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Reform UK
LeaderNigel Farage
ChairmanRichard Tice
Co-Deputy LeadersDavid Bull
Ben Habib
Founders
Founded23 November 2018; 5 years ago (2018-11-23) as the Brexit Party
Headquarters83 Victoria Street
London
SW1 0HW[1]
Devolved branchesReform UK Scotland
Reform UK Wales
Membership (June 2024)Increase 50,000+[2][third-party source needed] (at least 45,000)[3]
IdeologyRight-wing populism
Euroscepticism
Political positionRight-wing[4]
AffiliatesReform Derby[5]
Bolton for Change[6]
Northern Irish affiliationReform UK–TUV alliance
Colours    Turquoise and white
Slogan Britain Needs Reform
House of Commons
1 / 650
Prior to Parliament being dissolved on 30 May 2024, for the 4 July 2024 election
London Assembly
1 / 25
Local government[7]
15 / 18,725
Website
reformparty.uk

Reform UK is a right-wing populist political party in the United Kingdom. Founded in November 2018 as the Brexit Party, advocating a no-deal Brexit, it won the 2019 European Parliament election in the UK, but did not win any seats at the 2019 general election. The UK withdrew from the European Union (EU) in January 2020. A year later, in January 2021, the party was renamed Reform UK.[8] During the COVID-19 pandemic the party advocated against further lockdowns. Since 2022, it has campaigned on a broader platform, in particular pledging to reduce net migration, supporting low taxation, and opposing the government's net-zero energy policy.[9][10][11] Following Nigel Farage's resumption of the party leadership in early June during the 2024 general election campaign, opinion pollsters and analysts reported an increase in support for the party.

Farage had been the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a right-wing populist and Eurosceptic party, in the first half of the 2010s, and returned to frontline politics as leader of the Brexit Party during the Brexit process after the 2016 EU membership referendum, which had been called partly in response to UKIP's influence.[12][13] The party won 29 seats at the May 2019 European Parliament election, which was the best result for any single party in the 9th European Parliament.

The Brexit Party campaigned for a no-deal Brexit and there were high-profile defections to it from the Conservative Party, including Ann Widdecombe and Annunziata Rees-Mogg.[14] Following Boris Johnson's election as the leader of the Conservative Party, Farage offered him an electoral pact at the 2019 general election, which Johnson rejected, but the Brexit Party decided unilaterally not to stand candidates against sitting Conservative MPs.

By May 2020, the British exit from the EU having taken place, the party focused on the reformation of British democracy and a name change from Brexit Party to Reform Party was proposed.[15][16][17] The COVID-19 pandemic began in the UK in 2020, and the Conservative government imposed a series of national lockdowns. Farage rebranded the party as Reform UK around the end of the year and focussed on anti-lockdown campaigning.[18][19] Farage stepped down as leader in March 2021 and was succeeded by Richard Tice. In March 2024, Lee Anderson, who was elected in 2019 as a Conservative MP, defected to Reform UK, becoming the party's first and only MP.[20] On 3 June 2024, Richard Tice announced that Nigel Farage would become leader once more, with Tice continuing as Chairman.[21]

History

Brexit Party

The incorporation of the Brexit Party Limited in November 2018[22] was formally announced on 20 January 2019 by former UKIP economics spokesperson[23] Catherine Blaiklock, who served as the party's initial leader.[24] On 5 February 2019, it was registered with the United Kingdom Electoral Commission to run candidates in any English, Scottish, Welsh and European Union elections.[25]

On the day of the announcement, Nigel Farage, who had been an independent MEP since his departure from UKIP in early December 2018, said that the party was Blaiklock's idea, but that she had acted with his full support.[24] In a 24 January 2019 interview, Blaiklock said: "I won't run it without Nigel [Farage], I'm a nobody and I haven't got any ego to say that I am an anybody", and that: "I'm happy to facilitate Nigel and do the donkey work and work for him, but I don't have any illusions as to myself".[26] On 8 February 2019, Farage stated he would stand as a candidate for the party in any potential future European Parliament elections contested in the United Kingdom.[27][28] MEPs Steven Woolfe and Nathan Gill, also formerly of UKIP, stated that they would also stand for the party,[29][30] though Woolfe was subsequently not permitted to do so.[31]

On 1 February 2019, Blaiklock told The Daily Telegraph the party had raised £1 million in donations, and that over 200 people had come forward offering to stand for the Brexit Party at the May 2019 European Parliament election, if the United Kingdom had not left the European Union by then.[32]

Current party leader Nigel Farage

Blaiklock resigned as party leader on 20 March 2019 over since-deleted anti-Islam messages on Twitter, including re-tweeting messages by far-right figures Mark Collett, Tommy Robinson and Joe Walsh. Blaiklock apologised for what she said were "The out-of-character comments that I made on social media some time ago [that] were unacceptable in tone and content."[33] Farage said that he would take over as leader, that Blaiklock was "never intended to be the long-term leader"[34] and that the party "is at the moment a virtual party – it's a website".[35] On the party's launch on 12 April, asked about issues with Blaiklock, Farage said: "I set the party up, she was the administrator that got it set up. We had a couple of teething problems, yes, but are we going to be deeply intolerant of all forms of intolerance? Yes."[36] In April 2019, the party's treasurer Michael McGough was removed from his position after The Guardian uncovered antisemitic and homophobic social media comments he had posted in 2017.[37]

The party's lead aim was for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, and then for Britain to trade internationally on World Trade Organization terms.[38] In April 2019, Farage said that there was "no difference between the Brexit party and UKIP in terms of policy, [but] in terms of personnel, there's a vast difference", criticising UKIP's connections to the far right. He also said that the party aimed to attract support from "across the board", including former UKIP voters and Conservative and Labour voters who had supported Brexit.[36] Later in the month he said that the party would not publish a manifesto until after the European elections had taken place,[39] saying that the party would have a policy platform instead of a manifesto.[40]

In May 2019 Farage described his admiration for how fellow Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy members, Italy's Five Star Movement, had managed to grow from a protest group into the country's largest political party in both houses of the Italian Parliament. He saw the Brexit Party doing the same kind of thing and "running a company, not a political party, hence our model of registered supporters" and building a base using an online platform.[41]

On 22 November 2019, the Brexit Party set out its proposals for the 2019 UK general election. They included a wide range of policy areas including taxation, reforming politics, immigration and the environment.[42][43] The party received two percent of the vote in the election, with none of its 273 candidates winning a seat.[44]

Transition into Reform UK

Before the general election on 8 December 2019, the party's leader Nigel Farage announced that, following Brexit, the party would change its name to the "Reform Party", and campaign for changes in the electoral system and structure of the House of Commons.[45]

In July 2020, Italexit, a Eurosceptic party inspired by the Brexit Party, was founded in Italy.[46]

In November 2020, Farage and Tice announced that they had applied to the Electoral Commission to re-name the Brexit Party to 'Reform UK'. They said that the party would campaign on a platform that was opposed to further COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns (due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic) and that it would seek to reform aspects of UK Governance, including the BBC and House of Lords.[18][19] The party also gave its support to the Great Barrington Declaration.[47] An analysis by the pollster YouGov cast doubt on the prospective appeal of the rebranded party, stating that the overlap of voters with a positive opinion of Nigel Farage and those with a negative opinion of COVID-19 lockdowns was small, at an estimated 7% of the electorate.[48]

The charity Reform, which holds the domain name reform.uk, had complained to the Electoral Commission regarding the name change, claiming that it risks damaging its goodwill through name confusion,[49] and the Renew Party also logged a complaint there, claiming that the rebrand would mislead voters who might confuse the words 'Reform' and 'Renew',[50] but on 4 January 2021, the party's name change to Reform UK was approved by the Electoral Commission.[51]

In 2021, Reform UK gained representation in the Scottish Parliament when former Conservative and then independent MSP Michelle Ballantyne joined the party and was named Reform UK's leader in Holyrood by Nigel Farage.[52] She lost her and the party's only seat in Scotland in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.[53][54] She quit as the party's leader in Scotland in February 2022.[53][54] Farage stepped down as leader in March 2021, being replaced by party chairman Richard Tice.[55] Former North West England MEP David Bull was appointed as deputy leader of the party on 11 March 2021.[56][57] On 26 March 2021, it was announced that former Brexit Party MEP Nathan Gill had become the Leader of Reform UK Wales.[58]

In 2021, Reform UK announced its intention to field a full slate of candidates in the Senedd, Scottish Parliament and London Assembly elections with leader Richard Tice standing for election in the latter.[59][60][61] However, the party did not nominate a candidate for London Mayor after making a pact with Reclaim Party leader and actor Laurence Fox. Fox finished sixth in the mayoral election with less than 2% of the votes.[62] The party failed to win any seats above local level in the 2021 elections in May, as well as losing their deposit in the Hartlepool by-election.[63]

In the Senedd election, the party fielded a full slate of candidates in every constituency and on the regional lists, but picked up just 1.6% of the constituency vote (7th place) and 1.1% of the regional list votes (8th place).[64] In the Scottish Parliament election, no constituency candidates were fielded and the party received only 5,793 list votes across the whole country.[65] In the London Assembly election, none of their constituency candidates were elected and the party finished tenth on the London-wide list with 25,009 votes.[66][67]

In October 2022, Reform UK and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) announced an electoral pact.[68][69] Richard Tice declared Reform's intention to stand in 630 constituencies across England, Scotland and Wales with "no ifs, no buts".[70] In December 2022, David White, a Conservative member of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, and Richard Langridge, a Conservative member of West Oxfordshire District Council, both defected to Reform UK to stand as prospective parliamentary candidates for the party.[71][72]

The media gave renewed attention to Reform UK in December 2022 during the cost-of-living crisis after Farage announced that it would stand a full slate of candidates at the next general election.[73][74][75] Tice remained leader of the party. After some opinion polls indicated a modest increase in support for Reform UK, The Daily Telegraph described the party as a "threat on the Right" to the Conservative government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.[76]

On the weekend of 7 and 8 October 2023, Reform UK held its party conference in London with 1,100 attendees.[77] On 20 October 2023, Richard Tice confirmed that Reform UK would stand in Conservative seats at the 2024 general election.[78] By January 2024, the party was polling around 10% of the popular vote. It was speculated that Reform UK would play the role of a spoiler party for the Conservatives, as it attracted former Tory voters. According to The Guardian, the party could enable more than 30 additional seat losses for the Conservative Party.[79]

In Northern Ireland, in March 2024, the party formed an electoral pact with the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) in which the two parties would stand mutually agreed candidates there.[80]

In April 2024, it came to light that the Reform Party had expelled a number of prospective candidates for making embarrassing public statements. Richard Tice said that "every party has their share frankly of muppets and morons", and that if "someone has a glass or two too much and puts something out on social media they permanently regret", it provided the party with information that helped them vet candidates in more detail.[81][82] In March, Beau Dade, who was set to stand as a candidate for Reform UK in the constituency of South Swindon, was sacked by the party after it emerged that he had written an article saying, "The end game is to be in a position where it is possible to re-migrate hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions – of people back to their countries of origin... This is just one more unfortunate horror which the leftists and globalists and traitors have forced upon us."[83] A spokesman for Reform UK said that it had "acted quickly" in sacking Dade, and that the party did not want to be represented by someone with his views.[83]

Two parliamentary candidates were dropped in April 2024 for comments made on social media in 2019-21. Jonathan Kay, who was set to stand in the constituency of South Ribble, had tweeted in 2019 that the average IQ of Africans is "among the lowest in the world".[84] Mick Greenhough, who was to stand in Orpington, tweeted in 2019 that, "Most Jews are reasonable people. Their problem is the Ashkenazi Jews who have caused the world massive misery."[85] Greenhough also claimed that the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was "a Jew and closer to Cultural Marxism than Christianity. Is his aim to destroy Christianity?"[85] A spokesman for Reform said that, while the party defended its "candidates' right to freedom of speech", they "act fast when we find that individuals' statements fall beneath our standards."[84]

In May 2024, Alex Wilson became Reform's first London Assembly member, elected via the London-Wide voting system.[86]

On 3 June 2024, Nigel Farage replaced Richard Tice as leader of the party.[87]

Representation

House of Commons

Reform UK have not won any parliamentary elections. However, Lee Anderson, elected as a Conservative Party MP in the 2019 UK general election, defected to Reform UK in March 2024, giving the party its first MP.[88]

European Parliament

In February 2019, nine MEPs who had left UKIP in opposition to Gerard Batten's leadership joined the party,[29] and by mid-April 2019 the number had increased to 14. They were all members of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group in the European Parliament.[89]

MEPs who joined the Brexit Party after foundation
Name Constituency First elected Joined Notes
Diane James South East England 1 July 2014 5 February 2019 (2019-02-05)
David Coburn Scotland 1 July 2014 12 February 2019 (2019-02-12)
Nigel Farage South East England 10 June 1999 12 February 2019 (2019-02-12) Leader of party; successfully sought re-election in 2019
Nathan Gill Wales 1 July 2014 12 February 2019 (2019-02-12) Former AM; successfully sought re-election in 2019
Julia Reid South West England 1 July 2014 12 February 2019 (2019-02-12)
Tim Aker East of England 1 July 2014 13 February 2019 (2019-02-13)
Jonathan Bullock East Midlands 28 July 2017 13 February 2019 (2019-02-13) Successfully sought re-election in 2019
Bill Etheridge West Midlands 1 July 2014 13 February 2019 (2019-02-13)
Paul Nuttall North West England 14 July 2009 15 February 2019 (2019-02-15)
Jill Seymour West Midlands 1 July 2014 15 April 2019 (2019-04-15)
Jane Collins Yorkshire and the Humber 1 July 2014 15 April 2019 (2019-04-15)
Margot Parker East Midlands 1 July 2014 15 April 2019 (2019-04-15)
Jonathan Arnott North East England 1 July 2014 17 April 2019 (2019-04-17)
Ray Finch South East England 1 July 2014 17 April 2019 (2019-04-17)

Only three of these incumbent MEPs − Farage, Gill and Bullock − were selected to stand for the Brexit Party in the 2019 election,[90] which took place on 23 May 2019. 29 Brexit Party MEPs were elected to the European Parliament, including Richard Tice and former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, while Nigel Farage, Nathan Gill and Jonathan Bullock kept their seats.[91] BBC News described the Brexit Party, which gained 31.6% of the vote in the UK, as "the clear winner in the UK's European elections."[92]

The Brexit Party MEPs were not members of a group in the Parliament. MEP Andrew England Kerr was expelled from the party on 29 September 2019 over a potential conflict of interest. Farage explained that England Kerr made "comments about a business and a product that he has a direct financial investment in and we think that is unacceptable."[93] MEP Louis Stedman-Bryce resigned on 19 November 2019 in response to "The Brexit Party’s recent decision to select a Scottish candidate who has openly posted homophobic views".[94]

When Brexit took place on 31 January 2020, all UK MEP positions ceased to exist.

London Assembly

Reform UK's Alex Wilson stood as a London-wide candidate for the 2024 London Assembly election, earning Reform UK one seat in the London-wide assembly.[86]

Senedd

On 15 May 2019, four Members originally elected or co-opted for UKIP (Caroline Jones, Mandy Jones, David Rowlands and Mark Reckless) joined the Brexit Party,[95] with Reckless being appointed as leader of their group.[96] which was known as Plaid Brexit in Welsh.[97] In May 2020, Reckless said that in the 2021 Senedd election it would campaign to scrap the current system of devolution and replace it with a directly-elected first minister accountable to Welsh MPs. Reckless also said that Nigel Farage is "consulted over key decisions... but he doesn't micro-manage us here".[98] This policy announcement triggered the departure of Caroline Jones[99] and subsequently both Mandy Jones and David Rowlands from the party's group in the Senedd. They formed a new members group, the Independent Alliance for Reform, which sought to reform rather than abolish the Senedd.[100] Mandy Jones and Rowlands remained members of the Brexit Party, and as of October 2020 were still members of Reform UK.[101] On 19 October 2020, the final remaining Brexit Party Senedd group member, Mark Reckless left to join the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party.[102]

The Party contested the 2021 Senedd election on a platform of ending lockdowns, investing in the NHS, giving parents greater control over education, building the M4 relief road, and cutting local government,[103] but did not win any seats.[104]

Scottish Parliament

On 11 January 2021, independent MSP Michelle Ballantyne joined Reform UK. She first sat as a Conservative but left the party in 2020 over opposition to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions,[105] continuing to sit as an independent until January 2021 when she joined the party in Scotland and was appointed leader there.[106] Ballantyne continued to sit with the party until the 2021 Scottish Parliament election in May, when she lost her seat to a candidate from the Scottish Conservatives. She resigned as the party's leader in Scotland in February 2022.[53][54]

Ideology and platform

The British politics professor Matthew Goodwin[107] described the party as national populists, while Goodwin and others have also described the Brexit Party as populist,[108] right-wing populist,[109][110][111][112] right-wing nationalist,[113] radical right,[114][115] and neoliberal.[116]

In January 2024 the French newspaper Le Monde claimed that Reform UK is a far-right party,[117] and in March 2024, the BBC also called the party far-right, but soon retracted its statement and apologised to Reform UK, writing that describing the party as far-right "fell short of our usual editorial standards".[118] Commenting on the incident, political scientist Tim Bale wrote that labelling Reform UK as far-right is unhelpful, and that it "causes too visceral a reaction and at the same time is too broad to be meaningful". Bale noted the importance of distinguishing between the "extreme right" and "populist radical right".[119] Reform UK itself rejects the descriptor, and has threatened legal action against media using it.[120]

2019 European Parliament election platform as the Brexit Party

The party's constitution was published by the Electoral Commission as a result of a freedom of information request in May 2019.[121] It described the party as seeking to "promote and encourage those who aspire to improve their personal situation and those who seek to be self-reliant, whilst providing protection for those genuinely in need; favour the ability of individuals to make decisions in respect of themselves; seek to diminish the role of the State; lower the burden of taxation on individuals and businesses."[122]

SDP politician Patrick O'Flynn, who was elected as a UKIP MEP under Farage's leadership and supported the Brexit Party in the 2019 European elections, commented on the constitution's description of the party as following classical liberalism and described them as having a Thatcherite ideological core.[123] James Glancy, one of the party's MEPs, has compared the party to the Referendum Party, being a "united and diverse group of people from different political backgrounds".[124]

The party's first non-Brexit-related policy was announced on 4 June 2019: a proposition to transform British Steel into a partly worker-owned company, in what was described as "a hybrid of Conservative and Labour policy".[125] The party also supported cutting Britain's foreign aid budget, scrapping the proposed HS2 project and introducing free WiFi on all British public transport.[126] The party also said it would scrap all interest paid on student tuition fees, reimburse graduates for historic interest payments made on their loans,[127] and pledged to abolish inheritance tax.[128]

In July 2019 the Brexit Party signed a cross-party declaration alongside the Liberal Democrats, Green Party of England and Wales, and the Scottish National Party, calling for first-past-the-post voting to be replaced by a proportional system for Westminster elections.[129]

2019 UK general election platform as the Brexit Party

On 22 November 2019, the Brexit Party set out its policy proposals for the 2019 UK general election. Its key policies for the election included:[42][43]

2020–2024 as Reform UK

Following the UK's departure from the European Union on 31 January 2020 Farage sought a new right-wing populist project for the party under its new name of Reform UK, opposing further COVID-19 restrictions, paralleling right-wing populist anti-lockdown sentiments in other countries.[130]

In October 2021, the party's leader Richard Tice criticised the Conservative Party as a party of "high tax" at Reform UK's party conference in Manchester. He pledged to offer a lower-tax vision at the next election, saying his party would stand on a low-tax and low-regulation platform. The party supports raising the threshold at which people start paying income tax from £12,500 to £20,000, and exempting the smallest businesses from corporation tax. He also criticised the Conservative Party's plans to decarbonise the economy, saying that the UK should instead focus on exploiting reserves of shale gas. Tice has also said that net zero is an "absurdity" and "the greatest act of financial self-harm ever imposed on a country" that will "achieve nothing".[78] He has said that energy companies should be owned by the government or British pension funds to stop profits going abroad.[131]

2024 UK general election platform as Reform UK

On 17 June 2023, Reform UK launched their manifesto, which they called a "contract" (Our Contract with You). Its key policies for the election included:[132][133][134]

  • Tax cuts, including: raising the minimum threshold of income tax to £20,000, raising the higher rate threshold to £70,000, scrapping VAT on energy bills, abolishing taxes on inheritances below £2million and abolishing stamp duty for properties below £750,000.[135][135]
  • Reduce legal immigration by freezing non-essential immigration, and eliminating illegal immigration by ending the settlement of any illegal immigrants, returning migrants who arrive on boats crossing the English Channel back to France. To avoid legal challenges similar to that of the Safety of Rwanda Bill, they promise to leave the European Convention on Human Rights. To encourage companies to employ British workers, they would raise employers National Insurance to 20% for foreign workers.[135]
  • Rejecting net zero as an "act of financial self-harm", fast-track new licences for North Sea gas and oil, fast-track new modular nuclear reactors to grant, where safety is proven, two year licenses for fracking, and explore clean coal mining. Reform also want to increase and incentivise ethical UK lithium mining for electric batteries and clean synthetic fuel.[135] It pledges to support the environment with tree planting, recycling and less single use plastics.[136][137]
  • Cut NHS waiting times to 'zero' by increasing the use of private not-for-profit healthcare operations, and giving tax breaks to nurses and doctors to increase their number.[135] The party sets out an extra £17bn a year for the NHS.[138]
  • Increasing the number of police officers by 40,000 and scrapping all diversity, equity and inclusion roles and regulations, "to stop two tier policing." There would be mandatory life sentences for repeated violent offending, drug trafficking and dealing.[135]
  • A "patriotic curriculum" in schools, such that, for example, where imperialism or slavery is covered, examples are given of non-European instances. Transgender ideology would be banned, with "no gender questioning, social transitioning or pronoun swapping." Universities would have to offer two year courses, to reduce student debt and move people into employment earlier.[135] Reform would also scrap interest on student loans, extending loan capital repayment periods to 45 years.[135]
  • Increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP in three years, and then to 3% over the following three. Basic pay for the armed forces would be increased immediately and 30,000 recruited to join the army.[135]
  • Fast-track planning and tax incentives for the development of brown field sites, and prioritise local people for social housing.
  • Ssupport family formation by incentivising the tax system and front-loading child benefit for young children. Mandate single sex public toilets and changing facilities.[135]
  • Scrap HS2.[135] Public utilities and critical national infrastructure would return to 50% public ownership (the other 50% owned by UK pension funds).[135][139] It also pledged to accelerate transport infrastructure in coastal regions, Wales, the North, and the Midlands, including rail and road links.[140][141]
  • Farming in Britain would be "revitalised" by a range of measures focusing on small farms, Reform says, including "helping farmers to farm" rather than either leaving the land or retiring, ending climate-related subsidies, ending supermarket price fixing and encouraging direct sales to the public.[135]
  • Renew the British fishing industry by measures including the ending of automatic access by foreign fishing vessels to UK waters, and the use of tax and other incentives to process fish caught in British waters in Britain.[135]
  • Institute a Royal Commission into social care and evolve a national plan for a sustainable system.[135]
  • Abolition of the House of Lords,[142] and replacement of first-past-the-post voting with a system of proportional representation.[142]
  • Cancel membership of the World Health Organisation unless that body is itself reformed, opposes a cashless society scrap the TV licence fee, saying that the "out of touch wasteful BBC is institutionally-biased".[135]

Reform says that the total cost of its manifesto would be £141billion but say that they would raise £150billion. This money would be raised from the scrapping of net zero subsidies, the ending of payments of interest on quantitive easing reserves to banks, the halving of foreign aid and the saving of £5 in every £100 of government spending.[143] The party has also said it would immediately cut the rate of corporation tax from 25% to 20%.[143]

Funding and structure

In its early days, The Brexit Party officially had three members, who were Farage, Tracey Knowles and Mehrtash A’Zami. The party opted for signing up registered supporters rather than members. The party structure was criticised for not providing the party's over 115,000 paying registered supporters[144] with any voting power to influence party policy;[145] Farage retained a high level of control over decision-making, including hand-picking candidates himself.[145][146] Since 2021, the party has options to become a member, rather than a supporter.[147]

Farage has said the party would largely be funded by small donations and that they raised "£750,000 in donations online, all in small sums of less than £500" in their first ten days. The party also accepts large donations.[148] He further said that the party would not be taking money from the key former UKIP funder Arron Banks.[36][149] Farage personally faced questions during the 2019 electoral campaign after Channel 4 News revealed undeclared travel and accommodation benefits provided by Banks before Farage joined the Brexit Party, and on 21 May 2019 the European Parliament formally opened an investigation.[150] In response to the reporting, the Brexit Party banned Channel 4 News from its events.[151]

In 2019, £6.4m was donated to the party by Christopher Harborne.[152] and £200,000 by Jeremy Hosking, a former donor to the Conservative Party.[148] 2023 donations included £200,000 from Terence Mordaunt's company First Corporate Consultants Ltd, £15,000 from Jeremy Hosking, and £10,000 from Crispin Odey.[153]

Two days before the 2019 European election, Farage accused the Electoral Commission of "interfering in the electoral process" after the independent watchdog visited the Brexit Party headquarters for "active oversight and regulation" of party funding.[154] Official donations of £500 or more must be given by a "permissible donor", who should either be somebody listed on the British electoral roll or a business registered at Companies House and operating in Britain. When asked if the party took donations in foreign currency, Farage replied: "Absolutely not, we only take sterling – end of conversation." Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell called for "a full and open and transparent, independent inquiry into the funding of Mr Farage".[155]

Reform UK Party Ltd. has 15 shares. Significant shareholders are Nigel Farage, who holds 8, and Richard Tice, who holds 5. Chief Executive Paul Oakden and Party Treasurer Mehrtahs A'Zami hold 1 share each.[156]

In May 2024, The Guardian said that 80% of the party's funding, in loans and donations, came from Tice. It reported Tice as saying that the Conservatives spend £35 million annually, while Reform spends less than £1.5 million.[157]

During the week following the 3 June 2024 announcement of Farage's resumption of party leadership, ITV News reported that party membership increased by 50% to 45,000.[158]

Leadership

Leaders

Reform UK has had three leaders. Catherine Blaiklock was its first leader and served from 20 January 2019 to 20 March 2019, before resigning as party leader due to anti-Islam messages she posted on her Twitter account before she took on the role.[159] Richard Tice took on the role following the resignation of Nigel Farage.[160] On 3 June 2024 it was announced that Tice had invited Farage to return as leader, an offer Farage accepted.

No. Leader
(Birth)
Portrait Took office Left office Tenure length Deputy Leader(s) Portrait Chair
1 Catherine Blaiklock
(born 1963)
20 January 2019 20 March 2019 60 days vacant Richard Tice
2 Nigel Farage
(born 1964)
22 March 2019[161] 6 March 2021 1 year and 350 days
3 Richard Tice
(born 1964)
Tice photographed from below 6 March 2021 3 June 2024 3 years and 111 days David Bull (2021–incumbent)
Ben Habib (2023–incumbent)

David Bull
(2) Nigel Farage
(born 1964)
3 June 2024[161] Incumbent

Timeline

Richard TiceNigel FarageCatherine Blaiklock

Frontbench as the Brexit Party

As well as the leader and chairman, other leadership roles were assigned to Brian Monteith as Chief Whip in the European Parliament (before Brexit)[162] and David Bull as health spokesperson during the 2019 election.[163]

Frontbench as Reform UK

On 20 March 2023 Richard Tice, then leader, held a press conference to announce Reform UK's first frontbench team.[164] The roles were as follows:

Portfolio Spokesperson Term Notes
Leader Nigel Farage 3 June 2024[21] – present Candidate for Clacton
Energy and Foreign Policy Richard Tice 20 March 2023 – present Also chairman and candidate for Boston and Skegness
Health David Bull 20 March 2023 – present Also co deputy leader and candidate for West Suffolk
Brexit and the Union Ben Habib 20 March 2023 – present Also co deputy leader and candidate for Wellingborough and Rushden
Immigration and Justice Ann Widdecombe 20 March 2023 – present
Business and Agriculture Rupert Lowe 20 March 2023 – present Candidate for Great Yarmouth
Defence and National Security Frederick Chedham 20 March 2023 – 18 June 2024[165]
Education and the Family Belinda de Lucy 20 March 2023 – present
Culture Alex Phillips 20 March 2023 – present
Fisheries June Mummery 20 March 2023 – present Candidate for Lowestoft

In January 2021, former Conservative and then independent MSP Michelle Ballantyne joined the party and assumed the role of Leader of Reform UK Scotland.[166] She resigned this role in February 2022, and was replaced by Martyn Greene.[citation needed]

Elections

2019 European Parliament election as the Brexit Party

The Brexit Party stood candidates in Great Britain at the 2019 European Parliament election, including the former Conservative Party Minister of State, Ann Widdecombe,[167] the journalist, Annunziata Rees-Mogg (a former Conservative general election candidate and the sister of the Conservative MP and Brexit advocate, Jacob Rees-Mogg), the Leave Means Leave co-founder, Richard Tice,[149] the writers, Claire Fox and James Heartfield (both once part of the Revolutionary Communist Party and later writers for Spiked),[168][169] Stuart Waiton (a fellow Spiked contributor)[170][171] James Glancy, a former member of the Royal Marines and the Special Boat Service who was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross,[172] Martin Daubney, a journalist and commentator,[173] David Bull, author and television presenter,[174]

Brian Monteith, a former Conservative Party MSP, Rupert Lowe, a businessman[175] and retired Rear Admiral Roger Lane-Nott.[176] John Longworth, the former director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, announced he would be standing as a candidate for the party on 15 April 2019.[177] The party was not registered in Northern Ireland and did not field candidates there.[178]

A survey of 781 Conservative Party councillors found that 40% planned to vote for the Brexit Party.[179] On 17 April 2019, the former Labour and Respect Party MP George Galloway announced his support for the Brexit Party "for one-time only" in the 2019 European Parliament election.[180] On 24 April, the political columnist Tim Montgomerie announced that he would vote for the party and endorsed Widdecombe's candidature,[181] and the Conservative MP Lucy Allan described the candidates of the party as "fantastic".[182] On 2 May, one of the party's candidates for the North West constituency, Sally Bate, resigned from the party in response to previous comments made by Claire Fox, the lead candidate in the constituency, on the Warrington bomb attacks.[183]

In May 2019, several polls forecast the party polling first for the European elections,[184] though earlier polls had suggested it would come third to Labour and the Conservatives.[185] The party held 14 seats, acquired through defections, going into the elections, and saw an increase of 15. It won five more seats than UKIP, at the time under Farage's leadership, had at the previous election.

The party won 29 seats in the election, becoming the biggest single party in the 9th European Parliament. The CDU/CSU Union also won 29 seats in Germany, but it was an alliance and not a party. Three of the MEPs resigned the whip in December 2019 to support the Conservative Party at the 2019 general election, A fourth, John Longworth, was also expelled for "repeatedly undermining" the party's election strategy.[186]

Year Leader Share of votes Seats Position
2019 Nigel Farage 30.52%
29 / 73
1st

The 29 MEPs originally elected were as follows:

Name Constituency First elected Notes
David Bull North West England 23 May 2019 Former Conservative general election candidate
Jonathan Bullock East Midlands 28 July 2017 Former UKIP MEP; former Conservative general election and European Parliament candidate
Martin Daubney West Midlands 23 May 2019
Nigel Farage South East England 10 June 1999 Leader of party; former UKIP MEP
Lance Forman London 23 May 2019 Resigned whip in December
Claire Fox North West England 23 May 2019 Former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party
Nathan Gill Wales 1 July 2014 Former UKIP MEP and AM
James Glancy South West England 23 May 2019
Benyamin Habib London 23 May 2019
Lucy Harris Yorkshire and the Humber 23 May 2019 Resigned whip in December
Michael Heaver East of England 23 May 2019 Former chairman of the UKIP youth wing, Young Independence
Christina Jordan South West England 23 May 2019
Andrew England Kerr West Midlands 23 May 2019
John Longworth Yorkshire and the Humber 23 May 2019 Chairman of Leave Means Leave (resigned whip in December)
Rupert Lowe West Midlands 23 May 2019 Former Referendum Party general election candidate
Belinda De Camborne Lucy South East England 23 May 2019 Campaigner for Leave Means Leave and Ladies for Leave
Brian Monteith North East England 23 May 2019 Former Conservative MSP
June Mummery East of England 23 May 2019 Campaigner for Fishing for Leave
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen North West England 23 May 2019 Co-chairman of the "No" campaign in the 1992 Danish referendum on the Maastricht Treaty
Matthew Patten East Midlands 23 May 2019
Alexandra Phillips South East England 23 May 2019 Former UKIP Head of Media
Jake Pugh Yorkshire and the Humber 23 May 2019 Former member of the Referendum Party
Annunziata Rees-Mogg East Midlands 23 May 2019 Former Conservative general election candidate; resigned whip in December
Robert Rowland South East England 23 May 2019
Louis Stedman-Bryce Scotland 23 May 2019 Resigned whip in November
John Tennant North East England 23 May 2019 Former UKIP councillor, current Independent Union party leader and councillor
Richard Tice East of England 23 May 2019 Co-Chairman of Leave Means Leave and co-founder of Leave.EU
James Wells Wales 23 May 2019 Former Conservative
Ann Widdecombe South West England 23 May 2019 Former Conservative MP and Minister of State

2019 general election

Farage said the party intended to stand candidates at the 2019 general election.[187] In April 2019 he promised not to stand candidates against the 28 Eurosceptic Conservative MPs who opposed the Brexit withdrawal agreement.[188] In the Peterborough by-election in June, the Brexit Party came second with 28% of the vote, 7% ahead of the Conservatives and 2% behind Labour.

Following Boris Johnson's election as Prime Minister, Farage unveiled the names of 635 general election candidates for the Brexit Party, including himself.[189] On 8 September 2019, Farage wrote an article in the Sunday Telegraph and the Brexit Party took out advertisements in Sunday newspapers offering an electoral pact with the Conservative Party in the forthcoming general election, in which the Brexit Party would not be opposed by the Conservatives in traditional Labour Party seats in the north of England, the Midlands and Wales, and the Brexit Party would not contest seats in which they could split the Leave vote. Farage wrote that Boris Johnson should ask himself "does he want to sign a non-aggression pact with me and return to Downing Street?"[190]

Constituencies, highlighted, which the Brexit Party contested at the 2019 general election.

Farage had suggested that the Brexit and Conservative parties could form an electoral pact to maximise the seats taken by Brexit-supporting MPs, but this was rejected by Johnson.[191] On 11 November, Farage then said his party would not stand in any of the 317 seats won by the Conservatives at the last election. Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly welcomed this, although he stated that the parties had not been in contact.[192] Newsnight reported that conversations between members of the Brexit Party and the pro-Brexit Conservative group, the European Research Group (ERG) had led to this decision.[193]

The Brexit Party is reported to have requested that Boris Johnson publicly state he would not extend the Brexit transition period beyond the planned date of 31 December 2020 and that he wished for a Canada-style free-trade agreement with the EU. Johnson did make a statement covering these two issues, something which Farage referenced as key when announcing he was standing down some candidates. Both the Brexit Party and the Conservatives denied any deal was done between the two.[193][194][195] The decision to not run in those seats met with criticism by some Brexit Party supporters and candidates; some candidates who had been selected to vie for Conservative seats opted to run as independent candidates on a Pro-Brexit platform.[196]

The Brexit Party failed to win any seats in the general election.[44] Its best second places were in Barnsley Central, where Victoria Felton won 30.4% of the vote,[197] and Barnsley East, where Jim Ferguson won 29.2%.[198] High third places were in Hartlepool, where Richard Tice won 25.8% of the vote,[199] and Hull West and Hessle, where Michelle Dewberry won 18%.[199]

Election Leader Votes Seats Outcome
No. Share Seats won ±
2019 Nigel Farage 642,303 2.0%
0 / 650
New No seats

2024 general election

On 3 June 2024, Nigel Farage became the leader of Reform UK ahead of the 2024 United Kingdom general election. Following this development, opinion pollsters reported an increase in support for the party; in two cases polling within 2% of the Conservative Party;[200] a subsequent poll reported a gap of 9% behind the Conservatives,[201] but BBC political analyst Peter Barnes commented on 9 June that the change in leadership "has clearly had a positive impact on the party's performance in the polls," and that this "has come at the expense of the Conservatives."[202] A poll of 1,000 viewers conducted after the BBC's seven-party debate held on 7 June found Farage to be the winner with 25% support, his closest rival being Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner, on 19%. The debate majored on D-Day, war veterans, immigration and the NHS.[203]

Farage said that his aim was to make Reform the Official Opposition party in Parliament.[204] Reform will be standing in 609 out of 650 constituencies (all in Great Britain).[205] As part of an electoral pact with the Social Democratic Party, the two parties have stood aside for each other in six constituencies and over a dozen candidates are standing under a joint Reform-SDP banner.[206]

On 10 June, the Reform UK candidate for Bexhill and Battle, Ian Gribbin, was reported as having said in 2022 that: "Britain would be in a far better state today had we taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality." Following these reports, Gribbin stated that he apologised without reservation for the comment and any upset caused.[207] A party spokesman defended Gribbin by saying that "his historical perspective of what the UK could have done in the 30s was shared by the vast majority of the British establishment including the BBC of its day, and is probably true," despite this the spokesman also said that the comments made by Gribbin were not endorsements of the stances and that the party would continue to support him.[208][209] The Times reported on 13 June that 41 of the Reform UK candidates for the 2024 general election were Facebook friends with the British neo-fascist Gary Raikes.[210]

Reform having been hit by a number of revelations about prospective parliamentary candidates,[211] Farage said on 18 June that the party had hired a vetting company, but had been "stitched up" by them. The company, vetting.com, responded that there had not been sufficient time to complete their work, the election having been called earlier than expected.[211]

In the 2024 general election campaign, the party uses the slogan "Britain Needs Reform".[212] Their party election video, broadcast nationally on 13 June, showed silently and continuously for 4 minutes and 40 seconds the six words "Britain is Broken. Britain Needs Reform."[213] Previously, the party has used the slogan "Make Britain Great", which is similar to the "Make America Great Again" used by Donald Trump, for whom its leaders have expressed support.[214][215][216]

When on 13 June YouGov opinion polling put Reform at 19% and the Conservatives 18%, Farage declared "We are now the opposition to Labour."[217]

On 15 June, the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg said that "the most optimistic Reform politicians can't name more than five or six seats where they reckon they could win."[218] On the same day, opinion pollsters Survation published the results of a survey of 42,269 voters employing multilevel regression with poststratification (MRP) which predicted that Reform would win seven seats: Ashfield, Clacton, Exmouth and Exeter East, Great Yarmouth, Mid Leicestershire, North West Norfolk, and South Suffolk.[219] On 19 June, YouGov's MRP survey of 36,161 adults predicted five seat wins: Ashfield, Basildon and Billericay, Clacton, Great Yarmouth, and Louth and Hornscastle.[220]

On 20 June, the BBC reported that whilst Farage has been criticised by some Muslim organisations for saying that a growing number of young Muslims do not subscribe to British values, Muslim entrepreneur Zia Jusuf had just given the party a donation amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds and said that the country has lost control of its borders; "I love Britain and I'm a patriot, a British Muslim patriot." He said that it was his "patriotic duty" to fund Farage and Reform UK.[221]

Farage stated in an interview with ITV News that he would remove university tuition fees if he won power but only for those studying science, technology, engineering, medicine or maths.[222] Farage has come under criticism during the campaign for saying that the West "provoked" Russia's invasion of Ukraine.[223]

Election Leader Votes Seats Outcome
No. Share Seats won ±
2024 Nigel Farage TBD TBD
0 / 650
TBD TBD

Local government

The party first stood at local government level in two by-elections in Gloucester on 25 July 2019.[224] They did not win either.[225]

A councillor elected to Rochdale defected to the party in July 2019 from Labour, making for the first councillor;[226][227] shortly after a Liberal Democrat councillor there also defected.[228] All 12 of Rotherham's then UKIP councillors defected to the Brexit Party in July 2019, as did all 5 of Derby's UKIP councillors.[229][230] On 13 September 2019, ten independent councillors on Hartlepool Borough Council defected to the Brexit Party. They then formed a pact with the three Conservatives to hold 13 of the 33 seats.[231] In September 2019, a Conservative councillor for Surrey (county) and Elmbridge (borough) defected to the party, after his party decided he would not be reselected.[232]

The 13 councillors of the Hartlepool council group left the party in 2020.[233] The Rotherham group left to form the Rotherham Democratic Party.[234][235] The party won two seats in the 2021 United Kingdom local elections, both in Derby, one a hold from a previous defection and the other a gain. These were the first council seats won at election by the party, as all their previous ones had been via defections.[236][237] This left them with eight councillors in total; six in Derby and two more from defections, one in Redbridge from the Conservatives, and one in Swale from UKIP, both in April 2021.[238][239] Councillors in the Derby City group are members of an affiliate party named "Reform Derby", in alignment with Reform UK.[240][241]

In December 2021, days before the North Shropshire by-election, local councillor and Deputy Mayor of Market Drayton Town Council, Mark Whittle, defected to the party from the Conservatives.[242] It was reported that all of Reform UK's candidates in the 2022 United Kingdom local elections "will campaign on the benefits of fracking and restarting exploration in the North Sea".[243] Three of the eight council seats held by the party were up for re-election in 2022, all of which had arisen from defections. Both Derby seats were held, but a seat in Redbridge was lost. No new seats were gained.[244]

In December 2022, two former Conservative councillors – one in Barnsley and the other in West Oxfordshire – defected to the party.[245] Another Conservative councillor, Barry Gwilt, of the Fazeley on Lichfield District Council, defected to Reform UK in January 2023.[246] In the 2023 United Kingdom local elections, Reform UK won six seats out of the 8,519 up for election[247] and averaged 6% of the vote in the wards where it stood.[248] The six seats won were all in the City of Derby, whose new council proceeded to elect Reform Derby leader Alan Graves to the position of Mayor for 2023/24.[249]

In March 2024, East Riding of Yorkshire councillor Maria Bowtell defected from the Conservatives and joined the party.[250] In the 2024 English local elections Reform UK took approximately 11% of the vote where it stood candidates,[251] and won two seats on Havant Borough Council[252] and one on the London Assembly.[86] Richard Tice claimed that his party was becoming the real opposition to Labour.[253] On 18 June, four Conservatives from the Tendring District Council defected to Reform with Jeff Bray becoming leader of the council group.[254][255]

Senedd elections

Year Regional vote Constituency vote Overall seats Change
2021 11,730 votes 1.1%
0 / 20
17,405 votes 1.6%
0 / 40
0 / 60
New Party

Scottish Parliament elections

Year Regional vote Constituency vote Overall seats Change
2021 5,793 votes 0.2%
0 / 56
0 / 73
0 / 129
New Party

London Assembly elections

Year Regional vote Constituency vote Overall seats ±
2021 25,009 votes 1.0%
0 / 11
62,263 votes 2.4%
0 / 14
0 / 25
New Party
2024 145,409 votes 5.9%
1 / 11
188,420 votes 7.4%
0 / 14
1 / 25
Increase1

See also

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Further reading

External links