UK’s populist right-wing party surges in popularity on Brexiteer Nigel Farage’s return

UK's populist right-wing party surges in popularity on Brexiteer Nigel Farage's return

Reform UK party leader Nigel Farage walks to speak to supporters as he launches his election candidacy at Clacton Pier on June 4, 2024 in Clacton-on-Sea, England. 

Carl Court | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — The re-emergence of Brexiteer Nigel Farage has added wind to the sails of Britain’s populist right-wing Reform UK party, with the latest poll showing them closing in on the ruling Conservatives ahead of the country’s upcoming general election.

Reform is now seen just two points behind the Tories, according to the latest YouGov poll of the election campaign for Sky News released Thursday.

Labour is expected to win 40% of votes to the Conservatives’ 19% and Reform’s 17%, the online polling showed.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Tory party was already widely expected to lose next month’s election to opposition Labour party, bringing to a close its long and tumultuous 14 years in power.

Farage’s surprise return as Reform leader on Monday dealt a deadly blow to the party, threatening to steal a significant share of votes on the right.

The last-minute shift would leave the Conservatives with even fewer seats than previously expected in the House of Commons and would likely bring about a reckoning within the diminished party. Some analysts have suggested it would shift the party even further to the right — potentially with Farage at the helm.

Farage, for his part, has not ruled out eventually joining a “reset and realign[ed]” Conservative party, last year saying “never say never.”

Euroskeptic Farage — who led the Leave campaign in the U.K.’s 2016 EU referendum — has said he is running for a parliamentary seat in Clacton, a coastal town in the east of England, which recorded huge support for Brexit. A prior YouGov poll had the Conservatives winning that seat.

It marks the politician-turned-media personality’s eight time running to be a Member of Parliament, after never previously succeeded.

A separate Ipsos poll released Thursday showed Reform projected to win just 9% of votes to Labour’s 43% and the 23% of Conservatives. The survey included opinions polled up to Tuesday, one day after news of Farage’s return.

Just over half of voters (53%) in the poll said they had definitely decided how they would vote on July 4, with others noting they may still change their minds.

Farage has an ax to grind with the Tories. In the 2019 election, his then-Brexit Party agreed not to field candidates in hundreds of seats to safeguard a Conservative win. He has since accused the party of failing the political right, saying on Monday that it was time for “revolt.”

“What I’m really calling for — or what I intend to lead — is a political revolt,” he told a so-called “emergency” press conference in London.

The announcement hurts Sunak’s earlier efforts to win right-wing votes by hardening the Tories’ stance on migration and the U.K.’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights. Recent announcements over the reintroduction of compulsory national service, tax guarantees for pensioners and new gender definitions were also seen as a bid to woo would-be Reform voters.