Mon, 22 July 2024

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By Ben Guerin
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Reform UK Becomes "A Political Force" As It Takes Huge Bite From Tory Vote


3 min read

Reform UK won four seats at the general election in a historic night for the insurgent right-wing party, as it garnered more than four million votes.

Labour leader Keir Starmer secured an historic victory, winning more than 400 seats across the country with a landslide result, while the Conservatives struggled to win 120. Reform, however, helped ebb away at the Tory vote and in dozens of cases the combined vote was more than the Labour one. 

Reform won 4,073,607 votes at the general election, more than UKIP achieved in 2015 with 3,881,099. UKIP achieved just one seat in that election, on a far greater turnout. 

Successful candidates for the party included leader Nigel Farage to Clacton, Lee Anderson to Ashfield, Richard Tice to Boston and Skegness and Rupert Lowe to Great Yarmouth. All four Reform MPs beat incumbent Conservative candidates. 

After seven successful attempts, Farage was elected to Parliament with a majority of more than 8,000. 

Professor Sir John Curtice told the BBC that Reform benefited from the collapse in Tory support where the party had won seats in 2019, as well as increasing its support in constituencies which voted for Brexit in 2016. 

Chris Hopkins, Savanta's Political Research Director, told PoliticsHome he believed Reform UK had managed to establish itself as a "political force in UK politics" even if they only won four seats. 

"The next hurdle they face is more of a tactical one - it’s to what extent they become an arm of the Conservative Party, or to what extent they can become a bigger political force in their own right," he said. 

"All the noises coming from their leadership is the latter, and it’s apparent that Labour MPs defending seats where Reform are second will have a very different set of concerns to Labour MPs with independent / Gaza-specific threats. This makes Reform dangerous to both the Tories, as we’ve seen at this election, and to Labour, as we saw with UKIP in 2015."

Reform came second in 98 seats across the country, including in northern seats held by senior Labour politicians such as Dan Jarvis, Bridget Phillipson and Yvette Cooper.

The exit poll published at 10am on Wednesday overestimated the party's seat tally after suggesting it could win up to 14. But it fell behind expectations in northern target seats such as Hartlepool, Barnsley North and Barnsley South which were won or held by Labour. 

Reform UK won far fewer seats than the Liberal Democrats, who won 70 seats, despite winning more votes. The vote share of Farage's party was more spread out than the Liberal Democrats', who concentrated on target constituencies such as the A30 corridor in the South West. 

But despite this, the strong performance will put the party in a good position when the next election comes down with less groundwork to make up to win more seats,. 

Their presence in Parliament on the opposition benches is likely to play a role in the Tory leadership election. All future Conservative candidates will have to decide what to do about the Reform vote, whether they can win many of those voters back, and if they can do a deal with Farage to avoid another catastrophic defeat. 

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