Updated Tues 05 Mar 2024

CASE FILE: Reform UK

Name Reform UK
Tags Populist/Radical Right
Categories Political party
Related People/Groups
Years Active 2019 – Present
Active Areas UK

 

Reform UK is the relaunched political project that started life as the Brexit Party in 2019. The party had a successful first outing at the European elections in that year, in which then-leader Nigel Farage led the party to the highest vote share, at a time of deep dissatisfaction with the Conservative Party and Labour. The party then had a fairly disastrous entry in the general election in December of that year; it eventually broke its promise to contest every seat and pulled candidates from every constituency with a Conservative incumbent, after intense pressure from Boris Johnson and Brexit supporters. 

Following the departure of Farage and its relaunch as Reform UK under new leader Richard Tice, the party has made little headway in living up to its initial successes. Tice and his policies have aroused little enthusiasm, and until recent months the party had remained stuck around the 5% mark in national polling despite a substantial drop in support for the Conservative Party. Despite occasional upticks in nationwide polling and favourable coverage in certain newspapers, Reform candidates’ performances in by-elections throughout 2023 saw candidates achieve 1-4% of the vote as disaffected Tory voters stayed home rather than transferring their allegiance to Reform. 

A YouGov MRP poll released in January suggested that the party was now achieving a nationwide vote share of 9%, an improvement on previous years but a result that would not win them a single seat at a general election. However, much depends on the future plans of erstwhile leader and current Honorary President, Nigel Farage. Having spent a successful 2.5 years hosting a primetime show on GB News, he further boosted his post-Brexit profile – and bank balance – by making it to the final episode of reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! 

It is widely believed that Farage might soon rejoin Reform UK as leader, which he retains the right to do thanks to Reform’s unusual structure as a limited company with him as sole controlling interest. While Farage’s return would undoubtedly see a boost to Reform UK’s polling, it would not necessarily overcome the severe structural deficits that the party faces. It lacks a working local branch structure that could carry out the legwork for an election campaign, and its candidate selection process looks as shambolic as it was in 2019, when dozens of the party’s candidates were revealed to be embarrassingly unsuitable or extreme. Without a major shift in gear, Reform will remain more potent as a threat to the Conservative Party than a serious contender for power.

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