What does Nigel Farage’s Reform Party stand for - and will it succeed?
End to lockdown could undo party focused on opposing further Covid restrictions
Nigel Farage has cut the fee to stand as a candidate for his new Reform Party from £30 to £10 ahead of May’s local elections.
Daily Mail deputy political editor, John Stevens, tweeted that the party had “slashed” the application payment in a move that suggests the rebranded Brexit Party is “struggling” to attract viable candidates to stand for Farage’s newest political vehicle.
“Love him or loathe him, Farage has proved himself a political force to be reckoned with,” says BBC political correspondent Alex Forsyth. But news that Reform is having to hunt for candidates has raised questions over whether it is a “future force or busted flush”.
What it stands for
When Farage launched the rebranded party last November, his main focus was on anti-lockdown messaging.
A spokesperson for Reform told The Guardian at the time that “the lockdown doesn’t seem to gel with lived reality”, adding: “Yes, we all know people who have been ill… but how many of those have died have been under 60?”
Beyond that, details about the party’s policies have been vague. However, Farage did tell the BBC that some elements of his UKIP platform would remain, saying: “There are many areas of the UK that need real, bold reform: our economy, House of Lords, BBC, civil service and the voting system.”
Will it succeed?
Boris Johnson is planning a cautious easing of Covid-19 restrictions, with the aim of making the current lockdown the final one, in a blow to an anti-lockdown party like Reform.
Farage is also a “poor frontman for lockdown scepticism”, New Statesman political editor, Stephen Bush, says. “The problem for Farage is that his old electoral coalition does not map cleanly on to his new issue: opposition to lockdown regulations.”
Indeed, YouGov polling before the latest lockdown found that the vast majority (85%) of Britons support the national lockdown measures, including 62% who “strongly” support them.
However, Farage has never led parties that were interested in winning a majority of voters, but has maintained influence by chipping away at the base of the major parties.
Polling by the Electoral Reform Society in late 2020 found that 71% of the public support an overhaul of the House of Lords, while YouGov found in October 2020 that 44% of voters back a move to proportional representation. This suggests that Farage could find limited success running on policies similar to his UKIP manifestos.
“I can’t see how a Farage-led anti-lockdown party is going to do all that well – there just isn’t enough overlap between his voters and opponents of lockdown,” Bush says. But he adds that what should worry Johnson - and to a lesser degree Keir Starmer - is that “he is looking for new ways to involve himself in politics”.
“If opposing lockdown isn’t the cause that works for him, he is likely to find another, more effective, vehicle by the time of the next general election.”