Image Credit: Gabor Kovacs
In an attempt to bring the Brexit Party back from the brink of irrelevance, Nigel Farage and deputy chairman Richard Tice have decided to take the populist movement in a new direction, with party officials stating that it is now "time to re-direct our energies." With the near conclusion of Britain’s transition period with the European Union, the proposed Reform Party is eager to tackle those more salient political issues such as the economic and social impact of the renewed national lockdown restrictions.
The former UKIP leader claims emphatically that “the people” should have a say on the continuation of such punitive regulations, that the lockdown’s socio-economic costs are not to be blindly accepted. Mr Farage has consistently refuted any notion that the only effective course of action is to hide away from the virus. Instead, he insists that the nationwide lockdown should be a political choice.
Mirroring Donald Trump’s rhetoric prior to the presidential election, the Reform Party is determined to downplay the severity of the virus and seeks to adopt the provisions within the Great Barrington Declaration, largely advocating for a herd immunity approach. It has been quoted by Sky News that the prominent letter had been signed by 15,000 scientists, that by replicating Sweden’s measures the United Kingdom can move forward whilst also coming to grips with Covid-19’s permanence. This has been hotly contested by 80 other researchers in an open letter to an International Scientific Journal called Lancet, stating that “herd immunity was a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence.”
Beyond Covid-19, the rebranded Brexit party aims to widen its scope of policy, shifting from a single-issue party to having a plethora of aims focusing fundamentally on reform-ing the electoral system and the governments institutional arrangements. The key areas that Mr Farage wishes to aim his attacks at are the House of Lords, the first-past-the-post electoral system, Law and Order and Immigration, all the while keeping one eye peeled at Johnson’s handling of the Brexit negotiations.
During the Summer, Nigel Farage was trotting the right-wing media circuit, challenging wherever he could the Home Office’s handling of the increasing illegal migrant crossings in the English-channel and its failure also to curb mass Black Lives Matter protests which were at the time in breach of former Covid restrictions. Profiting on the previous months of inflamed racial tensions, it is arguable that the Reform party’s focus on law and order and bringing an end to lockdown has again brought Farage’s movement nudging ever closer into the hands of far-right conspiracists and those on a cultural war path.
Farage’s entrepreneurial ventures in securing the growing online anti-woke-ist movement is especially prominent in the attendance of Laurence Fox to Richard Tice’s anti-lockdown Remembrance protest on Sunday, whom also in previous months had decided to launch his own brand-new political party dubbed “Reclaim”, aspiring to restore British values and heritage within the entertainment industry and public bodies.
While it is certain that the newly rebranded Reform Party will gain traction to those dissatisfied with the implications of an autumnal lockdown, the scope of electoral success is very marginal. Even at the height of the Brexit party’s popularity, in the 2019 General election it had only achieved two per cent of the vote and not a single Member of Parliament was elected. With the support-base from abroad and domestically waning, especially in the onset of the Presidential election, it is expected that the party will attract a very niche following much like UKIP in its final days of Farage’s leadership.
With very eye-catching proposals, such as abolishing the House of Lords and implementing a proportional-representation electoral system, the party seeks to rid parliament of tools for political ‘cronyism’, denouncing Boris Johnson’s promotion of his own brother to the Upper chamber. The party also wants to challenge the electoral system which denied them seats in the last election. Taking to the streets in next year’s local elections, Mr Farage aims to field candidates for the London assembly and the England and Wales council elections. It is however no surprise that many former party affiliates are again crossing the floor to other political movements, capitulating to the demise of the Brexit movement in the final rounds of trade deal negotiations. This is seen mostly notably in the resignation of Mark Reckless from the Brexit party in order to join the Abolish the Assembly Party in Wales, with former Brexit Party associates David Rowlands and Mandy Jones leaving to join the Independent Alliance for Reform.
In a desperate enterprise to revive the Brexit party’s following through the guise of an anti-lockdown movement, Farage may have accidentally dug his own grave. While much could have been gained in advocating a distinct path for Britain post-Brexit, many former supporters are dismayed by his Covid-19 stance with as much as 72 per cent of British adults (according to The Guardian) supporting a second lockdown.