Nigel Farage’s Reform Party wins 4 seats and takes the Conservative vote

Nigel Farage’s Reform Party wins 4 seats and takes the Conservative vote

Nigel Farage’s Reform Party wins 4 seats and takes the Conservative vote

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Reform UK leader Nigel Farage was jubilant on Friday after becoming an MP for the first time and seeing his right-wing party eat into the Conservatives’ share of the vote.

The arch-Brexiter won the Clacton constituency in Essex and was one of four reform MPs elected in former Conservative seats, including party chairman Richard Tice in Boston and Skegness, and Tory defector Lee Anderson in Ashfield.

Farage, speaking at a news conference in Westminster on Friday, repeated his rejection of an invitation from former Home Secretary and possible Tory leadership candidate Suella Braverman to join the Conservatives.

“Let the Conservative Party tear itself apart as it will in opposition, as it has frankly done in government,” he said. “We (Reform), frankly, do not want to intervene in its pain.”

The Reform Party secured its first victory of the night in Ashfield in the East Midlands, with the re-election of Anderson, the former Conservative deputy leader who defected in March. The party was also in second place with almost 100 seats as of Friday morning.

Farage, who has stood for parliament seven times without success, had previously insisted that “this will be a non-racist, non-sectarian party. Absolutely. And I give my word on that.”

He added that the party would be “democratized” and allow members to vote to elect regional chapter presidents, in a move that would increase participation in the party. The reform does not allow members to vote on its leadership or policies and is structured like a joint-stock company.

“We have a structure. We have a constitution, but to build a branch structure, you have to give people the ability to choose candidates to vote for,” he said.

Farage said his first move in parliament would be to visit Strangers’ Bar, a meeting place for MPs and House of Commons staff.

The reform’s expected success at the ballot box came after taking advantage of right-wing voters’ disillusionment with the conservatives, particularly with their record on immigration.

Rob Ford, a professor of politics at Manchester University, said Reform’s support was too evenly distributed for the party to win many constituencies, but it had split the right-wing vote and cost the Conservatives seats.

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The party concentrated its resources on a handful of seats during the campaign. It was aiming for second place in dozens of constituencies, but fell just short of the 120 seats in which the UK Independence Party came second in the 2015 election. Reform came second with 98 seats.

The reformist party won around 600,000 more votes than the Liberal Democrats, who came third and won 71 seats with 3.5 million votes.

A quarter of Conservative voters in 2019 switched to the reform party, according to a poll by Conservative peer Lord Michael Ashcroft.

Ashcroft’s poll suggested that most of Reform’s support came from voters aged 45 and over, while it had the lowest vote share of any major party among those aged 18 to 24.

Reform has positioned itself as an anti-establishment party, but this could become a “double-edged sword” now that its members are in parliament, according to Paula Surridge, a professor of politics at the University of Bristol.

“They will have to go through parliamentary financial scrutiny and they will also be judged by key votes,” he said. “It is harder to be an insurgent from within.”

Farage wants to use Reform’s results in the July 4 election as a springboard for the next general election. He stole the show during this campaign: in the month following his announcement that he would stand for Clacton, he embarked on a whirlwind solo tour of the country that included constituency visits and campaign speeches.

But Reform’s campaign was embroiled in scandal after dozens of parliamentary candidates with a history of making racist, homophobic and sexist remarks were allowed to stand.

Reform blamed a research firm for the failings and suspended three candidates, two of whom had been supporters of the far-right British National party.

Two other candidates suspended their campaigns and switched to the Conservatives amid “reports of widespread racism and sexism.”

Farage dismissed these claims but insisted the party would professionalise and address concerns. “Those few bad apples that have come into the picture will go,” he said.