Reform counts the money after Farage’s comeback

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Planning for Nigel: reforms count after Farage's comeback

Reform of British leader Nigel Farage and his predecessor Richard Tice (Alamy)

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Senior figures at Reform UK admit they were “blindsided” by Nigel Farage’s comeback as leader, but insist they are happy to see the money pouring in from new members.

“Everywhere I went people said to me, ‘Where’s Nigel? Why can’t we have Nigel?’ And I think that finally got him. But did I see it coming? No,” says Baroness Ann Widdecombe, spokesperson for Reform.

“No one expected Nigel to stand up,” said Ben Habib, one of Reform UK’s deputy leaders PoliticsHome. He described the scenes in Clacton at the launch of Farage’s candidacy as “the second coming”.

Farage had said at the start of the election campaign that six weeks was “not enough time” to find a seat and that he had decided not to make an eighth attempt to become an MP.

His dramatic change of heart has thrown the July 4 general election into overdrive — and led to a flood of new members and money, party figures say.

“We all recognize that his presence was worth a few million more votes and probably a few million more pounds,” Widdecombe added.

Since Farage’s return, around 7,000 people have registered on the day of Farage’s ’emergency press conference’ alone, Habib claimed.

“That’s 7,000 times £25, which is £175,000 on the day, which is pretty cool, right?,” said Habib. Farage revealed on Sunday that the party had reached more than 40,000 members, raising a total of £1 million.

That is a significant injection for a party that was preparing to campaign ‘on a small budget’.

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Reform UK – unusually for a political party – is also a limited company. Farage, who owns 53 percent of the shares, is the ultimate kingmaker, controlling the party’s leadership and having the power to appoint or dismiss directors including Tice.

The party, founded in 2018, has an unusual structure. Tice, now party chairman, has a 33 percent stake in Reform. The remaining 14 percent of the shares are divided equally between the party’s CEO, Paul Oakden, and treasurer Mehrtash A’zami.

A new member, Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers and anti-Brexit campaigner, said he joined Reform two weeks ago because he foresaw Farage’s comeback. “I definitely saw it coming,” he said PoliticsHome.

Although Mullins will not stand for Parliament in this election, he insisted he would do “as much as I can” during the campaign to financially support the reforms. The multi-millionaire businessman attended the press conference last week and joined Farage and Tice backstage.

Britain's Reform Leader Charlie Mullins (Alamy)

Since Farage’s announcement, reforms have risen in numerous opinion polls. YouGov And Redford & Wilton put the party on 17 percent – ​​just two points clear of the Tories. There is growing expectation in Westminster that reforms will match or even surpass the Conservatives in the coming days.

Habib said it was “increasingly likely” that a crossing would occur. “We actually have a very good chance. This could be the basis for a new political paradigm,” he said PoliticsHome.

Mullins was even more optimistic. “Like Boris [Johnson] joins, then we’ll be at number 10… Boris’s best chance of getting back to number 10 is to join Reform.’

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(However, the businessman is also preparing for the worst. “If and when Labor comes along, I will be done with Britain and will apply for residency in Spain and Dubai. My time in Britain will be over when There labor comes in.”)

However, not all has been plain sailing for the right-wing party since Farage’s announcement.

The party’s candidate in Bexhill and Battle, Ian Gribbin, today apologized for claiming in 2022 that Britain “should have taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality”. He also called former Prime Minister Winston Churchill ‘terrible’.

A party spokesman said Gribbin had “argued points in remote debates” and that his point about Britain’s approach to the Second World War was “probably true”. However, Tice later said the party would investigate candidates who have said “silly things.”

There is also confusion over the party’s election strategy in Northern Ireland after Farage personally backed Democratic Unionist Party candidates Sammy Wilson and Ian Paisley.

In March, when Tice was leader, the party struck a pact with the Traditional Unionist Voice, which would see the parties in Northern Ireland sidestep each other. Paisley, who today backed Farage, will face TUV leader Jim Allister in the North Antrim constituency.

This will be Farage’s eighth attempt to become an MP since he first stood for parliament in a by-election in 1994. His most successful attempt to date was in South Thanet in 2015, where he polled 32.4 percent of the votes, beating the Labor candidate, but missing out on victory for the Conservatives by just 2,812 votes.

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Farage, often referred to as ‘Britain’s Donald Trump’, was expected to fly to the US in the autumn to help Trump win a second term. Widdecombe suggested this would be unlikely if Farage wins his Clacton seat next month. “I would certainly put the United States aside to be the leader of reform,” she said.

During the 2015 campaign, Douglas Carswell successfully stood in Clacton for UKIP, organizing fish and chip nights with voters to hear their concerns about immigration. But Farage is likely to focus more on national campaigns and only return to Clacton if necessary, according to his deputy. “That’s how I would do it if I were him,” Habib said.

Mullins predicted that a number of former Conservative MPs would eventually join the party: “I honestly believe there will be many more MPs joining.”

He added: “Just recently I went to Nigel’s 60th birthday party in Canary Wharf and I was amazed at how many Conservative MPs were there.” Among those in attendance were former Prime Minister Liz Truss and Dame Andrea Jenkyns.

A new JL Partners A poll published on Monday showed that reforms following Farage’s return are significantly eroding the Tory vote. According to the research, the Tories are now losing one in five 2019 voters due to the reforms.

“Reforms are Boris Johnson’s legacy,” Widdecombe said, adding that they were “totally arrogant and dismissive in 2019 and have remained so ever since”.

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