Reform UK has set up defection unit to lure over unhappy Tory MPs

The party founded by Nigel Farage says there are Tory MPs and councillors discussing making the switch

Reform UK leader Richard Tice

Reform UK – the party formerly known as the Brexit Party – has set up a defection unit as part of its attempts to lure unhappy Tory MPs and councillors to its ranks. According to a report in Politics Home, the new unit has been leading on conversations with MPs and councillors who have expressed an interest in switching to the populist right wing group.

Politics Home has said that the unit is “advising potential defectors on considerations like the impact it could have on their friendships with people in the world of Conservative party politics, as well as how joining Reform might affect their families.”

Last year, the Conservative Party chairman Lee Anderson claimed that he had been offered ‘a lot of money’ to join Reform UK, a claim denied by the party.

Currently, Reform UK has no MPs and just five local councillors.

Despite its almost non-existent electoral success, Reform UK is currently polling around 9-11%. As a result, political commentators are increasingly interested in the impact the party founded by Nigel Farage could have on the next general election.

In the 2019 general election, Reform UK’s predecessor – the Brexit Party – chose not to stand in any Tory held seats, a move which has been suggested was an important factor in he scale of the Tory majority. However, the party has said that it will be standing a full slate of candidates cross England, Scotland and Wales next time around.

This has led to a lot of noise in the press about whether Reform UK candidates appearing on ballot papers across the country could split the vote on the right of politics, leading to more Tory MPs losing their seats to Labour.

Reform UK’s impact on the next election is unlikely to go beyond this. The quirks of Britain’s first past the post electoral system mean that it is incredibly difficult for smaller parties to cross the threshold required to win seats in parliament. Indeed, in YouGov’s latest MRP poll, the party is projected to win no seats and to pick up no more than 21% of the vote in any individual constituency.

Because of this, it is possibly more likely that Reform UK would get its first parliamentary representation through defections rather than the ballot box. Reform UK’s leader – Richard Tice – has claimed that ‘quite a lot’ of Tory MPs and councillors have been discussing the idea of joining his party.

Whether or not this is true, it was certainly the case that UKIP – the closest historical parallel to Reform UK – got its first representation in the House of Commons through defections from the Tories. And with the Tories bitterly divided over a series of issues – not least Rishi Sunak’s handling of the proposed Rwanda scheme – it’s just about possible that there could be just deep enough disaffection to make one or two MPs consider making the switch.

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

Image credit: I7p0h8o0n9e0 – Creative Commons

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