This article was published before the announcement by Nigel Farage that he would resume leadership of the party and stand in Clacton. It remains to be seen however what effect this will have in seats across the country.

The Brexit campaign and subsequent referendum result emboldened some previously veiled right wing sentiments within British society.

The shifting of the Overton Window as a result of this has allowed these far right opinions to manifest into the political mainstream and into organizations such as GB News, a seemingly permanent seat on political television programmes, and even new political parties, amongst other avenues. This article will focus on Britain’s newest right-wing party, Reform UK.

Founded originally in 2018 as the Brexit Party, the party rebranded into Reform UK under Catherine Blaiklock and Nigel Farage in 2020. Farage has previously led the party and is now an Honorary President.

Reform are currently led by their chairman and primary financier, Richard Tice. It was recently reported that Tice, a prominent businessman, has bankrolled 80% of Reforms finances.

Reform present themselves as an alternative to the ruling Conservative Party, a party they do not consider right wing enough, with Tice even going so far to describe the Conservatives as “Socialist”. As the name suggests, Reform claim that the United Kingdom is in dire need of a series of reforms in areas such as the economy, public sector, energy sector, institutions and most importantly to Reform UK, immigration. If elected, Reform would introduce measures such as recognizing immigration as a national security threat, freezing “non-essential immigration”, offshore processing for asylum seekers and a crack down on rules around international students and their dependents.

Reform also place a massive emphasis on Brexit and claim that “Brexit has been betrayed”. According to their official website, such reforms would “Make Britain great again”.

Although a relatively new party, Reform UK have found themselves on a steady footing in consecutive general election voting intention polls, regularly polling just above double digits. According to pollster YouGov, Reform have risen as high as 16% in early April, only 4% short of the Conservatives in the same survey, with Labour leading with a sizable margin. YouGov’s latest survey on the 22nd of May 2024 has Reform polling at 12%, above other more well established parties such as the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

In March 2024 Reform welcomed their first and only MP into the party, after Lee Anderson joined their ranks following his suspension from the Conservative Party for Islamophobic comments made about Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. In May 2024, after the announcement of a snap election to be held in July, Nigel Farage ended months of rumour by stating that he would not be standing as a candidate for Reform at the upcoming election. Mr Farage has stood a previous seven times, having yet to succeed in becoming an MP.

There has also been considerable speculation as to how Reform would perform in a general election. Based on data from YouGov and results from the May local elections, we can now begin to piece together how Reform may perform on a national level.

Although performing well in the Blackpool South byelection, coming in third and only missing out on second place to the Conservative candidate by 117 votes, the wider picture for Reform at the local elections was one of defeat. Reform concentrated their electoral efforts into areas in which they identified themselves as having a good chance at making progress, but ultimately found themselves ending the local elections having gained only two councillors. A poor result, considering that Reform believed they could make legitimate electoral inroads if they organized their efforts efficiently.

George Galloway’s Workers Party of Britain gained four councillors, in comparison.

Reform’s prospects at the general election look increasingly slim, although claiming they will stand candidates in 630 of the 650 seats up for contention, this may prove to be a difficult task for a party as small as Reform UK, and a recent MRP poll conducted by YouGov in April shows that they are on course to emerge from a general election with zero seats, placing second in thirty six seats but with margins that are by no means close to winning. According to the MRP, Reform do not even come within ten points of the predicted winning party in those constituencies in which they finish second. You can view the MRP poll here.

Based upon consistent polling data, the most likely outcome of the upcoming general election is a Labour landslide, with Reform’s presence on the ballot paper substantially splitting the right wing vote and thoroughly damaging the electoral prospects of the Conservatives.

If what is predicted becomes reality and Reform emerge from a general election with no seats in Westminster, where do they turn next? This depends largely on the vote share they obtain and the overall result of the election. A possible, and even arguably likely scenario is that following a Labour landslide and a return of zero seats for Reform, Reform begin a campaign for another type of reform, this time of an electoral nature. Electoral reform in Britain, to a system more akin to proportional representation would greatly benefit all ‘smaller’ parties, Reform UK included. Whilst a vote share of double digits in a first past the post election may see Reform earn zero seats, the same percentage vote share under a system of proportional representation would almost guarantee Reform, and other smaller parties, seats and representation in Westminster, furthering their cause and influence. While this would prove the logical choice, it may be in vain, as any reform of this nature would require a majority in the Commons to be passed into law, and in a scenario that looks very likely to be a Labour Commons majority, this would essentially require Labour MP’s to vote for a new system that would lessen their governing power in the Commons. For this reason, electoral reform of this nature seems fundamentally unlikely.

Another possibility post general election is the engagement of some interchange between Reform and the Conservatives, should the Conservatives feel that they have lost substantial votes to Reform, they may attempt to recapture these votes by working closely with Reform in an unofficial or even official electoral pact, going forwards. Whilst not an impossibility, this would be unlikely as it would cause deep divisions within the Conservative Party between its different ideological factions.

The future for Reform does not look bright. From a poor showing in the local elections, to the unconsolidated nature of Reform’s predicted vote share, and the increasing likelihood of a Labour landslide, all the signs point to Reform UK slipping into a post-election political abyss.

Written by Zac Clark