Farage switch from TUV to DUP pitches unionism’s most pro-Brexit elements into open conflict - The Irish News view

Nigel Farage leaves Reform UK alliance with TUV in tatters as he forsakes Jim Allister for Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson

Leader of Reform UK Nigel Farage enjoys a pint of beer as he launches his General Election campaign in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage is the latest English politician to be a deeply unreliable ally for unionists (James Manning/PA)

It has been clear for some time that pro-Brexit figures in Britain will happily exploit any links with Stormont unionists, only to cynically move on when members of the latter group have outlived their usefulness, but, even allowing for that history, the way in which the new Reform UK leader Nigel Farage has stitched up his erstwhile colleagues in Jim Allister’s Traditional Unionist Voice has been quite spectacular.

The DUP is already looking back ruefully at its decision to put such huge trust in Boris Johnson, to the extent of inviting him to address the party’s annual conference in 2018 before the entirely unreliable nature of his various assurances became embarrassingly obvious, while Mr Farage has proved even more capable of adapting what might charitably be described as flexible stances, leaving the TUV to reflect on the circumstances in which it has been virtually humiliated through its strategic partnership with Reform.

Less than three months ago, Mr Allister told the TUV’s annual conference that he had signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Reform, involving agreed general election candidates, although there may have been a hint of what was to follow when the plan was subsequently dropped after it emerged that Reform had not completed the registration process within the required deadline.

When Mr Farage unexpectedly took over as Reform leader earlier this month, and promptly contradicted previous public statements by announcing that he was seeking a seat in the House of Commons, he was said to have had amicable discussions with Mr Allister.

Ian Knox cartoon 11/6/24: Nigel Farage has endorsed the DUP's Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson in the general election despite Reform UK's pact with the TUV
Nigel Farage has endorsed the DUP's Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson in the general election despite Reform UK's pact with the TUV (Ian Knox)

Mr Farage then stunned Mr Allister by declaring just days later that he was endorsing DUP candidates Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson in the July 4 poll, even though Mr Allister and Mr Paisley are direct rivals in the North Antrim constituency, with a Reform logo appearing on TUV literature.

Reform’s deputy leader Ben Habib insisted yesterday that the pact with the TUV was still in place, claimed Mr Farage’s support for the DUP merely reflected a personal request “from one buddy to another”, and astonishingly suggested that his leader had acted “without having really thought through the party’s position”.

It is all plainly a complete shambles, and demonstrated that the well documented splits in unionism have now developed to a stage where even its most staunchly pro-Brexit elements are in open conflict.

The truth is that the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union has been a disaster for all sections of our divided society, and it must surely and belatedly have finally dawned on both the DUP and the TUV that any association with the likes of Mr Johnson and Mr Farage will inevitably end in tears.