No one will accuse Nigel Farage of letting the grass grow under his feet. Now that the United Kingdom is free from subservience to the European Union, a fact of independence largely due to Mr. Farage, the leader of the Brexit movement is taking the next step in bringing freedom to the British people: Reform UK.
The new force in politics is built upon the structure of the Brexit Party, itself formed in January 2019 to press for UK independence “from within” the European Parliament in Brussels. Mr. Farage was jubilant at hearing that the Electoral Commission approved the name change.
“This is great news and the perfect time in the New Year,” he said. “The need for Reform is greater than ever as we try to recover from Covid. We have a huge opportunity as a nation post Brexit, but there are many areas of the UK that need real, bold reform: our economy, House of Lords, BBC, civil service, the voting system to mention a few.”
This is not Mr. Farage’s first foray into party building. The UK Independence Party burgeoned under his leadership in the mid- 2000s. Its mission was popularizing Britain’s exit from the EU. Without UKIP and the putative threat it posed to the Conservative Party, it is doubtful whether David Cameron would have included the EU referendum in the 2015 electoral campaign to eviscerate the challenger’s appeal.
What are Reform UK’s chances of success? A long shot, says your Brexit Diarist. Despite valiant efforts, UKIP itself never gave the Tories much cause for alarm in national elections. However, the Brexit Party rose to the occasion during the European elections of May 2019. It became the vehicle of British contempt for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement.
In those elections for the European Parliament, the Conservatives lost 15 seats to return four members of the European Parliament, while Labour lost 10 and returned as many. Meanwhile the nascent Brexit Party sent 29 MEPs to Brussels. Mrs. May was forced to resign the premiership, paving the way for Boris Johnson and, ultimately, victory for British independence. All, in no small part, to pressure from the Brexit Party.
Such outsized influence may be the most Britons can expect from the upstart Reform UK. Among its platform planks is a pledge to abolish the House of Lords, permit the recall of recalcitrant MPs, and the populist promise of greater democracy. Therein lies Reform’s soft underbelly. Has Mr. Farage become too enamored of politics itself?
He’d be better off, I’d wager, were he to advocate for more liberty, less government. Such was the winning argument of all Brexiteers with respect to the European Union — and the lynchpin in Margaret Thatcher’s 1988 Bruges Speech, where the champion of less government at Westminster opposed more government being imposed from Brussels.
Mr. Farage is on firmer ground highlighting Britain’s out-of-control migration problem. Breitbart London estimates that upwards of 8,417 illegal immigrants came ashore in 2020, more than four times the previous year, when 1,890 were reported. The UK legal migration program is no less prone to abuse and mismanagement.
No less a conservative hero than Benjamin Disraeli disparaged the design of new parties as the “dream of youthful ambition in a perplexed and discordant age,” that nevertheless was “destined in English politics to be never more substantial than a vision.” More telling, though, with the vision of individual liberty virtually extinct within the Conservative government itself, can Mr. Farage and Reform UK “reform” the Tories?
Mr. MacLean writes the Brexit Diary for the Sun.