Reform UK: Where did party come from and what are its policies?

Leader Nigel Farage has claimed his party is now the ‘opposition to Labour’ after an opinion poll put it ahead of the Tories.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage has been on the campaign trail
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage has been on the campaign trail (Danny Lawson/PA)

With a major poll showing Reform UK edging past the Conservatives for the first time, Nigel Farage’s party has the potential to blow up the General Election.

Here the PA news agency answers some key questions on the party.

– Where did Reform UK come from?

It was formed in 2021 as a relaunch of Mr Farage’s previous project, the Brexit Party, which had in turn been founded from the remnants of Ukip.

Mr Farage helped found Ukip in the 1990s, which in later decades ate away at Tory support and proved instrumental in paving the way for the in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

In the aftermath of Brexit, Mr Farage announced he was quitting for a third time as Ukip leader. As the party descended into infighting, amid claims of a sharp turn to the right, he dramatically announced he was returning to the political front line with the formation of the new Brexit Party.

Mr Farage and Richard Tice in 2020 announced the Brexit Party would be renamed Reform as they railed against Covid-19 lockdowns. Unusually, it was set up as an “entrepreneurial political start-up”, with Mr Farage the company’s majority shareholder and honorary president.

Reform remained relatively unknown until recently, despite a major boost with the defection of Tory party deputy chairman Lee Anderson earlier this year.

Lee Anderson defected to Reform while he was the MP for Ashfield
Lee Anderson defected to Reform while he was the MP for Ashfield (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Mr Anderson became the party’s first MP following his suspension from the Conservative Party over comments he made about London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

– What happened when the General Election was called?

After Rishi Sunak called the General Election, Mr Farage at first announced he would not stand as a Reform UK candidate, saying he would support his party from the sidelines while focusing on getting Donald Trump re-elected as US president.

But less than two weeks later, he performed a screeching U-turn. Not only would he seek to become the MP for Clacton, but he would do so as leader of Reform UK, replacing former businessman and MEP Mr Tice in the role.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage holding a McDonald’s banana milkshake after one was thrown at him in Essex
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage holding a McDonald’s banana milkshake after one was thrown at him in Essex (James Manning/PA)

Mr Farage, who has failed in his previous seven attempts to be elected to the Commons, said his decision was motivated by a “terrible sense of guilt” towards his supporters as he vowed to lead a “political revolt”.

His takeover came as a huge blow to Mr Sunak’s already faltering campaign, heightening Tory fears that Reform could snatch voters from the right.

Following the veteran Eurosceptic’s decision to stand, celebrated with great fanfare by party backers in the Essex seat he is hoping to win, Reform began to climb in the polls.

– What are Reform’s policies?

The party will fight the election on immigration, pledging an “employer immigration tax” on companies that choose to employ overseas workers instead of British citizens.

This would see businesses paying a national insurance “premium” of 20% of an employee’s salary, as opposed to 13.8%, if the worker is from overseas.

The party has vowed to freeze lawful immigration with the exception of healthcare and leave the European Convention on Human Rights.

On the economy, Reform has set out an ambition to slash £91 billion off public spending by stopping the Bank of England paying interest on quantitative easing reserves and finding £50 billion of wasteful spending in Whitehall.

It has promised there would be no tax on earnings under £20,000 a year.

Reform has also said it would abolish the Government’s net zero targets and “stand up for British culture, identity and values”.

The party is set to unveil its full manifesto on Monday June 17.

– How have Reform’s poll ratings changed since the campaign began?

On the day Mr Sunak called the election, Reform was averaging 11% in the opinion polls.

The party remained around this level until the first week of June, when – a few days after Mr Farage announced he was standing as a candidate – its average poll rating began to climb and currently stands at 15%, six points behind the Conservatives’ average of 21%.

While most polls published in the past two weeks show a clear rise in support for Reform, there is no agreement among them over how the party is faring in relation to the Conservatives.

Only one poll so far has put Reform ahead of the Tories. The YouGov poll put Reform at 19% to the Tories’ 18% in voting intention, although pollsters caveated that Reform’s lead is within the margin of error.

Five other polls have been published in the past 24 hours, all of which show Reform trailing the Conservatives between one percentage point (Redfield & Wilton) and 12 points (More in Common).

– So what are Reform’s chances in the election?

Mr Farage has been bullish about Reform’s chances, expressing hope the party can “get through the electoral threshold” while declining to put a target on the number of seats he believes it could win.

But the first-past-the-post electoral system means the party could gain millions of votes without taking a single constituency.

Nigel Farage and Richard Tice announcing their party’s economic policy
Nigel Farage and Richard Tice announcing their party’s economic policy (James Manning/PA)

Nonetheless, Reform could have a big impact on the result by taking votes away from the Conservatives and costing Tory candidates closely contested seats.

Mr Farage’s stated ambition is to engineer a reverse takeover of the Conservative Party to form a new centre-right grouping.

He has hinted at the possibility of striking an election deal with the Tories, although Mr Tice dismissed the comments as “banter”.

In 2019, the then-Brexit Party withdrew candidates in seats across the country in a bid to help then-Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson win.