Reform UK: what does the party stand for?

The former Brexit Party is targeting Tory voters with range of tax cuts

Richard Tice
(Image credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

The leader of Reform UK has vowed to win over disgruntled Conservative voters by unveiling new policies with the “wow factor” at the rebadged Brexit Party’s conference this weekend.

Former Brexit Party chair Richard Tice told The Guardian that Reform UK was shifting its focus from so-called culture war issues to concentrate on taking on Boris Johnson’s “party of high taxes and high regulation”.

As the paper noted, during the 2019 election “the then Brexit Party stood down in hundreds of Tory-held seats”. But in a direct challenge, the Reform UK conference is kicking off on Sunday in Manchester - the same day that the Tory conference begins in the same city.

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“That was my idea, to really wind them up, which I think it has successfully done,” said Tice, who took over from Nigel Farage as Reform UK leader in March. And Johnson’s team will have further cause for worry, according to Tice, who is proposing significant cuts to income and business taxes.

The reformed Reform UK agenda

Reform UK is unveiling a range of new policies at the conference, including one that Tice said would have “a big, unexpected wow factor”.

Drawning a line under his party’s focus on “the woke stuff” in UK culture, he told The Guardian that “what affects people’s daily lives” were issues such as healthcare, tax and the environment, and the next general election “will be fought on those things”.

“We are deadly serious about this,” added the Reform UK leader, who promised to field at least 600 candidates when the UK next goes to the polls.

His party faces quite a challenge to gain public recognition, after winning only two seats in this year’s council elections. However, polls now put Reform UK at up to 5%.

“At its heart”, said the BBC in a profile of Tice in March, the former Brexit Party is “still offering an anti-establishment message”. Reform UK was attempting to “appeal to those who are frustrated by a political mainstream that they feel hasn’t delivered for them”, the broadcaster added.

When Farage launched the rebranded party last November, his main focus was on anti-lockdown messaging. A spokesperson for Reform UK told The Guardian at the time that “the lockdown doesn’t seem to gel with lived reality”, adding: “Yes, we all know people who have been ill… but how many of those have died have been under 60?”

This Covid-sceptic stance appears to be continuing under Tice’s leadership, with a message on the official party website proclaiming that vaccination is “NOT required for entry” to this weekend’s conference.

But the site also outlines plans for reform in three key areas:

  • The economy - Reform UK wants to “free up” 6m people from income tax, by lifting the minimum threshold from £12,500 pa to £20,000. And 1.2m small businesses and self-employed people would be exempted from corporation tax, by raising the minimum threshold to £100,000. Simplifying and “removing a raft of stifling taxes” could boost economic growth by 1.25% pa, the party has calculated.
  • Public services - “We must be ambitious, seeking faster, more efficient public services that work better for us all, with better results,” said the party’s website. “For example, in health, we should demand zero waiting lists.” The party has pledged to release more detailed proposals for achieving these goals “in due course”. But in “a hint of our thinking”, the site added, Reform UK might “reopen the nursing and midwifery professions to recruitment without the degree requirement, alongside a new nursing qualification in social care”. In education, “teachers must be free to teach pupils how to think, not what to think, without fear of the woke police or religious persecution”. And police should “focus on combating violent crime, robbery and burglary”.
  • Institutions - the “bloated, wasteful and obligatory” BBC and licence fee “needs abolishing”, said the site. Reform UK also wants an overhaul of the House of Lords, along with changes to the civil service, immigration controls and the military. The voting system would get an overhaul too, to combat “fraud and abuse” that has been a “far bigger” problem in recent elections “than many realise”.

Immediate goals

For the time being, the party’s main focus appears to be on using proposed tax reforms to win over Conservative voters unhappy with Johnson’s “big state” approach to leading the UK out of the Covid-19 pandemic and funding social care reforms.

“I’ve started to call them the Con-Socialists, because they genuinely are no longer standing up for what most Conservative voters believe is a fundamental principle of being a conservative,” Tice told The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast last month.

“You want to have a smaller state, you want to cut taxes, you want to create higher growth, and that will lead to higher wages and better public services. And all of that seems to have been completely lost, completely forgotten, completely ignored in individual’s pursuits of cabinet positions.“

Tice added: “We didn’t do Brexit, in my view, to be a highly taxed, highly regulated European social democracy. We did it to become a lowly taxed, smartly regulated, ‘Singapore off the coast of Europe’.”

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