Election campaign day 26: Farage’s ‘contract’ with voters

Nigel Farage has published Reform UK’s General Election manifesto proposals.

– Making plans by Nigel (just don’t call it a manifesto)

Just a couple of weeks ago Mr Farage was planning to sit this one out, saying Rishi Sunak’s surprise decision to call a July election had caught him on the hop.

Now the candidate for Clacton has set out the blueprint intended to carry him all the way to No 10 in five years’ time – or whenever it is that the next general election is called.

Reform UK unveiled its “contract” with voters – Mr Farage rejects the term “manifesto”, saying it is associated with the “lies” of the other parties – promising a programme of tax cuts, scrapping net zero targets and a “freeze” on all non-essential immigration.

Nigel Farage behind a podium backed by Reform UK chairman Richard Tice amd party supporters
Nigel Farage with Reform UK chairman Richard Tice (left) and party supporters (Ben Birchall/PA)

The launch took place in the unlikely setting of a sports and social club in Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales, deliberately chosen to highlight what the party said is the failure of the Labour administration in the Senedd in Cardiff.

“We are not pretending that we are going to win this General Election, we are a very, very new political party,” Mr Farage said.

“This election is for our party, and for me, the first important step on the road to 2029. Our ambition is to establish a bridgehead in Parliament, and to become a real opposition to a Labour government.”

The economic wonks at the Institute for Fiscal Studies were however not impressed, warning that its plans were based on “extremely optimistic assumptions” about growth while its figures “do not add up”.

Mr Farage responded blithely: “All change is problematic.”

– Picture of the day

Rishi Sunak, dressed in a hi-vis Centrica jacket, reacts with mock horror on being presented with a glass of Pepsi
Coca-Cola addict Rishi Sunak reacts with mock horror on being offered a Pepsi in the canteen of Centrica’s Rough 47/3B Bravo gas platform in the North Sea (Leon Neal/PA)

– Sunak evokes the spirit of Jude

Can sporting successes – or failures – affect the national mood when it comes to elections?

England’s unexpected loss to West Germany in the 1970 World Cup quarter-finals came just four days before Labour prime minister Harold Wilson’s equally unexpected general election defeat at the hands of Edward Heath’s Tories.

Academics have since rejected the idea that failure on the football field by the reigning world champions precipitated a late swing away from the governing party – pointing instead to some dodgy economic data in the run-up to polling.

Jude Bellingham with arms aloft after scoring for England against Serbia in their Euro 24 match
Rishi Sunak is hoping to match Jude Bellingham’s success after he scored the winner against Serbia in England’s opening match of Euro 24 (Adam Davy/PA)

Nevertheless, after England’s win over Serbia in their opening game of Euro 2024, Rishi Sunak appears to be hoping that some of the team’s success will rub off on his campaign.

The Prime Minister said he hoped to hear much more in the coming weeks of the fans singing Hey Jude lauding Sunday night’s matchwinner Jude Bellingham.

“It’s great to see England get our Euros campaign off to a winning start, the whole country is behind them to go all the way,” he said.

“And that means more goals for Jude Bellingham and more singing of Hey Jude.”

He will be hoping that Denmark do not upset the apple cart when England play them in their next match on Thursday.

– Quote of the day

– It’s not all over yet, says Sunak

Despite the relentlessly negative polls for the Tories, the Prime Minister insists he has not given up hope of a return to No 10 after July 4.

Speaking on Centrica’s Rough 47-3B gas rig in the North Sea, Mr Sunak said there was still all to play for.

Rishi Sunak in a green hard hat and orange hi vis jacket chats to workers on the Rough 47/3B Bravo gas platform
Rishi Sunak in the well bay of the Rough 47/3B Bravo gas platform with Centrica chief executive Chris O’Shea (Leon Neal/PA)

“There’s still two-and-a-half weeks to go in this election, I’m fighting hard for every vote because I believe we can win,” he said.

Earlier however the normally ebullient Defence Secretary Grant Shapps – who last week warned of a Labour “supermajority” – struck a more downbeat tone, acknowledging that a Conservative victory was “not the most likely outcome”.

“I think that’s the realistic position, isn’t it? I mean, I live in the real world. So you know, let’s not try and pretend black is white,” he said.

Mr Shapps acknowledged that his own Welwyn Hatfield seat was a “marginal” – a position he had always accepted after losing out to Labour the first time he stood there in 2001.

“I’ve fought this seat and not won it in the past, so I’m in that unusual position of having already experienced that before,” he said.

– Sticky fingers

Labour meanwhile has been stepping up its efforts to woo business, with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves joining Sir Keir Starmer on the election trail for the week.

At a meeting of the party’s infrastructure council to discuss the party’s manifesto, she told business leaders: “I really hope that when you do read it, or if you read the section on the economy, that you will see your fingerprints all over it.

Sir Keir Starmer, arms folded, with Rachel Reeves, both wearing orange hard hats and hi vis jackets
Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves mean business on a visit to the Ocean Gate container terminal at Southampton docks (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“Because the ideas that we’ve set out in that manifesto on how to grow the economy are based on so many of the conversations I’ve had with businesses and investors over the last three years.”

Labour’s latest courtship of business carries echoes of the “prawn cocktail offensive” of the 1990s when shadow chancellor John Smith and Mo Mowlam sought to convince City figures of their economic credentials over a series of expensive lunches.

It prompted Michael Heseltine to comment caustically: “Never have so many crustaceans died in vain.”

– Social media moment

While Mr Farage was unveiling Reform UK’s manifesto, so too was Count Binface, who is running for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s constituency seat in Richmond and Northallerton.

The Count said he was sure his manifesto would be the “most sensible” published on Monday as he took to X, formerly Twitter, to share his key policies.

If elected, Binface has pledged that national service will be introduced for all former prime ministers, all water bosses will “take a dip in British rivers to see how they like it” and European countries will be invited to join the UK, “creating a ‘Union of Europe’ if you will”.

– What the polls say

Two opinion polls have been published in the past 24 hours, both of which show Labour holding its large lead over the Conservatives and Reform UK trailing the Tories by several points.

A line chart showing the seven-day rolling average for political parties in opinion polls from February 17 to June 17, with the final point showing Labour on 41%, Conservatives on 21%, Reform on 15%, Liberal Democrats on 12% and Greens on 6%. Source: PA graphic.
(PA Graphics)

A poll by Savanta puts Labour 25 points ahead while Opinium gives Labour a 19-point lead.

An average of all polls that were carried out wholly or partly during the seven days to June 17 puts Labour on 41%, 20 points ahead of the Conservatives on 21%, followed by Reform on 15%, the Liberal Democrats on 12% and the Greens on 6%.

Both the Lib Dems and Reform are up on the figures for the previous week, while Labour and the Tories are down.

– What’s happening tomorrow?

Applications to register for a postal vote close at one minute to midnight (11.59pm).