‘Tories clearly worried!’ Reform leader exposes Conservative concerns ahead of by-election

Tory MPs 'can't trust what their leader's saying' says Richard Tice

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Richard Tice, 57, announced he would stand in the London by-election last week and vowed to campaign against Covid lockdowns and high taxation. But in an update to his 106,000 Twitter followers, the former East of England MEP claimed the Conservatives were starting to show concerns ahead of the poll.

“Tories clearly worried, sending Ministers every day, CCHQ taken over campaign and refuse to let their candidate talk to the media,” he said.

Mr Tice, who succeeded Nigel Farage as leader of the rebranded Brexit Party in March 2021, also suggested his party were faring well with voters in the south-east London constituency.

“Going well on [the] doors for @reformparty_uk,” he claimed.

The vote in Old Bexley and Sidcup follows the death of former Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire.

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Mr Brokenshire, who was first elected to Parliament as the MP for Hornchurch in 2005, passed away from lung cancer last month at the age of 53.

The Bexley by-election, which is expected to be held on December 2, will be the fifth contest since Boris Johnson’s landslide general election victory in December 2019.

Mr Tice’s Reform UK have stood candidates in three of the others but have only received between 0.2 and 1.2 percent of the vote.

In comparison, when UKIP were riding high in the polls under the leadership of Mr Farage, the right-wing Eurosceptics made two by-election gains and often obtained double-digit levels of support from voters.

Despite limited success in previous polls, the Telegraph reports figures inside Reform UK hope Mr Tice can emulate UKIP’s success in Old Bexley and Sidcup.

While Mr Brokenshire was re-elected in the Brexit-backing constituency in 2019 with a 19,000 majority, UKIP finished narrowly behind Labour in third place in 2015 – with their candidate Catherine Reilly receiving 8,528 votes.

Mr Tice, who was a businessman before entering politics, is taking the challenge to the Conservative Party primarily over Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak’s economic agenda.

“Voters did not expect the Boris product to deliver ‘Consocialism’, being a highly-taxed, highly-regulated nanny state,” the Reform leader told the Telegraph.

But in a separate post on social media, the ex-Leave Means Leave co-chairman warned accusations of so-called “Tory sleaze” could also damage the Conservative Party’s reputation.

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Mr Tice said: “TORY SLEAZE again as they change rules to prevent Owen Paterson being punished in Parliament for rule breaches. Voters will be furious as penny drops; esp in Old Bexley & Sidcup.”

Despite Mr Tice’s comments, the Conservative candidate Louie French uploaded some door knocking snaps with local activists.

Mr French, a local councillor and ex-deputy leader of Bexley Council, captioned his post by saying: “Great to be out speaking with local residents in Welling today. Lots of personal support after many years of serving the area and for the @Conservatives nationally. Thank you!”

Labour recently announced fellow local councillor Dave Tingle, who stood as the party’s candidate in the constituency in the 2019 general election, would also be on the Bexley ballot paper.

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