After UKIP and the Brexit Party, the British Conservatives are once again facing competition from the right: the protest party Reform UK has vowed to oust the discredited Tories from power in the next general election.
Great Britain started the new year with a hangover. The trade unions are paralyzing public life with a wave of strikes, the healthcare system is at a standstill and inflation is in the double digits. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised improvements in everything from the economic situation to irregular migration across the English Channel. But the Survey show that the Tories are struggling with a serious lack of confidence.
Just 24 percent of voters would currently vote for the Tories, while Keir Starmer’s Labor would get 46 percent of the vote, according to pollsters. The Tories’ dwindling voter confidence began in mid-2021 during Boris Johnson’s government. What is remarkable, however, is the recent rise of the new Reform UK party on the right-hand edge of the political spectrum: Since the autumn, the protest party has improved from 2 to 7 percent in the polls, which puts it on a similar level as the Liberal Democrats or the Greens.
Fire from the right
The first local politicians have already defected from the Conservatives to Reform UK, which triggers alarm in Tory circles: David Frost, the former chief Brexit negotiator and ideological spokesman for the right-wing Tory wing, felt compelled to follow his like-minded friends to expressly warn against a move to Reform UK in his column in the Daily Telegraph.
The rise of the right-wing opposition party is directly linked to the Conservative crisis. After twelve years in power, they look worn out. In addition, the failure of Liz Truss, who, contrary to all budgetary reason, had prescribed a radical tax cut course for the country, discredited the camp of libertarian Brexit hardliners. Since then, conspiracy theories have been circulating that the “elites of Davos” caused Truss to fail via the financial markets and replaced it with their “handy” Rishi Sunak.
Reform UK says it has added 9,000 new members since Truss left in October. Because according to Richard Ticethe party’s leader, the Tories and Labor have become interchangeable as the tax burden has risen to its highest level since World War II under Sunak and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt.
In his show on the right-wing TV station “GB News” Nigel Farage is also firing on all cylinders against the government. He describes former Brexit opponent Hunt as “Remainer’s Chancellor of the Exchequer” and generally accuses the Tories of betraying conservative values and having run the country down.
“Let’s Make Britain Great”
Rumors persist that Farage is flirting with a political comeback in the ranks of Reform UK. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s undermined the Tories from the right. Under Farage’s aegis, the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) rose to become a force that repeatedly triumphed in the proportional representation elections to the EU Parliament and ultimately put the Tories on course for Brexit.
Two years after the 2016 referendum on leaving the EU, Farage helped found the Brexit Party. The group aimed to end Prime Minister Theresa May’s soft Brexit stance and brought a growing number of Tory MPs into line.
After Boris Johnson’s election victory in December 2019 and the implementation of a hard Brexit, Farage withdrew as he considered his mission accomplished. His Brexit Party morphed into Reform UK during the pandemic, opposing the Johnson government’s draconian coronavirus measures. The party, now led by Tice, is only attracting more attention after the failure of Johnson and Truss – and since the economic situation has noticeably deteriorated.
The UKIP and the Brexit Party had put the Tories under pressure, especially with issues of culture wars. The former entrepreneur Tice, on the other hand, relies on economic policy. Although calls for reform UK a reduction in migration, and the slogan “Let’s Make Britain Great” is reminiscent of Donald Trump. However, the focus is on the demand for income of less than 20,000 pounds per year to be completely exempt from tax liability. In addition, Reform UK promises to reduce waiting lists in the healthcare system, a leaner government – and the promotion of cheap fossil fuels instead of green climate policy.
No pact with the Tories
The next general election is scheduled for January 2025 at the latest. It is unlikely that Reform UK will grow so strongly by then that it will be able to win seats in the general electoral system on its own. But the protest party is narrowing Sunak’s scope to move into the political center, where Labor has nested under Keir Starmer. In addition, Reform UK could become a spoilsport, stealing crucial votes from the Conservatives in contentious constituencies.
The fact that the Tories celebrated an overwhelming election victory in 2019 had to do with Boris Johnson’s appeal and his promise to end the Brexit drama once and for all. Johnson also benefited from a pact with Farage’s Brexit Party: they refrained from challenging the Tories with opposing candidates so as not to endanger the hard Brexit.
For the next general election, however, Richard Tice categorically rules out a similar pact. Rather, the 57-year-old vowed his party will prevent a conservative majority government from ever happening again during his lifetime. “The Tories have wreaked so much havoc on the country that they deserve to be crushed and destroyed.”