Tory MPs 'can't trust what their leader's saying' says Richard Tice
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Reform UK, which emerged from the embers of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, recently experienced a poll boost after Boris Johnson announced a manifesto-breaking hike in national insurance contributions. But the party, led by ex-businessman Richard Tice, has so far struggled to emulate the electoral successes of UKIP in 2015 or the Brexit Party in 2019.
However, with Reform UK set to host their conference just a stone’s throw away from the Tory Party’s in Manchester on Sunday, two former MEPs have spoken to Express.co.uk about where they think the party could go next.
GB News presenter Alex Phillips, 37, started by warning the Conservative Party that a “Winter of Discontent” could lead wavering Tory voters to rally behind the rebranded Brexit Party.
“If the lights go out, Tice gets in,” she said.
The 37-year-old also highlighted how the Prime Minister’s tax hikes and the proposed nationalisation of the energy industry has made a revolt on the right more likely.
“Boris has dropped the ball,” she claimed.
“They’ve sort of lurched a bit to the left when most people who voted Brexit wanted to see a whole slew of traditional liberal right-wing policies.”
“That is very much what Richard Tice advocates.”
But Phillips, who briefly joined Theresa May’s Conservative Party after working as UKIP’s head of media, claimed Reform should sever its existing ties with Laurence Fox’s “midlife crisis on steroids” movement, the Reclaim Party.
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Mr Fox, an actor-cum-activist who entered politics after an appearance on the BBC’s Question Time programme, adopted some controversial positions on vaccines and the war on woke during his failed bid for the capital’s mayoralty.
Instead of joining forces with Fox and getting fully immersed in the culture war, Phillips suggested Tice should prioritise getting down to the “nitty-gritty” on economics.
“He should go full blown Thatcherite,” she said.
Phillips added: “Reform needs to get to the nitty-gritty of energy policy, economic revolution, manufacturing revolution, jobs, cutting taxes, using all of the levers we now have at our disposal in the post-Brexit world to steer HMS Great Britain into the sunny open oceans of global trade.”
While Ms Phillips’ former colleague, Lance Forman, echoed her argument that Reform should prioritise talking about the economy, the ex-MEP suggested it may not be worthwhile to break-up the two-party system if that could let the Labour Party enter office.
Mr Forman, who was among four Brexit Party MEPs to defect to the Conservatives before the 2019 general election, described the Conservatives’ last Budget as “wrong” and suggested their strategy on climate change was akin to “economic suicide”.
However, while the former London MEP berated Boris, he questioned whether now was the time for a revolt on the right.
“Splitting the vote and allowing hard socialists through rather than Tory Blairites is not the answer,” he said.
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The 58-year-old later added that by connecting with young people, fighting the “mad woke agenda” and fixing up their media campaign Reform could pull the Tories back to the right.
“The best they can hope to be”, Forman claimed, “is a pressure group to counter the pressure groups on the left.”
He suggested Reform should do this by pivoting away from the immigration lines peddled by UKIP and instead by advocating for a “smaller state”, “lower taxes” and deregulation.
Reform UK has so far struggled to reach the wider public because of issues in branding.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, polling guru Sir John Curtice said: “The problem with the Reform Party is that post-Farage it has got very low visibility.”
However, the Strathclyde University professor did offer some good news for Mr Tice’s rebranded Brexit Party.
He claimed: “You can occasionally see that when the Tory vote goes down then Reform are amongst the beneficiaries.”
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