top of page

Are Reform UK Really Far-Right?

Updated: Apr 23



The other week, the BBC was forced to apologise to Reform UK after it labelled the party ‘far-right’ in an article. The broadcaster was right to apologise for this error, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. 


Reform UK speaks for many people across the United Kingdom, who are increasingly disillusioned with the two main parties, thanks in no small part to 14 years of woeful Tory governance. Their policy platform is certainly right-wing, but to describe them as ‘far-right’ is ludicrous. 


Richard Tice, Reform UK’s party leader, called the epithet ‘defamatory and libellous’ and said that the apology was issued after his lawyers intervened. He argued that there are ‘very significant implications of calling a political party far-right.’ If the label stuck, Tice said he worried party members might lose access to bank accounts or struggle to get mortgages.  


While this claim may seem alarmist, Nigel Farage lost access to his Coutts (NatWest) bank account in 2023 as he was told that his views were ‘at odds with our position as an inclusive organisation’. Farage also said that 10 other companies rejected his applications to open a new bank account, though he was offered a retail account by NatWest in the closure message on his Coutts account. NatWest backtracked on their initial decision, and the furore surrounding the Farage affair means Reform UK members will likely not face similar discrimination. However, it must be noted that the arbitrary discrimination against anything and everything labelled ‘far-right’ across the business world has by no means abated, and thus Tice’s claim is undergirded by an incontrovertible truth.


Lumping in a classically right-wing party like Reform UK with actual far-right groups, who often embody overtly racist, fascist, and ultra-nationalist views, is nothing short of scandalous. The distance between a far-right group like the British National Party, who called for the expulsion of all non-whites from the UK and global racial segregation, and Reform UK, who simply want to put an end to unsustainable levels of migration through a net-zero approach, is considerable. 


Far-right?


For those unaware of Reform UK’s policy platform, their four main pledges are lower taxes, net-zero immigration, cheaper energy, and zero waiting lists. These issues have dominated political discourse in recent times and are certainly matters of concerns for the general public. YouGov tracks ‘the most important issues facing the country’, and their poll has health, the economy, and immigration at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the public’s ranking. Even if Reform’s hardline net-zero immigration stance may not enjoy majority support, it is arguably preferable to the levels we have seen in recent years, with net-immigration reaching 768,000 people in 2023.


Reform UK’s constitution states that it is a ‘classical liberal’ party, aiming to streamline government to become smaller and more efficient. Somewhat confusingly, Tice has said his party is not motivated by ideology, focusing on what he calls ‘common sense’ issues like taxes and immigration. ‘Common-sense’ is a bold claim, and the characterisation in their manifesto, that they embody classical liberal values, is more accurate, given their commitments to reducing taxes and government waste.


The Tories have been elected four times since 2010 on a promise to address high immigration. According to the latest YouGov poll, 65% of Brits feel that immigration has been too high in the last 10 years. Reducing immigration is clearly a majority view, and thus it is hard to fathom why Reform UK are labelled as ‘far-right’ for their commitment to tackling the issue.


While their net-zero stance differs from merely reducing the numbers, their position is a reaction to the high levels seen in recent years. Net-zero immigration is much closer to David Cameron’s promise in 2010, to reduce immigration to the ‘tens of thousands’, than current levels. So, while their stance may differ from mainstream policy, it is hardly ‘far-right’. 

Its ‘contract with you’ acts as its pseudo-manifesto, and commits to standing up for British culture, identity, and values. Headline economic policies include lifting the income tax threshold from £12,570 to £20,000 per annum, NHS and social care staff paying zero basic rate in their first 3 years, and scrapping interest on student loans.


Other significant pledges include a voucher scheme to see a private doctor if the NHS cannot see a patient within a certain time, recruiting 40,000 more police officers, and introducing a proportional representation voting system.


The ‘far-right’ label is not borne out by their manifesto. It must be conceded that past members have gone some way to earning this dreadful association, such as their former leader Catherine Blaiklock retweeting posts from the BNP and Tommy Robinson. She was swiftly forced to resign when this came to light. The party clearly rejects such associations and has been trying to dissociate itself from these overtly far-right groups in recent years. Richard Tice has said that ‘when made aware of unacceptable behaviour, we act, and if necessary, immediately remove candidates that have gone beyond the pale’. 


This week the party was forced to suspend two general election candidates in Scotland, after it was found that one had made derogatory remarks about first minister Humza Yousaf being ‘more Pakistani than Scottish’, while another said that transgender people’s ‘days are numbered’. All parties attract their fair share of extremists, who don’t represent the policy position of their adopted party. 


A party on the up


It has been apparent for many months now that Reform UK is in the ascendancy. The latest YouGov poll has them at 16%, just 5 points behind the Conservatives. 


A male-only poll actually has them ahead of the Tories, on 19% and 17% respectively. Comparing this to the 2019 election, where 47% of men voted for the Conservatives, truly shows the spectacular fall in their support.


Reform UK clearly represent a huge threat to the Conservative party, and Tory MPs are increasingly fearful that the upcoming election will be an extinction event for them. With 4000 new members joining the party last month alone, prompted no doubt by Lee Anderson’s defection, the party are undeniably on the up. 


Let’s not forget that Reform are yet to deploy their star-man, Nigel Farage, back into the political limelight. In 2015, Farage’s UKIP party received around 12% of the vote, and with Reform’s current polling performance consistently at similar or higher levels, his return could spell doom for the Conservative party. Moreover, an Observer poll suggested that 37% of current Conservative voters would be more favourable towards Reform UK with Farage as leader. 


Regardless of their performance at the general election, Reform UK as a minimum provides genuine right-wing opposition to the Conservative party, which has dominated this side of the spectrum for the best part of 200 years. Their popularity will either see them replace the Tories as the de-facto right-wing party in British politics, or force the Conservatives to rebrand themselves by shifting their policies closer to Tice’s manifesto.


The ‘far-right’ label given to them is wholly inaccurate, and the party seeks to represent the interests of the disillusioned Conservative voter. Richard Tice has made this strategy explicit, and if Sunak continues to underdeliver as PM, Reform UK will be well placed to hoover up the right-wing vote. 


This label seeks to dismiss the popularity of Reform, portraying them as an extreme and fringe movement unworthy of attention. The party is clearly not ‘far-right’ as the BBC claimed, and they could be a key player at this year’s election.



Image: ChiralJon

Comentarios


bottom of page