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Reform UK (formerly The Brexit Party) is a hard-Eurosceptic political party in UK that splintered from UKIP in January 2019 and officially launched on the 12th of April 2019. It won 29 members to the European Parliament in May 2019, but no MPs in the UK general election later that year.
In January 2021 the Party rebranded itself to 'Reform UK', with electoral and House of Lords reform considered top priorities for the party. Its first leader Nigel Farage quit in March 2021 to focus on other priorities such as Twitter (presumably having realised he would never get elected to anything); he was replaced as leader by Richard Tice, the former chairperson.
Nigel Farage and several other UKIP MEPs, including its Scottish leader, David Coburn quit the United Kingdom Independence Party in late 2018, over infighting about anti-Islam activist Tommy Robinson being given an advisor role by Gerard Batten, as well as the party increasingly becoming more Islamophobic and extreme in its policies.
In January 2019, Farage said he was joining the new Brexit Party. It was created on 20th of January and registered with the electoral commission on 5th of February 2019 by former UKIP Economic Spokesman, Catherine Blaiklock. In February 2019, Farage joined the Brexit Party alongside seven other ex-UKIP MEPs: Tim Aker, Paul Nuttall, Jonathan Bullock, David Coburn, Bill Etheridge, Nathan Gill and Julia Reid who are now all (as of 19 February 2019) listed as Brexit Party MEPs on the Europe.eu website. Some other ex-UKIP MEPs e.g. Steven Woolfe have said they will support the party, but sit as independents because they don't see the point in joining a new party with so little time left until Brexit is scheduled on 29 March, that is, unless there is an extension to the withdrawal process by extending Article 50, which seems unlikely. On BBC Newsnight in February, Woolfe who still sits as an independent MEP stated that he would consider standing for the Brexit Party.
Amid the chaos of repeatedly delayed Brexit, the party did very well in the May 2019 European Parliament elections, becoming the largest British party with 29 MEPs (the Lib Dems were second with 19). This was despite the fact that Farage's party had no manifesto and no policies other than getting the fuck out of Europe. Eventually in September 2019 they unveiled another policy: abolishing inheritance tax.
Pot, kettle black?
Farage has been called a hypocrite for criticising the far-right association of UKIP under Batten's leadership, when he himself has long history of making xenophobic statements and supporting individuals associated with the alt-right such as Paul Joseph Watson, Mark Meechan and Carl Benjamin. In 2017, Farage also campaigned for the Alternative für Deutschland who at that time were adopting anti-Muslim immigration policies similar to those of For Britain, an anti-Islam party that splintered from UKIP after the failure of Anne Marie Waters to take control of the party in the UKIP leadership election, 2017. Yet Farage has heavily criticized Waters, describing her as a racist.
No, but really where's the difference?
Although Farage criticises Robinson and Waters, there is actually very little different in their views concerning immigration and Islam, only that Farage is more cautious in public not to make outright anti-Muslim statements as he realises it will be political suicide. Despite Farage leaving UKIP in December 2018 to become an independent MEP because of the party being widely perceived as a racist anti-Muslim party and dropping to as low as 5-6% in opinion polls, there were resignations a year earlier such as by UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott who said he disapproved of the hard-right wing shift of UKIP on "religious and cultural issues" and by ex-UKIP donor Arron Banks, who as early as April 2017 said UKIP is going in the wrong direction for flirting for the first time with Islamophobic policies in the run up to the 2017 General Election when the UKIP manifesto's "Integration Agenda" was likened to the British National Party's. Farage never left the party at this point nor raised any concerns about UKIP's new Muslim-bashing policies, and so his reasons for leaving might not be what he claims, for example it has been suggested " Farage craves two things: power and the spotlight. UKIP can no longer provide him with either – so why stick around?" On the other hand while his motivations for leaving UKIP are perhaps still questionable, Farage has been praised for distancing himself from Robinson and the EDL's street thuggery and hooliganism that Batten has allowed into UKIP.
The Brexit Party is trying to promote itself as a more moderate alternative to UKIP that Farage has described as taken over by extremists. However, the party's founder Catherine Blaiklock has a history of making inflammatory comments about Muslims, and appears to be a counter-jihad crank with views that are the same as Tommy Robinson and Anne Marie Waters, having even written articles for a pro-Robinson website. Iman Atta, director of Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), which records anti-Muslim incidents, has said:
Blaiklock’s comments are jaw dropping and show a penchant for polarised views on Muslims. When Farage resigned from UKIP in December he said that UKIP was "turning a blind eye to extremist politics" and had become "obsessed with Islam". It seems he has backed another organisation whose head is obsessed with Islam and who has a very skewed view of Muslims."
Blaiklock for example has accused Muslim men of “impregnating white British girls to create Muslim babies”, claiming it’s “pretty well-known” that Muslims in the west think “someday this will all be ours”. She has also been criticized for making controversial comments about race such as black men are violent due to high testosterone, but denies being a racist by bizarrely carrying a large framed photo of her black husband around with her.
2019 European Elections
Because Brexit fell flat on its face, the UK had to go through European Elections in May 2019. The Brexit Party put up some choice candidates, and as a result of widespread dissatisfaction with the British government's failures got 29 MEPs elected to a parliament it wanted to leave. (Each region elects multiple candidates to the parliament.)
The party launched in Scotland in January 2021, with its Scottish leader already an MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) for South of Scotland. The party appointed Michelle Ballantyne, who was a member of the Scottish Conservative party until 2020, when she quit after failing to be chosen to replace Ruth Davidson as leader. She said she was looking for "angry" members of the public to stand as candidates.
Farage decided to give up the leadership in March 2021, reportedly feeling fed up with electoral politics and feeling his work on Brexit was done, although he would remain honorary president of Reform UK. He said he had been "reflecting on my role and my life over the course of the next few years" and had decided he could do more by being a troll on social media: he said he would concentrate on fighting the evil influence of China and on stopping "woke" progressives from changing the way British history is taught.
His replacement was Richard Tice: Reform UK is not a democratic organization so there was no leadership election. Nonetheless, Farage said that Tice, who was formerly party chair, would "democratise" Reform UK and try and improve its organization to maybe try and get some MPs. Tice's day job is in property asset management, as boss of Quidnet Capital LLP and formerly working for commercial property company CLS Holdings. He is in a relationship with Isabel Oakeshott, the right-wing journalist most famous for claiming David Cameron stuck his penis in a pig's head. Tice's own sexual proclivities are unrecorded.
In the party's 2021 autumn conference Tice explained that the party's priorities would be campaigning for low taxes and healthcare, and opposing Boris Johnson and the government's Covid restrictions; he also suggested a move away from culture war rhetoric of the sort Farage loves.
Electoral pact with Reclaim Party
For the 2021 London mayoral and Greater London Assembly elections - Reform UK entered into a pact with Laurence Fox's Reclaim Party. Fox ran for mayor as a candidate for Reclaim while Reform UK contested the GLA seats (constituency and regional lists). Fox would go on to win only 1.9% of the vote, whilst Reform UK won 0 seats in the GLA.
- See the Wikipedia article on Brexit Party.
- Nigel Farage quits as Reform UK leader in step back from party politics, The Guardian, 7 Mar 2021
- Nigel Farage quits Ukip over its anti-Muslim 'fixation'. The Guardian. 4 December 2018.
- Nigel Farage quits Ukip: Former leader leaves party over Tommy Robinson links. Independent. 4 December 2018.
- MEP Lord Dartmouth quits UKIP saying party is 'widely perceived as both homophobic and anti-Islamic'. Sky News. 26 September 2018.
- Third Ukip MEP quits over party's courtship of Tommy Robinson. The Guardian. 27 November 2018.
- Paul Nuttall quits UKIP over Tommy Robinson role. BBC News. 7 December 2018.
- UKIP: Scottish leader David Coburn quits over 'extremism'. BBC News. 7 December 2018.
- Gerard Batten drags Ukip further right with harsh anti-Islam agenda. The Guardian. 21 September 2018.
- Search Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group.
- The UK’s European elections 2019, BBC News
- What are the Brexit Party’s policies?, The Week, 7 Jun 2019
- Inheritance tax would be scrapped by the Brexit party – good news for the very rich, Torsten Bell, The Guardian, 16 Sep 2019
- No, Nigel Farage, you boosted the far right more than Tommy Robinson ever did. Newstatesman. 23 November 2018.
- Nigel Farage accused of xenophobic fear tactics over 'disgusting' Brexit poster. Reading Chronicle. 16 June 2016.
- Nigel Farage defends use of the word 'chinky'. Newsweek. 19 December 2014.
- Nigel Farage attacked over Romanians 'slur'. BBC News. May 2014.
- UKIP's Farage Rallies Germany's Right-wing AfD. The Local. 7 September 2017.
- Racists nearly killed Ukip this week, but we live to fight our most important battle. The Telegraph. 30 September 2017.
- UKIP loses another MEP as Jonathan Arnott quits party. BBC News. 19 January 2018.
- Election 2017: Ex-UKIP donor Arron Banks says party wrong to go to 'war' with Islam. Sky News. 25 April 2017.
- UKIP thinks bashing Muslims wins votes – but this could spell its end. The Guardian. 26 April 2017.
- Nigel Farage thinks Ukip is too bigoted for him? What a joke. The Guardian. 5 December 2018.
- Whatever his motives, Nigel Farage is right on Ukip. Financial Times. 5 December 2018.
- Nigel Farage quits UKIP over party's 'extremism' direction. ITV News. 4 December 2018.
- The Founder Of Nigel Farage's New Brexit Party Has A History Of Anti-Muslim Comments. BuzzFeed News. 11 February 2019.
- “Let them eat spuds”: we should fear the Brexit Party – but not for the reasons you think. NewStatesman. 12 February 2019.
- testosterone Farage ally said black men are violent due to high testosterone. The Guardian. 22 January 2019.
- A UKIP Candidate Brought a Photo of Her Black Husband to Hustings. Vice. 17 May 2017.
- New Scottish Brexit party launches in Scotland...and already has an MSP, The Herald (Glasgow), 11 Jan 2021
- Nigel Farage: Brexit-backing politician to quit as leader of Reform UK, BBC, 7 March 2021
- See the Wikipedia article on Richard Tice.
- Isabel Oakeshott runs squealing from David Cameron #piggate claims, The Guardian, 9 Oct, 2014
- Tory MP attended lockdown barbecue with journalists, The Guardian, 5 June 2020
- Reform UK tones down culture war rhetoric and targets Tory voters, The Guardian, Oct 1, 2021