Nigel Farage has said the things he fought for have become “quite mainstream within the Conservative Party”.
The former UKIP and Brexit Party leader told ITV that his views had previously been characterised by senior Conservatives as “extreme”, “bad” and “wrong”.
Mr Farage added: “Those things we have fought for have become quite mainstream within the Conservative Party. I was welcomed with open arms”.
He said: “It was very nice of Rishi to say that ‘we’re a broad church and we’d have him back’ which previous conservative leaders would never have said”
Asked about the electoral prospects of the party, Farage added: “They’re in very, very real trouble and they’re particularly in trouble in the red wall. And those red wall voters that went Conservative in 2019 had nearly all come through UKIP.
“They were old Labour had gone to UKIP — had gone to the Conservatives, so you can see why they’re being nice to me”.
Pressed on the substance of the prime minister’s speech yesterday, he said: “I think it’s what wasn’t said yesterday that was significant. I mean, he said we’re going to stop the boats, but didn’t even mention our membership of the ECHR”.
Farage had been a hot topic at the Conservative Party conference, and several senior Conservatives were asked whether they would welcome the former UKIP leader back to the party. He left the Conservative Party in 1992.
Former businesses secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg told the BBC that Farage is a “very effective campaigner” and said he shared “most of his political views”.
He said: “I think Nigel is broadly a Tory and always has been. If he wanted to join I can’t think his membership would be refused.”
At the suggestion of Farage rejoining, Sir Jacob said: “We’re always delighted if people cross the floor.”
Asked by GB News if this could happen, prime minister Rishi Sunak refused to rule out the prospect, saying: “Look, the Tory party is a broad church. I welcome lots of people who want to subscribe to our ideals, to our values.”
When asked if this could include Farage, Sunak avoided the question, saying: “The thing I care about is delivering for the country and the more people as we’ve seen at this conference – we’ve had record attendance I think at this conference. Lots of energy, lots of engagement.”
However, Greg Hands, the Conservative Party chairman, told the BBC: “I think he [Farage has] been most recently advocating voting for another political party. That is not consistent with being a member of the Conservative party.”
Asked if he would welcome Farage, Hands said: “No, I don’t think I would because I think he’s repeatedly for the last 30 years or more advocated voting for other political parties. I think he said he doesn’t want to see the Conservative party succeed so I don’t think I would.”
Farage, asked on GB News whether he would consider returning to the party he quit in 1992, said: “Would I want to join a party that’s put the tax rate up to the highest in over 70 years, that has allowed net migration to run at over half a million a year, that has not used Brexit to deregulate to help small businesses?
“No, no and no.”
He added: “I achieved a lot more outside of the Tory party than I ever could have done from within it.”