Tice: The insurgent threatening Sunak’s election hopes

The Reform UK leader hopes his anti-establishment message will win over disaffected voters.

Reform Party leader Richard Tice
Reform Party leader Richard Tice (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Richard Tice is the multimillionaire former Tory donor now hoping to spoil the Conservatives’ party on election night.

The one-time property developer inherited the leadership of Reform UK from Nigel Farage when he decided to step back from frontline politics in the aftermath of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

While he may have little chance of gaining the keys to No 10 himself, many Tories fear he could put a real dent in Rishi Sunak’s hopes of a return to Downing Street come the General Election.

A long-time Eurosceptic, Mr Tice made his fortune in the property business, following in the footsteps of his grandfather who once sought to demolish London’s landmark Ritz Hotel to make way for offices.

Richard Tice out on the campaign trail
Richard Tice out on the campaign trail (Joe Giddens/PA)

In the run-up to the 2016 EU referendum he displayed a similar iconoclasm, teaming up with fellow businessman Arron Banks to form Leave.EU rather than joining the Vote Leave campaign fronted by Boris Johnson and backed by many Brexit-supporting Tories.

The group was responsible for some of the more controversial adverts of the campaign with images of migrants pouring across a border, helping to earn them the sobriquet – along with Mr Farage – of “the bad boys of Brexit”.

A Tory member for all his adult life, Mr Tice finally broke with the party in 2019 in frustration at the failure of Theresa May’s government to deliver on the referendum result.

Instead, he joined Mr Farage’s new Brexit Party (as Reform was originally called), becoming party chairman and securing election as MEP for East of England in final European parliamentary elections held in the UK.

Richard Tice with Nigel Farage at the launch the Brexit Party’s 2019 European Parliament elections campaign
Richard Tice with Nigel Farage at the launch the Brexit Party’s 2019 European Parliament elections campaign (Joe Giddens/PA)

When Mr Farage decided to give up the leadership in March 2021 – having accepted Brexit was secure and “won’t be reversed” – Mr Tice was the obvious successor.

Some at Westminster suspected he was simply keeping the seat warm pending the return of his predecessor – who had already resigned twice before from frontline politics.

He has, however, sought to develop his own agenda, emerging as a fierce critic of Covid lockdown restrictions and Government net zero policies and campaigning for tax cuts and an end to “woke nonsense” in the police and other public services.

In contrast to the blokeish, saloon bar bonhomie of Mr Farage, Mr Tice cuts an altogether more conventional political figure.

He will, however, hope that his fundamentally anti-establishment message will resonate with disaffected voters, particularly in those “red wall” seats which the Tories took from Labour in 2019.