Is Reform a disaster waiting to happen?

Jun 12, 2024By Pete North


Pete North is what we believe is known as "a blunt Northerner..." But in the range of disasters waiting to happen, Starmergeddon takes some beating.

Reform will crash and burn eventually. Of this I am absolutely certain. I am not wrong about this. There are two strategies available to an insurgent party. The first is to build a movement, which through its own political might breaks into the mainstream and builds on it to become a serious contender for government. 

To do that, though, you have to be more than just a flamboyant one-man-band operation. You need ideological roots and a sense of purpose. Without it there is no unity later down the line, and the moment you win power, it all falls apart. 

You also need a national organisation with competent management. You can't win without an effective local ground game. You need a top team with credible people who can argue and defend policy. It cannot rest on one man, especially one without any self-discipline, who makes it up on the fly. It can withstand a novelty act like Farage, so long as there is some part of the leadership that knows how and when to get serious.

Reform has nothing like this, and is unlikely to acquire it under Farage. We know this from experience. Farage likes to be surrounded by uncomplicated, agreeable people who'll be compliant members of his entourage. He won't elevate talent from within the party because he feels threatened by it, so the top team is only ever going to be Farage and his gang, making it up on the fly.

Don't get me wrong, you can get pretty big as a populist protest party, but pretty big is no use if your goal is power, and you can't expand beyond that. From there, there's nowhere to go but gradually down, then into oblivion. Generic populism as the basis of a movement simply cannot win. It gets dragged down by its own contradictions and lack of attention to detail - especially when there's no plan and no message discipline.  

Ultimately, you can't win as a clown show. The incumbents can, but outsiders have to prove they are comprehensively better by every measure if they want to get over the finish line. Credibility is key, which you can't obtain when your platform is a collection of simplistic and half-baked populist tropes. Worse still, if it ever did win power, the lack of realism and planning would cause it to fail inside a year, and it would accomplish nothing very much, and nothing that can't be reversed with ease by a successor. 

So ultimately, we're going to end up investing a lot of time an energy in something that can't win, but prevents something better from emerging. The most it can do is "shift the dial" on political discourse, but we've been here before. The lesson you should have learned from Brexit is that the establishment has an unswerving ability to revert to business as usual when there is no serious threat to their incumbency. 

The second strategy, is as a pressure group party, in which case, the party should not be contesting seats where there are sensible conservatives like Jenrick and Cates. You'd want to focus your campaigning resources on eliminating the worst of the wets. But there's no actual strategy in play. Farage seems to think Reform can break through into parliament and cause right wing Tories to defect, to then become a replacement party under his leadership.

But that's not going to happen. If Tory MPs survive this latest purge, then they are safe as safe gets in politics. They are not going to risk their careers. Moreover, the parliamentary presence of Reform will be a dysfunctional nest of infighting, and will be an unvetted embarrassment. If there is any serious talent in the Reform ranks, they'll be openly at war with Farage within weeks. It's all so wearily predictable. 

The high watermark for Reform, at best, will be to perhaps double its parliamentary presence in 2029, but as a widely ridiculed band of boomer cranks, that even Farage himself will be quietly embarrassed of. They are then gradually picked off, until they're wiped off the board by a resurgent Tory party in 2034. 

This would be a useful exercise if Reform/Farage was able to utilise the leverage, by insisting the Tories adopt some of their policies, but Reform doesn't have policies. It has half-baked sound bites. The Tories will throw him a few scraps from the table, but it won't be comprehensive Reform. At most, we might leave the ECHR and bring immigration down to 200k a year, but we won't get anything that addresses the dysfunction in our politics, and they'll replace the ECHR system with a domestic replica, where previous ECHR jurisprudence is the standard (applied by the exact same judges).

What we actually need is a (r)eform party with a major reform agenda to rebuild the state from the ground up, in its own image, along the lines of the party's own philosophical foundation.

We need a movement with big ambitions, a blueprint for reform, and one that has already worked out the details, and anticipated the resistance tactics well in advance. That way, should it acquire serious leverage, it can propose something of lasting value. 

That, though, is not going to happen under a Farage-led entity. He will march his troops into battle without rifles, just to be mercilessly cut down, and when the going gets tough, he will claim victory, bug out, and wash his hands of it, just like he did last time. The man doesn't learn, and he doesn't change, and for as long as the political territory is occupied by him, nothing of value can emerge - and then we're back at square one in 2034, with a deadbeat Tory party, replacement levels of immigration, an economy as broken as ever it was, and no hope of correcting it through the vote. aims to provide efficient and common sense government without the millstone of dogmatic politics