UK Reform leader Farage positive after 'tough' few days

LONDON (Reuters) -Nigel Farage, leader of Britain's right-wing Reform UK party, said his party was doing better than expected after a "tough" few days, as he addressed supporters at a rally with days to go before the country votes on July 4.

Farage, one of the country's most recognisable and divisive politicians, has been a thorn in the side for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Conservative party as the rise in Reform's popularity threatens to split the right-of-centre vote.

A poll on June 27 showed the opposition Labour Party far ahead on 42%, trailed by the Conservatives on 20% and Reform on 16%.

Reform's standing had dropped from a record high of 19% in mid-June, following Farage's comments that the West had provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Farage, 60, told a crowd of more than 4,500 people at the "Rally for Reform" event held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham that the last few days have been "tough" but he was not downhearted.

"We're doing much better out there than anybody in the media, in politics, even dares to imagine in their worst nightmares. We are doing well," Farage told his supporters.

The challenges of the last few days have included Reform being at the centre of a racism row, when one of its supporters was recorded making a racial slur about Sunak.

Farage told Sky News on Sunday: "Anybody who has a racist point of view I don't want to know".


A Reform candidate for a constituency in northern England, Liam Booth-Isherwood, said separately on Sunday he was disowning the party and urging voters to instead back the Conservatives, citing reports of widespread racism and sexism and the failure of the party's leadership to address such issues, according to a statement on the BBC.

Reform's chairman Richard Tice called the allegations "false" on X and asked whether Booth-Isherwood had been offered something to switch sides.

Farage played a pivotal role in Britain's 2016 vote to leave the European Union, and then in 2018 helped found the party which became known as Reform. Its election pledges are to bring migration into Britain under control as well as cutting taxes for smaller businesses.

Given the overlap with some Conservative policies, there has been speculation in the British media that Farage could seek to join forces with that party at some point in the future, but speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Farage ruled that out.

"I want nothing to do with them. They're awful ... they are ghastly," he said.

Running to become a British lawmaker for the eighth time after his previous attempts all failed, Farage's Reform is unlikely to take more than a handful of seats even if it wins a substantial share of the total vote, due to Britain's first-past-the-post electoral system.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Andrew Heavens and David Holmes)