Who are Reform UK and where did they come from?

From Brexit Party to 'Make Britain Great again', how the Reform Party progressed

Reform UK leader Richard Tice

As Reform UK creeps its way up the polls and seeks to sway disillusioned Tories, we take a closer look at who the right-wing populist party are, where they came from and what they stands for. 

Originally set up in 2018 as the Brexit Party it was a single issue group, which pushed Euroscepticism and for a no-deal Brexit. 

Financial trader Catherine Blaiklock founded and initially led the party, supported by hard-line Brexiteer Nigel Farage, who at the time was still a member of the European Parliament, and had just left UKIP of which he was a leader. 

Co-founder Blaiklock was forced to resign in 2019 over racist, Islamaphobic tweets, which saw Nigel Farage take over. 

The Brexit Party dominated the UK’s European elections in May 2019, winning 32% of seats overall, with a number of UKIP MEPs joining the party. 

For the 2019 UK general election the party stepped up a gear, announcing a set of proposals, aside from pushing a “clean break” from the EU, which included; reducing immigration, political reform and tax cuts. None of its 273 candidates won a seat. 

A Party revamp followed, with the name officially changed to Reform UK in January 2021. 

Focus shifted to pushing an anti-lockdown agenda, with Richard Tice, party chairman at the time and current leader saying people should not “hide in fear” of Covid, echoing right-wing populist rhetoric of the time.  

Nigel Farage stood down as leader in early 2021 but is still very much part of the movement, with Tice announcing that Farage was “assessing” his future role in the party. However there was also speculation that Farage could join the Conservative party after his appearance at the Tory conference last autumn. Farage is currently Reform’s honorary president. 

Tice, a former Conservative and multi-millionaire businessman who comes from a family of property developers, is known as a Brexit fanatic and for making bizarre climate denial claims. He also presents for the right-leaning GB News channel and was elected in 2019 to the European Parliament.  

The self-proclaimed “no-nonsense” leader also co-founded the group Leave.EU, which was given a maximum £70,000 fine by the Electoral Commission for exceeding statutory spending limits during the EU referendum. 

Peddling itself as the “Make Britain Great” again party, Reform stands against net-zero plans, supporting fracking and further oil and gas extraction, has called for tax cuts, tougher border protection and reform to the civil service and BBC.

In the 2021 elections the party only secured two council seats. That year the party agreed a pact with hard-right Laurence Fox of Reclaim Party, agreeing to back him as London mayor. He went on to receive less than 2% of the vote. 

Recently the party has risen up the polls, now sitting even with the Lib Dems and only 7 points behind the Tories, posing a threat for Rishi Sunak, as the party set up a new defection union to lure in unhappy Tory MPs as further right-wing factions break out in the Tories.

Despite being led by privately educated millionaires, Reform continues to style itself as an “anti-elitist” party to win support and hopes to capitalise on a campaign against migration and Rishi Sunak’s failures. 

(Image credit: Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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