Pete North - on how to do UK politics


Apr 29, 2024By Pete North

Grabbed from

Pete is one of the most prolific and lucid content creators on Twitter. His daily output is, frankly, awesome. I warned him I was pinching today's gem, and we are all the better for it... 

There is near universal agreement that the Conservative Party has run its course. It passed up the opportunity to transform Britain and squandered an eighty seat majority. Not only has it failed to deliver a meaningful Brexit, it has presided over record levels of immigration – contrary to the demands of the majority of British voters. This would be a lengthy document were we to discuss all the failures of the Tory government.

Consequently, there is now a gap in the market for a competent, focussed party that will deliver real reform. Political disaffection is rife and there’s a growing appetite for an alternative. Various polls and pundits suggest twenty per cent of the vote is already up for grabs, and Reform, if it performs well, could sweep up thirteen per cent of the vote. But that’s not enough.

To get anywhere close to power and be considered a serious contender, Reform has to smash through the inherent electoral ceiling that goes with being a generic populist party. Reform may not recognise the populist description, but in its current form it will struggle to shake off that label in the media and in academic discourse. Its policy ideas are calibrated for popularity.

Presently, Reform operates as a traditional party; offering policy ideas in more or less the same structure (if not substance) as any other manifesto. Though it would do things differently, it is not fundamentally a different animal to what is already on offer.

To break out of the populist cul-de-sac it has to be more than a party. It has to be a movement for comprehensive change. The disaffection is as much to do with the way government runs as the inadequacy of the traditional parties. A movement for change must have greater ambition and offer something transformative that can transcend party and ideological divisions.

Reform’s current manifesto offerings are no doubt an improvement on what is offered by other parties, but a real party of reform must address itself to root causes rather than symptoms.

Before that can happen, though, the party itself must establish its own definition. There is nothing wrong with popular policies, but they must be logical derivatives of a larger mission. To fix what’s wrong with Britain, you first need a diagnosis that will help to define your own principles.

Defining the problem

Since the Second World War, the prevailing ideology of the West has been liberal internationalism, with a view to exporting good governance and democracy through international organisations, treaties, conventions and trade agreements.

Over decades, each of these instruments has become bloated, corrupt, and detached from their original purpose. Most, if not all, have been captured by out of touch progressives who have appropriated them to advance their own ideologies and preferred causes.

For a time, many of them have been considered a nuisance, but ultimately in our best interests to tolerate. In recent years, though, we find increasing friction between national democracy and the international rules based order. The ECHR and the Refugee Convention have undermined our immigration policies, while arbitrary climate targets and UN Sustainable Development Goals, have crippled our energy and foreign policy.

Consequently, we are no longer capable of acting in the direct national interest, and our domestic institutions have no concept of direct national interest. The very idea of acting in the national interest is considered small and inward looking. Most of our problems can be traced to a prevailing mind-set that holds democracy in contempt.

As such, the conflict of our times is that between international technocracy and national democracy. Ergo, Reform should stand in defence of national democracy, and for the restoration of real democracy – locally and nationally.

Causes, not symptoms

While Reform’s current manifesto would address some of the issues, the main problems in recent decades all have the same origin. ULEZ, Net Zero, the Lisbon Treaty, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, the ECHR, and the Paris Agreement (which obliges us to implement carbon trading, Net Zero and red tape that hobbles new infrastructure), are all the product of a feral establishment which has long since abandoned any notion of public consent. Between elections there are no constraints on what they can do to us.

Though it would be very welcome to see a party pledge to reverse all of this meddling, there is nothing to stop establishment parties doing the same or worse to us again.

As such, it’s not enough to simply withdraw from the ECHR and the Paris Agreement etc. We need to establish a framework of democratic principles upon which any future government must operate. We could withdraw from the ECHR but with without addressing the fundamental issues, it could end up being replaced with a similar construct operating on much the same basis. Reform’s mission, therefore, is to change the very basis of modern British democracy.

Having defined the problem, and established a philosophical basis for the existence of the Reform Party, subsequent policies suggest themselves, and policies are therefore consistent with the core mission and each other.


Without a core mission, it’s very easy to wrong-foot an insurgent party. It’s conceivable that the Tory party could be pressured into making ECHR departure a manifesto commitment. The economic and practical realities of Net Zero could well see the entire policy agenda rolled back. In that eventuality, Reform’s general policy agenda looks less urgent. Reform has to offer something voters can’t get by voting any other way.

To do this, Reform must make National Democracy central to its existence. It must develop an intellectual product as the basis of its future campaigns. It should develop a future constitutional framework and popularise it by name – as something it would implement on day one.

On this, thinking should be along the lines of a Great Restoration Bill. Its primary function should be to assert the sovereignty of the people so that no treaty, international court or convention may bind a government without the explicit consent of the people by way of referendums. It would immediately void the ECHR, Paris Agreement and Refugee Convention in a single act.

The bill should implement a further British convention of rights, but instead of replicating the ECHR model of rights of the individual, it should redefine democratic rights but also tie these into defined responsibilities.

This should be written with a view to curbing the excesses of politicians, not only in Westminster, but also in the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales. It could include a new act of union with a view to reforming the dysfunctional Northern Ireland settlement. Though there is no undoing devolution, devolved governments are routinely acting outside of their remit, and centralising powers so they may abuse them. This must end. No local authority may be dissolved or see its powers curtailed without a referendum.

As regards to individual rights, we need a declarative bill that properly asserts British law as supreme, setting out how the rights of the majority may not be abridged. Under this instrument, we seek to define (once and for all) the parameters of our society which have gradually been undermined by multiculturalism and mass immigration.

Real and lasting reform

The current Reform manifesto is unambitious in terms of Westminster reform. Changing the voting system to Proportional Representation has merit, but does little to address the payroll vote and the lack of accountability between elections.

A Great Reform Bill should seek to establish real separation of powers. The primary concern here is that there should be a clear distinction between the legislature (Parliament) and the executive (Government).

Should the executive thus be separated, the obvious and logical outcome is that the prime minister and his ministerial team would no longer be Members of Parliament. They would have to be elected in their own right, a process which would reflect the increasingly presidential nature of general election contests. We may not like it that the public votes for leaders rather than candidates, but they do all the same.

The use of the Commons as the recruitment pool for most of the ministers (and the prime minister) has a highly corrosive effect on politics. The main function of parliament should be scrutiny of the executive. If parliamentarians are also members of the government, there is an inherent conflict of interest.

With separation of powers, governments would be able to look outside of parliament for expertise and leadership, and offer temporary appointment to the Lords. With such a model, voters can be more discerning in selecting their local MP – addressing the quality problem.

Voters should also be given a None Of The Above option on the ballot paper where a seat shall remain vacant until new candidates are selected and fresh elections held. Any MP who defects shall automatically trigger a by-election.

There should be an internal debate within Reform as to further democratic reforms. There is likely to be opposition to a codified constitution, but we are, in effect, talking about constitutional constraints for the defence of national democracy. This must be worded carefully.

Unlike a manifesto that deals with day-to-day policy, we seek to address the mind-set that produces the dysfunction in British democracy, where politicians believe that their elected status gives them free reign to do as they please, even to the point of signing away powers and funds that are not theirs to give away.

In respect of that, we need a new oath of allegiance for MPs, ministers, Lords and public servants that recognises the sovereignty of the people, and reminds them that their powers are loaned to them by the British people, and must be returned intact at the end of their tenure. Breaches should incur punishment.

Though such a reform agenda does not directly address traditional policy discussions, it will put voters back in charge so that they hold the final veto on matters that affect them.

A plan of action

Such an extensive programme of reform is not trivial. There are profound consequences. As such, Reform needs to be able to comprehensively defend its agenda. If international agreements are voided, there are implications for trade and foreign relations. It may even result in the termination of formal trade relations with the EU.

As such, a national plan of action should be formulated, with the emphasis on cheap energy for homes and industry, revitalised manufacturing and agriculture, streamlined planning, and an emergency energy infrastructure renewal bill that exempts development from vexatious legal challenges by activists.

These are second order policies for a subsequent manifesto born of the Restoration Act. Policies should seek to strengthen reforms but also address the political and economic fallout. These policies then become the legacy benefits of the constitutional reform – which help the party sell its agenda.

Definition is everything

Reform’s campaigning activities have thus far been disjointed and sometimes contradictory. Voters may like some policies but will notice the lack of coherence and consistency. Having a party definition will solve this problem. It will inform policy but also give structure to campaigning activity.

Calibrating policy to be popular outside of a core framework ultimately results in disorganised thinking and campaigning without focus. Popularity should be secondary to definition. A party that wants to be a national movement must state openly and clearly what it believes in, and develop ideas to deliver its vision, then gear its campaigns to popularise those ideas. The organisation then becomes a sales force with purpose.

Popularity is a longer term objective. In the meantime, the job is to develop coherence and competence which is persuasive in its own right. You are then offering something ambitious and different, but you can also convince voters you have the talent and intelligence to pull it off.

Activists and voters are always going to disagree on arcane matters of policy, but it’s far easier to agree on a set of defining principles. A party that exists to restore and protect democracy at the national and local level, and capitalise on responsive democratic sovereign government is one that should be able to capture the imagination of Labour and Tory voters alike. If Reform develops real reform ambition, it can be the movement to break out of the populist cul-de-sac. aims to provide efficient and common sense government without the millstone of dogmatic politics