What is Reform UK? Party leader Nigel Farage has objects thrown at him while campaigning in Barnsley

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage reacts after an object is thrown towards him on the Reform UK campaign bus (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage reacts after an object is thrown towards him on the Reform UK campaign bus (Danny Lawson/PA) (PA Wire)

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage has been attacked by onlookers again as he campaigns ahead of next month’s election.

The controversial right-wing figure is hoping to poach a number of disgruntled Tory voters next month by playing on voter frustrations over everything from immigration to Brexit.

Having already been doused in a milkshake last week, this week Mr Farage had another object launched at him as he waved at people in Barnsley.

According to a Barnsley Labour Councillor, Mr Farage and his “political brand of intolerance and ignorance” were met with a number of activists who forced him to cancel his appearance.

Despite apparent frustrations in Barnsley, he looks optimistic about his chances in the upcoming general election on July 4.

Attempts to appeal to widespread discontent about the current government and the existing establishment seem to be working.

Reform UK is currently polling around 12%, while the Lib Dems are trailing behind with just 10%.

In response, the Conservatives have tried to appeal to their right-wing core, pledging to introduce policies like National Service, pension cuts, and even announcing more tax cuts in their election manifesto. 

Reform UK was previously known as the Brexit Party. This was a one-issue party that advocated for the UK to exit the European Union without an agreement when it was founded at the beginning of 2019.

So what is Reform UK and do they have a real chance at the next election?

What is the Reform UK political party?

Reform UK is a British right-wing political party founded by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage as the Brexit Party in 2018.

Their party slogan “Let’s Make Britain Great” harks back to the slogan of Republican president Donald Trump: “Make America Great Again”.

Mr Farage is currently the party’s leader, while its chairman is the former Conservative Party member Richard Tice.

Only a year after its creation, in 2019, the party hit its first major scandal as party leader and co-founder Catherine Blaiklock was forced to resign for anti-Islam tweets posted from her account.

But in the same year, during the 2019 general election, they took two per cent of votes after contesting 275 seats, and did not succeed in electing an MP.

However, they followed with their largest electoral success, a win of 29 seats in the European Parliament national elections in 2019.

This was among growing national concern around border policies and immigrants crossing the English Channel in boats.

In January 2020, the month Brexit came into effect, the party was renamed and became known largely for its anti-lockdown policies.

The party also prided itself on advocating for free speech, rigid immigration policies, reforming the House of Lords, the BBC, and changing the UK’s current voting system.

Recently, with the surge of Tory Party leavers and MPs announcing they will stand down at the next election, Reform UK has seen a rise in joiners.

Other policies possibly enticing ex-Conservative Party members are Reform UK’s call for lower taxes and the need to nationalise utilities and British energy.

What are the Reform Party’s policies?

This week the Lib Dems, Tories and Labour are releasing their election manifestos, which outline their plans for governing the UK should they be elected.

Reform UK haven’t followed suit, and not much has been shared about if or when they intend to share a manifesto like the other parties.

However, the party has made it very clear where it stands on various issues. It wants to focus on zero NHS waiting lists, cheaper energy, net zero immigration, and lower taxation.

Regarding energy, the party is in favour of increasing oil and gas extraction rather than abandoning net zero ambitions.

In addition, Reform UK pledges to give people vouchers to go private if you can't see a doctor in three days, interest-free student loans, more police, no "woke ideologies in the classroom", no TV licence charge, the Lords being reformed, and less "wasteful spending”.

It further demands that the UK employ offshore processing centres for illegal immigrants, withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, and stop them from requesting asylum.

Are ex-Conservative MPs crossing over to Reform UK?

It has been reported that Reform UK has been eyeing a number of northern red-wall seats, following Liz Truss’s exit from Parliament.

While some Tory politicians have been disillusioned with politics, instead choosing retirement, others may have chosen to defect.

Michelle Ballantyne, a Conservative MSP, joined Reform in January 2021 but lost her seat in the Scottish election in that same year.Speaking to inews, Reform UK chairman Richard Tice previously said: “I think it’s fair to say, without saying too much, that there’s some very disaffected ‘Red Wall’, industrial-heartland Tory MPs who thought they were joining a Conservative Party and have found themselves in a socialist party. They’re very, very unhappy.

“So, you’re seeing some of them basically saying, ‘I’m abandoning politics altogether’, and some are having other considerable thoughts. That’s all I say.”

Is the Reform Party rising in the polls?

The party's performance in the polls remained dismal in 2021 and 2022.

But things began to heat up after the administrations of Liz Truss and Boris Johnson fell apart at the end of 2022.

As Labour gained momentum and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were struggling to contain it, Reform's popularity in the polls started to rise.

It used to be less popular than the Greens and the SNP, but it is currently on par with the Lib Dems.

For Rishi Sunak, the development of Reform UK poses a challenge. Reform received a higher number of votes than the margin between Labour and the Conservatives in the Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire by-elections.

Voters who have previously supported either party, however, have demonstrated a willingness to switch to Reform.

Their current third-place position has consolidated their upward trajectory, and places them as a major player.