Nigel Farage becomes MP for first time as Reform UK takes Tory vote

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Reform UK leader Nigel Farage has become an MP for the first time as his right-wing populist party ate into the Conservative vote at the general election across the country.

The arch-Brexiter won the constituency of Clacton in Essex, with the seat declared early on Friday morning. A national exit poll suggested the party would take 13 seats overall.

Reform secured its first win of the night in Ashfield in the East Midlands with the re-election of Lee Anderson, the former Tory deputy chair who defected in March.

The party also came second in Blyth and Ashington, Houghton and Sunderland South, and Sunderland Central, post-industrial areas of north-east England that backed Brexit.

Farage, who had previously run for parliament seven times unsuccessfully, told a crowd of supporters at an election night party that the Ipsos exit poll represented a “massive step” for Reform.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “We’ll see what happens but if that’s the result, that would be a massive first step for this. I’m going to call it a movement, a political party is only part of what we’re all about.”

Reform’s expected success at the ballot box came after it harnessed rightwing voters’ disillusionment with the Conservatives, notably with its stance on immigration.

Rob Ford, an academic involved in the exit poll, said Reform’s support was too evenly spread for the party to win many constituencies, but it had split the rightwing vote and cost the Tories seats.

“It’s also possible they’ve done well enough to win more seats than expected,” he added.

Reform was forecast to take other seats in Brexit-supporting but traditionally Labour-voting areas in the north of England.

The party had focused its resources on a handful of seats. But it targeted second place in hundreds more constituencies as it sought to better the performance of the UK Independence party — Reform’s predecessor — in the 2015 general election, in which Ukip had come second in 120 seats.

Farage wants to use Reform’s results at the July 4 poll as a springboard for the next election. He stole the limelight during this campaign: in the month following his announcement that he would contest Clacton, he engaged in a frenetic one-man tour of the country involving constituency visits and on-the-stump speeches.

But Reform’s campaign had been engulfed in scandal, after dozens of parliamentary candidates with a record of making racist, homophobic and sexist remarks were allowed to stand.

Blaming a vetting company for the failures, Reform suspended only three candidates, two of whom had been supporters of the far-right British National party.

Two other candidates suspended their campaigns and defected to the Tories amid “reports of widespread racism and sexism”.

Farage dismissed these claims but attracted strong criticism from other parties after claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “provoked” into his full-scale invasion of Ukraine by the west.

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