Farage’s Reform Overtakes Sunak’s Tories in ‘Crossover’ Poll

(Bloomberg) -- Reform UK leader Nigel Farage declared his party “the opposition to Labour” after an opinion poll showed it had overtaken the Conservatives for the first time, the latest evidence suggesting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is heading for a heavy election defeat.

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The right-wing Reform was on 19% in a survey published by YouGov on Thursday evening, one point ahead of Sunak’s Tories, who were pushed into third place. Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, which is widely expected to take power at the July 4 general election, was well in the lead on 37%.

Although it is just one poll and alone is not an indicator of a wider trend, it provides a symbolic “crossover moment” that Conservative strategists have been fearing for months.

Sunak’s aides have been trying to persuade typically Tory voters not to back Reform, but the shock return of former Brexit campaigner Farage to the political front-line during the election campaign appears to have galvanized support for the anti-immigration party.

Sunak told journalists at the Group of Seven summit in Bari, Italy on Friday that voting for Reform hands Labour a “blank check” to raise taxes.

“We’re only halfway through this election, so I’m still fighting very hard for every vote,” he said, when asked if he was despairing that Reform are now ahead.

Speaking at a televised ITV debate after the poll was published, Farage told Conservative Cabinet member Penny Mordaunt: “We are now ahead of you in the national polls. A vote for you is actually a vote for Labour.” That’s an attempt to turn around the Tories’ own claim that voting Reform will give Labour a large majority.

To be sure, most pollsters still have the Tories in second place, albeit with Reform gaining ground. Britain’s electoral system means that even if Reform was to win more votes than the Conservatives, the Tories would likely win far more seats in Parliament. Yet Reform has the potential to be a major player in the election by taking votes away from the Tories, an outcome that could increase the size of a Labour majority.

As of Thursday, Labour was on 44.1% versus 22.4% for the Conservatives in Bloomberg’s rolling 14-day average using data from 11 polling companies. That gives them a margin of 21.7 points. Reform’s average rating was 12.9%.

In December last year, Bloomberg published the findings of a report by the pollster JL Partners which suggested the Tory vote could face an “implosion” because its supporters were beginning to flock to Reform.

--With assistance from Andrew Atkinson and Ellen Milligan.

(Updates with Sunak comment starting in fifth paragraph.)

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