Farage on I'm a Celeb sparks nervousness in Tory ranks ahead of election

Nigel Farage is a contestant on I'm a Celebrity, but will be exempt from many bushtucker trials. Credit: ITV

Being watched by millions showering naked and then eating pizza topped with camel udder followed by four different types of penis, isn't the most obvious political strategy ahead of a UK election.

But Nigel Farage's performance on ITV's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here is sending waves of nervousness through Conservative ranks.

"MPs are terrified of him," one Tory source told me - fearing the impact that Mr Farage's foray into the jungle could have on the majorities held by MPs in marginal seats.

They fear that, even if he doesn't focus heavily on controversial areas of policy like migration, a successful performance by Mr Farage could damage them. After all, he will be watched by over 10 million viewers on some nights.

The situation will be worrying for strategists around Rishi Sunak.

For them, Wednesday's autumn statement is absolutely key - and they have good news linked to it.

With what looks like £25bn of unexpected headroom, the chancellor is likely to be able to go further than expected.

Wednesdat should bring tax cuts, alongside (as we revealed on Monday) not having to take difficult decisions like uprating benefits by less than the September inflation rate or tweaking the rules to cut the amount pensions rise by.

Mr Sunak will be hoping that - after a somewhat flat response to his King's Speech, this will be the big reset - that will please MPs across his party. But some of them feel changes need two or three days in the news to cut through.

And yet he may only get one day. Because on Thursday (despite reported attempts by Number 10 to delay it) the ONS will publish net migration figures - and they are expected to be very high.

Some have suggested over the figure could be as high as 700,000 for the June to June period, though it has fallen in the latter half of the period.

So migration will dominate the news on Thursday - potentially paired with the (potentially) rising stock of a politician who has been a leading voice in this area.

Of course, Mr Farage could be unpopular on the Jungle - but there isn't sign of that so far.

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak is facing massive pressure from the right of his party including many of those elected since 2017, and several Red Wall MPs. They are likely to make life difficult for him if the migration figures are as high as expected.

Some sources close to those on Tory right say they will wait for the government's response before causing too much trouble.

"We're like the Taliban," said one. "When [the government is] firing we need to just hide in our caves. But when things calm down - maybe on Friday - we will come out in attack."

Some on the right have started describing MPs closer to Mr Sunak as "wets" - with the chief whip, Simon Hart dubbed - as "chief wet".

They want a much spikier right-wing agenda. And with Mr Sunak's decision to choose Lord Cameron as his new foreign secretary, while removing his most right-wing Cabinet member - Suella Braverman - they feel they have a fight on their hands.

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