brexit. Farage said he had not spoken to his former ally for a long time. “I find it really difficult to believe that he could have hated Mrs May’s deal but then supported Boris’s. Who knows what his reasons are,” Farage said.
Chris Roper, 73, a retired firefighter who said he would vote for the Brexit party in Ilford South, shouted during the meeting that Johnson had lied to people about when Britain would leave the EU and Farage should not trust him.
He said he was “uncomfortable” with Farage’s decision to stand down candidates in Tory-held seats but he could “see where he is coming from”. Roper said: “He’s got to play the game that’s going about. It’s reflective of the state of politics and the jiggery-pokery that’s been done.”
Farage has toured the Labour heartlands in the south Wales valleys and the north-east of England so far in the election campaign.