Nigel Farage believes it’s possible to replace the Conservative Party with his own Reform Party as he predicts an “extinction event” for the government at the next election.
Headlined by former prime minister Liz Truss, the group claims it is not looking to replace Rishi Sunak as leader of the Conservatives, but instead spark a debate on ideas.
Asked which party he wants to be in, Mr Farage said: “Oh Reform, no question about it.”
Speaking in a room full of Conservative MPs and activists, he added: “I think at some point in time a lot of the people here today will draw the same conclusion.
“And… I know it’s only once every hundred years these things happen, but I do think we face the possibility that this could be the end of the road for the Conservative Party.”
He added: “They’ve been around since 1834. They’re now facing a possible extinction event, and they know it.
“I think PopCon makes six families now of backbench Conservative MPs – they are bitterly divided.
“I don’t know what the outcome of all of this is going to be, but we do, for the first time ever, think it’s possible to replace them.”
He later added: “I want the Conservative Party replaced.”
The Conservatives are continuing to languish in the polls, with an average deficit to Labour of around 20 points.
Meanwhile, Reform is trending upwards, and is now on level pegging with the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Farage added that, while he worked with the Conservatives in 2019 – facilitating an 80-seat majority – he now wants “nothing to do with” them.
Speaking about the common policy grounds he has with the PopCon group, Mr Farage said: “There is a clear majority in the country for border controls, a huge demand amongst nearly six million people running their own businesses to get the regulators off their backs and free them up.
“These are the things that leading Conservative figures and Reform figures agree on.”
Among the Tories who addressed the conference were Ms Truss, Lee Anderson and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Between them, they challenged the government’s position on smoking bans, the approach to net zero, the European Convention on Human Rights, tax and quangos.
Ms Truss said the current government was failing to take on “left-wing extremists”, and also encouraged “secret Conservatives” to come forward to campaign and stand for the party.
Also in the audience were former home secretary Priti Patel, ex-chief whip Wendy Morton, former Tory Party chair Sir Jake Berry, Brendan Clarke-Smith, and Tory peer Lord Frost.
Sir Jacob told Sky News that he would like to see the UK leaving the ECHR as part of the next Conservative Party manifesto – but did not believe Mr Sunak would do that.
The former business secretary said in his speech that the “age of Davos man is over” – a reference to the World Economic Forum meeting held in the Swiss town of Davos.
Asked whether he – as someone who went to Eton and worked in finance – was part of the elite, Sir Jacob told Sky News that he makes “no bones” about being from a “very fortunate background”.
He went on to say that what he wants to see is more power given to parliament and not arms-length bodies so there is more accountability for his constituents.
Sir Jacob disagreed with Mr Farage’s assessment of the Conservative Party’s future, saying that he believes it will “carry on a bit past Nigel Farage”.
“I don’t mean to criticise Nigel, but the Tory Party has a very long history,” he added. “It manages to keep on going – it’s rather the Duracell bunny of political life.”