How dangerous is Reform UK for the Tories?

How dangerous is Reform UK for the Tories?

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“The day Liz Truss was ousted, party membership exploded,” explained Richard Tice, party leader of Reform UK, referring to the end of the former Prime Minister’s short-lived tenure. “We had our record day in terms of new registrations.”

Tice, formerly known as the Brexit Party under former leader Nigel Farage, hopes the reform can capitalize on dissatisfaction with the ruling Conservatives as voters grapple with the cost of living crisis, widespread public sector strikes and a national health service in crisis.

the latest survey by YouGov shows a rise in support in recent months, with 7 percent of voters backing the reform, compared to 3 percent most recently July.

The rebound has not gone unnoticed among Tory MPs and senior Downing Street officials, who have warned the resurgence of reform poses one of the biggest threats to the Conservatives’ prospects in the next general election, as the ruling party trails Labor in the polls stays behind.

Renamed Reform as Reform by Farage in January 2021 anti lock Party, she has since focused on what Tice described as “common sense policies”, including pledges to cut taxes, control immigration and end NHS waiting lists.

Speaking to the Financial Times in late December, Tice said the government’s decision to increase taxes and the rising number of migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats were behind his party’s growing support. He said that since Truss stepped down as prime minister, center-right voters have become more receptive to his “traditionally conservative” message.

The fear among Tory MPs is that Tice, who took over from Farage in March 2021, is right. “The Brexit vote was first and foremost an immigration vote and we failed to get on with immigration,” said a former Conservative minister. “I’m hearing from voters saying they’ll never vote for us again because of this issue.”

Another senior Tory noted: “Brexit was all about controlling our borders and the small boat crisis reinforces that feeling that things are getting out of control.”

As the Brexit Party, Reform nurtured an uneasy truce with the Conservatives. Ahead of the 2019 general election, then-party leader Farage did not field candidates for the 317 seats the Tories won in 2017, on the understanding that then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson kept his promises on Brexit, which was seen as a move by the right-wing electorate to unite.

But there will be no such agreement in the next general election, which has to be held by January 2025. “We have made it very clear that we have around 630 candidates running everywhere but Northern Ireland and we are not making a deal with anyone,” Tice said. “We stood aside [the Conservatives] and did the right thing in 2019, they had their chance, we gave them a huge majority, they screwed up, they screwed up.”

The reform will focus their electoral ambitions on what Tice described as the “industrial heartland”, mainly in the Midlands and North of England and on pro-Brexit coastal communities in East and West England. He plans to run in Hartlepool, where the incumbent is Jill Mortimer, who became the first Conservative to win the seat since its inception in the 1970s, when they took it from Labor in a by-election in 2021.

In the eyes of many Tory MPs, Johnson’s Conservatives achieved a landslide majority of 80 seats in 2019 – a combination of winning traditional Tory seats in the South and Labor “Red Wall” seats in the Midlands and North of England – is working now fragile.

“Boris Johnson managed to press it [Brexit] vote in the 2019 general election,” said Professor Sir John Curtice, Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde. “Tory voters now voting Leave are some of the most volatile of the Conservative base and many do not have long experience of supporting the party,” he added.

“When people get fed up and feel like we’re not really implementing conservative policies, then reform is the obvious answer,” said a senior Tory. He warned his party not to repeat the mistake of former Prime Minister David Cameron, who underestimated the role of the UK Independence Party when Farage was leading in delivering the Brexit vote in the 2016 referendum. “Yes, the election is a long way away, but these things are building in the background. Cameron didn’t take the Ukip threat seriously and look what happened there.

Other Conservative MPs said their party’s perceived failure to articulate tangible achievements on Brexit policy has angered some Tory voters.

When reports surfaced late last year that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government was leaning towards a close Swiss-style relationship with the EU, Farage – who remains President of the Reform – warned that the Tories “extinguished‘, prompting speculation that he was planning a return to front-line politics.

“There is a strong feeling in the Brexit voting areas that Brexit is basically being betrayed,” Tice added. “Borders haven’t been controlled, they haven’t seen economic benefits, they haven’t seen deregulation benefits, the fishing community has been desecrated. . . Northern Ireland is in limbo and it’s a mess.”

Pollsters argue that the party’s rise is symptomatic of broader trends at this stage of the electoral cycle, as voters are exploring their options after 12 years of Conservative rule.

“Without Nigel Farage, the party doesn’t get as much traction as she does – but it does get protest votes from frustrated Tory-choosy voters,” said Anthony Wells, director of YouGov’s political and social opinion poll. “It has less to do with what Reform is doing to attract voters and more to do with what the Tories are doing to push voters away.”

Tice believes the reform’s growing popularity is positive for British democracy, as it offers disaffected Conservatives more choices.

“Competition is good, disruptors are good,” he said. “People didn’t believe me when I said we would stand anywhere, but I think they take us seriously now.”

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