Who is Richard Tice? Reform’s former leader turned Farage sidekick

The candidate for Hartlepool has seen his party's popularity swell in recent months, with one poll showing reform ahead of the Conservatives.

London, England, UK. 23rd Apr, 2024. Reform UK leader RICHARD TICE is seen in Westminster. (Credit Image: © Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE! Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News
Reform's former leader Richard Tice (pictured) has been somewhat upstaged by new leader Nigel Farage. (Alamy)

Now that Nigel Farage has taken over as the leader of Reform UK, Richard Tice’s public profile is fading fast - but the Reform chairman remains involved in the party's operations.

So far, the party has only one MP, Conservative defector Lee Anderson. But a recent poll has shown Reform overtaking the Tories, raising the possibility Anderson could hold his seat and even end up with fellow Reformers in the next Parliament.

As the candidate for Hartlepool, where he stood as the Brexit Party candidate in 2019, Tice hopes to be one of them. So who is he, and what does he stand for?

Childhood and education

Born in Surrey in 1964 to James Tice, a showjumper, and Joan Tice, a horse trainer. Educated at the private boarding school Uppingham, he studied at the University of Salford, gaining a degree in construction economics and quantity surveying – teeing him up for a career that he said would "continue the family genes in the property industry".

Family (partner & kids)

Tice has three children from a 24-year marriage that ended in divorce. He is now in a long-term relationship with the right-wing writer and journalist Isabel Oakeshott.

She is perhaps best known for two notorious incidents that set her against leading Tories: a book that featured the heavily disputed allegation that David Cameron had engaged in sexual activity with a pig, and the release of embarrassing messages entrusted to her by Matt Hancock when she agreed to write a book with him.

Net worth

While not quite in the same league as Rishi Sunak, Tice is one of the wealthiest people in British politics. As he describes it on his website, he made his multi-million-pound fortune over the course of “30 years of making things happen in property investment”, starting with a graduate job at a London firm in 1987.

According to Tice, the company he leads as CEO, Quidnet Capital, has “bought and managed £500 million in commercial properties across the UK on behalf of clients”.

He was also a key figure in the redevelopment of London’s Nine Elms district, near Battersea Power Station, a controversial project that has transformed a stretch of the Thames’s south bank with a welter of rapidly erected high-rise blocks.

GB News links

Along with Nigel Farage, Lee Anderson and several MPs on the right flank of the Tory party, Tice is a regular on the hard-right, culture war-focused TV outlet GB News. There he hosts a programme called “Richard Tice’s Sunday Sermon”, which serves as a platform for him to deliver his political analysis without the interruptions of an interviewer.

However, despite the network being a relatively safe space for him in ideological terms, Tice’s appearances aren’t always amicable. A recent interview with host Andrew Pierce, a longtime right-wing commentator, saw him challenged fiercely about Reform’s chances in a summer election should one be called – with Pierce pointing to the “weirdos” selected by the party to fight numerous seats as evidence the party is “not ready”.

'Leave Means Leave' campaign event, held at the University of Bolton Stadium in Bolton, Greater Manchester.  Featuring: Richard Tice Where: Bolton, Greater Manchester, United Kingdom When: 22 Sep 2018 Credit: Steve Finn/WENN
Richard Tice, pictured in 2018 at a 'Leave Means Leave' campaign event, is focused on the issue of immigration. (Steve Finn/WENN)

Tice was also involved in an incident that saw the network deemed in breach of broadcasting regulator Ofcom’s impartiality regulations, specifically an interview in which a former Brexit Party MEP failed to “sufficiently challenge” his views on immigration.

The regulator is under increasing pressure to crack down on GB News heading into the election, with critics arguing it cannot be allowed to broadcast shows that feature Tory and Reform MPs interviewing each other without alternative points of view represented.

Tice on NHS

The state and future of the NHS set to be one of this election’s main battlegrounds, and Reform’s key health policy is to spend £17 billion on the NHS on top of its current budget in an effort to get waiting lists down to zero. It also proposes introducing tax relief on private healthcare – something that has been criticised by opponents as a creeping step towards the privatisation of healthcare writ large.

Tice’s stated rationale is that the reason the service is struggling is because the money it needs is being spent on other things that the public do not in fact support. Top of the list is Net Zero, which the party and its predecessors have long decried as a pointless “woke” project.

In April, Tice used a press conference to frame the choice starkly. “We have a choice in this country, it seems to me,” he said. “A pretty clear choice. Do we want zero waiting lists in two years, and to keep them there? That is the Reform choice. Or do we want net zero CO2 emissions in 25 years? That is the Labour choice.”

Tice on immigration

Immigration is by far Reform UK’s top issue, with the party looking to build on Farage’s two decades of campaigning against it in its legal and illegal forms.

As far as the election goes, Tice and the party are targeting the continuing arrival of small boats of people travelling across the English Channel, many of them seeking asylum. He has criticised the government for failing to stop “mass immigration” post-Brexit, and described Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda policy as “a disaster”, arguing on GB News that its supposed deterrent value was revealed to be zero just hours after the House of Commons finally passed the law.

London, UK. 10th June, 2024. (L-R) Chairman of Reform UK Richard Tice and Leader of Reform UK Nigel Farage speak at the party's economic policy launch at Church House in London. Reform is proposing policies that will turbocharge recovery, growth and economic optimism amongst the public and businesses, reiterating their pledge to increase the income tax threshold to £20,000. (Photo by Tejas Sandhu/SOPA Images/Sipa USA) Credit: Sipa US/Alamy Live News
Reform chairman Richard Tice (L) and leader Nigel Farage speak at the party's economic policy launch at Church House in London. (Alamy Live News)

“Within a matter of hours more boats, absolutely packed full, overfilled with illegal migrants, were setting off from the beaches. And we learnt on Tuesday morning that sadly five people, including a young child, drowned leaving the beaches. That's not a deterrent. That's an absolute disaster.”

Instead of deporting people to Rwanda, he is arguing for a “pick up and take back” policy that would see small boat arrivals deposited back on French soil. As evidence that this is both practical and humane, he has cited similar policies deployed in the US and Australia.

However, he has not addressed the fact that Australia’s policy has been criticised internationally for leaving so-called “boat people” confined to facilities on the island of Nauru, where there have been incidents of suicide and self-immolation.

Tice on cost of living crisis

Perhaps unsurprisingly given he is trying to peel away former Tory voters, Tice has criticised recent Tory prime ministers harshly for overseeing Britain’s intense cost of living crisis. In 2022, he accused then-prime minister Boris Johnson of “waffling” over the situation. “Clueless, out of touch, no ideas, no help,” he tweeted. “Shocking.”

He has also warned that the prospect of a “disastrous” Labour government will offer no prospect of meaningful relief for struggling households.

Instead, Reform proposes lifting the minimum level of income tax to £20,000 while cutting various other taxes – among them fuel duty, another gesture to the party’s rejection of environmentalism as a top priority.