What is Reform UK? Right-wing party ahead of Lib Dems in recent polling

Rishi Sunak’s party is consistently losing voters  (Sky News)
Rishi Sunak’s party is consistently losing voters (Sky News)

Reform UK is expected to run in the next UK general election for the first time.

The European arm of global political website Politico has Reform slightly ahead of the LibDems.

Reform is currently on 11 per cent, with the Lib Dems on 10 per cent.

Reform UK was previously known as the Brexit Party. This was a one-issue party that advocated for the UK to exit the European Union without an agreement when it was founded in the beginning of 2019.

So what is Reform UK and do they have a real chance at the next election?

What is the Reform UK political party?

Reform UK is a British right-wing political party founded by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage as the Brexit Party in 2018.

Their party slogan “Let’s Make Britain Great” harks back to the slogan of Republican president Donald Trump: “Make America Great Again”.

Former Conservative Party member Richard Tice is the current leader of Reform UK. Farage led the party prior to that, stepping down in early 2021.

Only a year after its creation, in 2019, the party hit its first major scandal as party leader and co-founder Catherine Blaiklock was forced to resign for anti-Islam tweets posted from her account.

But in the same year, during the 2019 general election, they took two per cent of votes after contesting 275 seats, and did not succeed in electing an MP.

However, they followed with their largest electoral success, a win of 29 seats in the European Parliament national elections in 2019.

This was among growing national concern around border policies and immigrants crossing the English Channel in boats.

In January 2020, the month Brexit came into effect, the party was renamed and became known largely for its anti-lockdown policies.

The party also prided itself on advocating for free speech, rigid immigration policies, reforming the House of Lords, the BBC, and changing the UK’s current voting system.

Recently, with the surge of Tory Party leavers and MPs announcing they will stand down at the next election, Reform UK has seen a rise in joiners.

Other policies possibly enticing ex-Conservative Party members are Reform UK’s call for lower taxes and the need to nationalise utilities and British energy.

What are the Reform Party’s policies?

Its top four priorities are zero waiting lines, cheaper energy, net zero immigration, and lower taxation.

Regarding energy, the party is in favour of increasing oil and gas extraction rather than abandoning net zero ambitions.

In addition, there are vouchers to go private if you can't see a doctor in three days, interest-free student loans, more police, no "woke ideologies in the classroom," no TV licence charge, the Lords being reformed, and less "wasteful spending”.

It further demands that the UK employ offshore processing centres for illegal immigrants, withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, and stop them from requesting asylum.

Are ex-Conservative MPs crossing over to Reform UK?

It has been reported that Reform UK has been eyeing a number of northern red-wall seats, following Liz Truss’s exit from Parliament.

While some Tory politicians have been disillusioned with politics, instead choosing retirement, others may have chosen to defect.

Michelle Ballantyne, a Conservative MSP, joined Reform in January 2021 but lost her seat in the Scottish election in that same year.Speaking to inews, current Reform UK leader Richard Tice said: “I think it’s fair to say, without saying too much, that there’s some very disaffected ‘Red Wall’, industrial-heartland Tory MPs who thought they were joining a Conservative Party and have found themselves in a socialist party. They’re very, very unhappy.

“So, you’re seeing some of them basically saying, ‘I’m abandoning politics altogether’, and some are having other considerable thoughts. That’s all I say.”

Is the Reform Party rising in the polls?

The party's performance in the polls remained dismal in 2021 and 2022.

But things began to heat up after the administrations of Liz Truss and Boris Johnson fell apart at the end of 2022.

As Labour gained momentum and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were struggling to contain it, Reform's popularity in the polls started to rise.

It used to be less popular than the Greens and the SNP, but it is currently on par with the Lib Dems.

For Rishi Sunak, the development of Reform UK poses a challenge. Reform received a higher number of votes than the margin between Labour and the Conservatives in the Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire by-elections.

Voters who have previously supported either party, however, have demonstrated a willingness to switch to Reform.

There current third-place position has consolidated their upward trajectory, and places them as a major player.