Richard Tice says Sunak is ‘terrified’ of Reform UK as he bids for Boston and Skegness seat

Richard Tice has claimed that the prime minister is “terrified” of Reform UK as his party challenges the Tories in every single seat.

The Reform leader, who took over from Nigel Farage in 2021, attacked Mr Sunak’s admission that no asylum seekers would be sent to Rwanda before the 4 July contest.

And he responded to a meme produced by the Conservative Party about Reform, saying it “proves how terrified they are”. “The more memes, the better,” Mr Tice said.

His comments came after the launch of Reform’s general election campaign, in which Mr Tice accused the Conservatives of having “broken Britain”.

Claiming he will win seats, but not saying how many, Mr Tice said he will fight the Tories in every seat in the UK excluding Northern Ireland - where Reform failed to register as a political party in time.

Leader of Reform UK Richard Tice speaking during a General Election campaign launch (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)
Leader of Reform UK Richard Tice speaking during a General Election campaign launch (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)

And, in a blow to the Conservatives electoral hopes, Mr Tice said former leader Mr Farage will be everywhere during the campaign.

Despite confirming he would not stand as a candidate in the general election, Mr Farage has given up presenting his GB News in order to be able to campaign for Reform.

Mr Tice said the arch-Brexiteer will be on bus tours, knocking on doors and speaking at rallies. The role for Mr Farage poured cold water on Tory hopes he would take a backseat in the election.

Reform is expected to split the right-wing vote in swathes of seats across the country, denying the Conservatives tens of potential majorities.

The campaign launch came as Mr Sunak faced an electoral headache as Office for National Statistics figures revealed net migration his 685,000 in 2023.

Despite the slight dip from 2022’s record 764,000 figure, Mr Tice laid into the Conservatives and said “no one voted for mass migration”.

The event also followed Mr Sunak admitting there will be no Rwanda deportation flights before the general election.

Rishi Sunak said no Rwanda flights will take off before the general election (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak said no Rwanda flights will take off before the general election (PA Wire)

On the first day of his own election campaign, the prime minister said asylum seekers will be deported to the east African nation only if he was re-elected.

Pressed repeatedly on whether any deportation flights would take off before voters go to the polls, Mr Sunak repeatedly said the scheme would only get up and running after the election.

Mr Tice said: “He’s a bottler. We know it’s not a deterrent, he is just once again managing down expectations.”

He said the only way to save lives and prevent migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats is to “ignore whinging lefty lawyers” and pick up asylum seekers and send them straight back to France.

Last month, Mr Tice’s deputy leader Ben Habib sparked outrage by saying Britain should “absolutely” let migrants drown in the English Channel. Mr Habib said that any migrants who “scupper” dinghies should not be “infantilised”, adding that Britain should not be “held to ransom by their claim that they deserve protection as soon as they get into our territorial waters”.

Talk TV’s Julia Hartley-Brewer asked: “Then you would leave them to drown?”

“Absolutely,” he replied.

Challenged over the comments on Thursday, Mr Tice accused The Independent of “lying”.

“That’s not what he said, he did not say people should drown… don’t be daft,” Mr Tice added.

A tetchy Mr Tice blamed Ms Hartley Brewer’s “very high speed” questions and said “people in the media who want to do us down deliberately try and misrepresent us”.

Mr Tice will be standing in the Boston and Skegness constituency, which had the highest proportion of leave voters in the Brexit referendum, where 75.6 per cent backed pulling Britain out of the EU.

A Conservative Party spokesman said:”Sir Keir Starmer knows that the more people that vote Reform, the more seats he’ll win.”That would only mean one thing: a Labour majority meaning higher taxes, uncontrolled immigration, and taking us back into the EU.

”Only the Conservatives will do what’s right for this country to deliver a secure future for you and your family.”