Anti-Northern Ireland Protocol campaigner Ben Habib to fight Wellingborough by-election for Reform UK

​Prominent anti-NI Protocol campaigner Ben Habib will contest a Westminster byelection as a Reform UK candidate for Wellingborough.
Ben Habib speaks during an anti-NI Protocol rally in Ballymoney in March 2022. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA WireBen Habib speaks during an anti-NI Protocol rally in Ballymoney in March 2022. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Ben Habib speaks during an anti-NI Protocol rally in Ballymoney in March 2022. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Mr Habib, who has addressed several anti-protocol rallies in Northern Ireland, is aiming to win the seat previously held by scandal-hit Conservative MP Peter Bone.

Mr Bone lost his seat last month as a result of a ‘recall petition’ signed by 13.2% of his constituents.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The petition followed his suspension as an MP for six weeks over misconduct claims, which he has repeatedly denied.

Mr Bone held the Northamptonshire seat for the Tories in 2019 with 18,540 more votes than second placed Labour, but the by-election will be seen as a tough test for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, with the Conservatives trailing Labour in the polls.

In a social media message on Wednesday, Mr Habib said he was “delighted” to have been selected as the Reform UK candidate, and added: “Like so many, the good people of Wellingborough have been let down by successive govts.

"They voted for a new social contract with Brexit but got failed progressive socialism instead”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Reform UK has ruled out entering into any electoral pacts with the "terrified" Tories as Mr Sunak came under fresh pressure from his political opponents to call a general election.

Richard Tice, the leader of the Nigel Farage-linked party, said he could be "absolutely categoric" there will be no deals despite the alleged pleading of some Conservatives.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, demanded that the Prime Minister should launch a general election for May rather than "clinging on to power".

Holding a press conference near Parliament, Mr Tice said the country wants to go to the polls "sooner rather than later" as voters want to "punish the Tories for breaking Britain".

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"The truth is the Tories are terrified," he told an audience gathered at a plush hotel on Wednesday.

"Yes, in the new year the special pleading has already started: 'Oh, please don't stand here, please don't stand there, I'm one of the nice guys, I believe in everything that you believe in.'"

But Mr Tice insisted he would stand candidates in every constituency, unlike in 2019 when his party - then the Brexit Party – stood down candidates to help Boris Johnson.

"You've all broken Britain, you're all responsible, so there's no special deals, we stand in every single seat in England, Scotland and Wales," Mr Tice said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He said he could be "absolutely categoric that we are not doing any deals with the Tories ... under any circumstances".

Mr Tice said he was "very confident" Mr Farage will play a role for Reform as he eyes a return to frontline politics, but was unable to say how.

But he said that "the more help that Nigel is able to give in the election campaign, frankly, the better" after the Brexit campaigner's stint in the I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! jungle.

But he declined to say how many Tory MPs or councillors he was talking to, insisting it was "quite a lot", and claimed many "disgruntled" Tory donors were also speaking to him.