Reform UK, the rebranded Brexit party, plans to focus less on cultural war issues and instead try to lure disillusioned Tories with heavier policy offers based on cost of living and healthcare, said his boss.
Richard Tice, a real estate developer and Brexit activist who took over as Nigel Farage in March, has pledged to field at least 600 candidates in the next general election, saying half had already been chosen.
In the 2019 election, the then Brexit party withdrew to hundreds of seats held by the Tories, but under Tice it will very clearly target what it now calls “the high taxes and high tax party. high regulation “.
Speaking to the Guardian ahead of the party’s conference on Sunday, Tice said it wouldn’t even be unfair to claim he has more in common with Keir Starmer than with Boris Johnson. “I don’t think that’s the case, actually. I’ve never met Keir, but I think you can tell we both care about people. Boris only cares about Boris.
The Reform UK conference, while low-key, has potentially important political resonance for a number of reasons, including shaping the future of a party that won the 2019 European elections but then fell into virtual obscurity.
In this year’s municipal elections, the party won two seats. “By knocking on doors the majority of people hadn’t heard of us,” Tice admitted, but polls now put Reform UK at 5%.
The conference will hear political announcements in areas such as healthcare, taxation and the environment, plus one that Tice says has “a significant and unexpected wow factor.”
He said it would mark the end of a period in which his party has often drawn attention by focusing on culture wars and associated issues, including opposition to the lockdown and a semi-alliance with Laurence Fox. , the outspoken actor who became a candidate for mayor of London.
“Yeah, we’re irritated by what we call the waking stuff, and I think it irritates millions of people,” Tice said. “But what affects people’s daily lives are the policies that I talked about, and the election will be run on those things. We are extremely serious about this.
Reform UK’s staunch opposition to Johnson’s Tories is also significant, to the point of holding his conference in Manchester on the same day the Tories conference opens in the same city. “It was my idea, to really wind them up, which I think was successful,” Tice said. “We are starting to be abused by the Conservatives, which is always a good sign. “
Another notable element of British post-Farage reform is that although it criticizes Johnsonism, it mimics its selective approach to left and right politics. So while Tice would propose significant income and corporate tax cuts, these would only target the lowest paid people and small businesses. Any income gap, which Tice said would be temporary, would be closed not by spending cuts but by increasing borrowing.
“Everyone’s got their panties in a twist about the national debt,” he said. “There is no reason to be concerned about this.”
Likewise, while Tice criticizes the government’s net zero plans, he is not openly denying climate science and would like the government to offer 100% loans for people to install solar home panels.
While Tice is careful not to dismiss Farage, who he still speaks to regularly, it’s clear that this is a change in approach from a leader now best known for making videos on the refugees disembarking at Dover. “Right,” Tice said when asked if this was a new era for the party. “It’s Reform UK under my leadership, and these policies are driven by my purpose. “