Nigel Farage has promised that his Brexit party will have candidates ready to fight in every Westminster constituency within days, as he said he would battle hard even against a Boris Johnson-led government that promised a no-deal departure.
Speaking at a noisy rally in Birmingham, which saw the first 100 candidates paraded before the crowd but not named, Farage said it was impossible to trust either Johnson or Jeremy Hunt over their Brexit plans.
Farage was also scathing about Johnson’s boast during a Conservative leadership hustings that he was best placed to “put Nigel Farage back in his box”.
“By the end of next week we will have 650 approved prospective parliamentary candidates,” Farage told the crowd of more than 5,000 activists. “There is a big message that Westminster needs to hear. We are not a protest movement. Oh, and by the way, Mr Johnson, you can try if you want to, but I will not be put back in my box by you or anybody else.”
Farage said his party had now replaced the Conservatives in some areas. “There are many seats in the country, especially many Labour-held seats in the country, where we are now the challenger – where only we can beat the Labour party,” he said.
He said an institutional bias against Brexit meant the Conservatives could not be trusted. “I believe, without us there will be no proper Brexit, because we have a remain parliament, because we we have remain broadcast media.” He added, to boos from the crowd: “Andrew Marr anybody?”
Farage’s new party won the biggest share of the vote in May’s European elections, gaining 29 MEPs, and has been polling at more than 20% in surveys of Westminster voting intentions.
However, the Brexit party lost to Labour in the recent Peterborough byelection, and is seeking to have the result challenged in court over what Farage told the rally were “highly dubious electoral practices”, which he did not fully explain.
In a long speech that included elements reminiscent of other populist politicians such as Donald Trump, Farage led boos against Labour frontbenchers such as Diane Abbott, and called Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement “the worst deal in history”.
He also complained about Labour MPs pursuing a “globalist agenda”, a term associated with conspiracy theories, some with antisemitic overtones. Farage has previously been criticised by Jewish groups for using such language.
Saying his new party now had 115,000 paying supporters, Farage urged those at the rally to help with campaigning. “I have to tell you, aside from the 650 candidates, there are many things that I want you to do,” he said.
“I am asking for your help because beyond the general election, maybe even before the general election, we will have to find thousands of people to stand up and fight local elections for us, right across the country.”