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Row between Conservatives and Nigel Farage's Reform - as Tory chair calls Richard Tice a 'threatening bully'

The Conservative Party chair has called Reform UK leader Richard Tice a "threatening bully" after the latter warned he could embarrass another senior Tory.

The row between the two parties comes in the wake of a devastating poll for the government, which showed the Conservatives risk falling below 100 seats in parliament after the next election.

But the same analysis of 15,000 voters found that, if Reform were to stand aside, the Conservatives would get closer to 150 seats.

Reform UK, in its previous iteration as the Brexit Party, did not compete in seats the Tories already held at the 2019 election - as then prime minister Boris Johnson sought a mandate to "get Brexit done".

But today's row makes the chances of a similar pact at the next election look vanishingly small.

The row erupted after Conservative deputy chair Jonathan Gullis criticised Mr Tice and the selection of Reform candidates in the Mail On Sunday.

Mr Tice then posted on social media: "With a special Easter message to Tory MP Jonathan Gullis: Given the multiple bits of embarrassing personal information we have on you, I suggest you pipe down on your attacks against me."

In response, Richard Holden, who is chair of the Conservative Party, posted: "What a threatening bully Richard Tice is exposing himself to be.

"Silly man."

Mark Jenkinson, a government whip, said Mr Tice was "not just a political weathervane, but also a thin-skinned bully - who knew?".

Read more:
Who are Reform and what do they stand for?

Conservatives facing 'extinction event' - Farage
A vote for Reform UK is a vote for Labour - Holden

Mr Gullis's criticism came in an article which claimed Reform - of which Nigel Farage is director - had chosen candidates for the Commons who include a convicted animal abuser and a fortune-teller who sold spells for £200 on the OnlyFans website.

The MP told the Mail On Sunday: "Reform says its candidates have been vetted and given that all of this information was in the public domain, we can only assume this cast of characters passed Mr Tice's muster.

"We are clearly not just talking about a 'few rotten eggs' here. If you are promoting candidates banned from looking after dogs, how can you honestly say they are capable of looking after the interests of their constituents?"

The stand-off between the two parties reached new levels when one of Mr Gullis's predecessors as deputy chair, Lee Anderson, defected from the Conservatives to Reform.

There have been reports that Reform is courting more Tories - including Mr Gullis - although he has denied it.

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Bob Seely, the Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, told The Sun On Sunday that Reform "tried to tempt" him weeks before Mr Anderson's defection.

But he said he knew "a duff deal when I see it" - branding Reform a "rag tag group with no hope of governing or leading".