Who are Reform UK? History and beliefs under Nigel Farage

Who are Reform UK? History and beliefs under Nigel Farage

Founded in 2021 as a relaunch of the Brexit Party, Reform UK stands almost neck and neck with the Conservatives in the wake of Nigel Farage shock announcement that he will stand as an MP and the party’s leader.

They are on track to cost the Conservatives a significant proportion of voters from the political Right ahead of the looming general election, edging one point ahead of the Prime Minister’s party for the first time in the latest figures from YouGov.

Already, the party has faced pivotal change throughout their campaign with co-founder Mr Farage returning to front-line politics to lead a “political revolt” aimed at toppling the Conservative Party after replacing Richard Tice, a former businessman and MEP who has led the party since 2021.

His pledge came as a surprise to most given Mr Farage had previously ruled out standing in the general election in his first campaign speech on May 23, promising to support Mr Tice from the sidelines instead.

Reform gained its first MP in March after Lee Anderson, a former deputy chairman of the Tory Party, defected following his suspension over a row about Sadiq Khan.

Mr Tice and Mr Farage announced the Brexit Party would become Reform on Nov 1 2020 in an article for The Telegraph published at the start of the second Covid lockdown.

They used the joint article to declare “lockdowns don’t work” and instead advocated a policy of “focused protection” for the most vulnerable. They also called for sweeping reform of major institutions beyond the pandemic.

Reform stood candidates at the London Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Senedd elections in 2021. Though failing to pick up any seats, the party gathered just over 42,500 supporters across all three elections.

The same year it won two council seats in the local elections, both in Derby.

Reform UK polls

The party’s backing in the polls remained largely static throughout 2021, averaging around three percentage points, although it had risen to an average of 6 per cent by the end of 2022 amid growing public frustration with the Conservative Party in the wake of the deposition of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

The party’s fortunes improved vastly during 2023 and the early months of 2024, with average support for Reform almost doubling from 6 per cent in January 2023 to 10.1 per cent at the start of March.

The rise of Reform can be attributed to a combination of the party’s policy offer and fortuitous circumstances.

Reform UK policies

On the economic front, it has promised sweeping cuts to levies including corporation tax and inheritance tax at a time when Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt are overseeing the country’s highest tax burden since the Second World War, with a further peak projected later this decade.

Despite successive Conservative governments promising to cut immigration, net migration reached record levels in 2022 and former leader Mr Tice has cited this “betrayal” by the Tory government of its past manifesto pledges as a driving force behind his party’s success.

Research from the More in Common think tank in February 2022 found that immigration was the main reason 2019 Tory voters were defecting to Reform, with around one in five of those who backed Boris Johnson and his party at the last election expected to support Mr Farage.

Reform’s promises on border control include “net zero immigration”, leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – a demand made by many Tory backbenchers, and a popular idea among the party’s grassroots – and declaring illegal immigration as a national security threat.

The party wants to introduce an immigration tax that would force employers to pay a higher National Insurance (NI) rate on foreign workers.

Reform have also pledged a 20 per cent National Insurance rate for every foreign worker in comparison to the current 13.8 per cent for domestic British workers.

Claiming that the green push is doing more damage to the British economy than anything else, the party would also abolish the Government’s flagship net zero targets.

There was a further bounce in support for Reform following Mr Sunak’s November reshuffle, in which Suella Braverman was sacked as Home Secretary over her criticism of pro-Palestinian protests, which she dubbed “hate marches”.

The same reshuffle took Westminster by surprise with the return of Lord Cameron as the new Foreign Secretary, a move that angered many on the Tory Right as the former prime minister is widely perceived to be on the liberal wing of the party.

Mr Tice told GB News at the time: “The truth is our server has almost exploded with fury at what’s happened today with the return of David Cameron. Let’s remember this is the gentleman who campaigned against Brexit, and almost everything he did on foreign policy was wrong.”

As a result of its outflanking of the Conservatives on the Right in many policy areas and channelling the disillusionment of traditional Tories with its rhetoric, the party may well have an even greater impact at the next general election than in 2019, when it stood aside from seats held by Mr Johnson’s Tory candidates.

Now commanding the support of around one in ten voters, the party could block Mr Sunak from winning in dozens of seats he may otherwise retain.

Who are Reform UK? History and beliefs under Nigel FarageWho are Reform UK? History and beliefs under Nigel Farage

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