11 June 2024

Habib insists Reform is backing TUV despite Farage endorsing two DUP candidates

11 June 2024

Reform UK’s co-deputy leader Ben Habib has insisted his party unequivocally backs Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister in the General Election – despite Nigel Farage endorsing a rival DUP candidate.

Mr Habib said his party leader Mr Farage had given his personal endorsement to Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson as they were “old beer buddies”.

Mr Paisley and Mr Allister are rival unionist candidates in North Antrim in the July 4 poll.

Mr Habib also said Mr Farage had a lot on his plate and had “not really thought through the party position”.

Reform’s leader caused confusion on Monday when he said he would be personally endorsing Mr Paisley and Mr Wilson despite his party’s alliance with the TUV.

Mr Farage told the PA news agency: “As far as the Northern Ireland thing is concerned, I want to make it clear that whilst there have been negotiations going on in previous times, I will personally be endorsing Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson.”

Speaking to the BBC Good Morning Ulster programme, Mr Habib denied that the situation was a mess.

He said: “The reality is that Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson are old beer buddies of Nigel’s.

It is one buddy to another without having really thought through the party position

“Nigel has obviously got a hell of a lot on his plate, taking over as leader, trying to get his legs under the desk and they asked him for a personal endorsement and he said ‘yeah, sure’.

“It is one buddy to another without having really thought through the party position.”

Mr Habib added: “Reform UK supports unequivocally Jim Allister.

“Ian Paisley and Sammy tapped him on the shoulder at a time when Nigel was obviously busy.

“Being friends he gave them his personal endorsement and that is the end of it.”

Mr Wilson is running in the East Antrim constituency, where the TUV candidate is Matthew Warwick.

The TUV formed an electoral alliance with Reform UK ahead of July’s poll and is standing in 14 constituencies in Northern Ireland.

Reform’s pact with the TUV was announced by the party’s then-leader Richard Tice in March this year.

While it will only be the TUV name on the ballot paper on July 4, the parties said they would promote a joint message on the campaign trail.

In a joint statement on Monday, Mr Paisley and Mr Wilson said: “Nigel Farage is a household name and we welcome his endorsement as the best pro-union candidate in our constituencies.

“Nigel knows us and knows our record of delivering for the people.

“This is very embarrassing for Jim Allister as the Reform UK leader has endorsed us rather than him because the Reform UK leader recognised that on the big issues we could be relied upon.”

Mr Allister said: “TUV entered an electoral arrangement with Reform UK in good faith.

“We have kept faith with that agreement.

“The comments by Mr Farage are, of course, disappointing and not compatible with the content of a conversation I had with him last week.”

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