The Tice is right: is Reform about to break through?

History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes, said Mark Twain. Right now the commentariat is looking for something that will rhyme with the famous Battle of Knutsford Heath of 8 April 1997. In that face-off, Neil Hamilton and his formidable wife Christine were ranged against the white-suited ‘anti-corruption’ independent candidate Martin Bell. Though the Hamiltons gave as good as they got for the cameras, Bell had the last laugh by comfortably winning the formerly impregnable Tory seat of Tatton in the general election held a month or so later. With a by-election now looming in Shropshire North following the sleaze scandal that engulfed departing Tory MP Owen Paterson, leftish

The callousness of the Conservative foreign aid cut

A billionaire who reduces his or her charity is a billionaire asking to be judged and found wanting. When they do so, not on the basis that their charity is squandered but because they fancy keeping more of their wealth for their own purposes, they demand to be judged and found wanting all over again. This morning, the United Kingdom and its government is that billionaire. The government has won its campaign to reduce Britain’s foreign aid contributions. As so often, a much-vaunted Tory rebellion delivered rather less than it promised. As a consequence, money will be withheld from some of the world’s poorest peoples and kept instead by some of

When will there be another right-wing insurgency?

Almost the whole of the British political class failed to understand that the rise of Ukip after the 2010 general election was not some fringe irrelevance but was in fact likely to have major consequences. Academics Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin were two of a select band of political futurologists who were onto the Ukip advance early. By the time their insightful book Revolt on the Right was published, Ukip had already forced an EU referendum pledge out of David Cameron and the book was therefore read by many dumbfounded Westminster insiders as if it were a crammer for a module that had unaccountably not been covered in the standard

The Greens could learn from the success of Ukip

Is there a better left-wing political brand to own at the moment than that held by the Green party? It is hard to think of one. After all, we are in the midst of a three-part BBC television profile of Greta Thunberg that even the Independent has described as ‘effectively an act of worship’; environmental awareness has become the new religion in the run-up to the UN COP26 conference in Glasgow; and the Labour Party is in the middle of an obvious crisis – communicating neither a sense of idealism nor the feeling that it might win an election anytime soon. One could also add that the less said about

Momentum’s cunning plan would keep the Tories in power forever

Momentum, the Labour campaign group dedicated to keeping Corbynism alive, this week demanded that Keir Starmer commit to introducing a proportional voting system should he win election, replacing the current first past the post model for electing MPs. ‘A popular consensus is building across the labour movement for a change to our first past the post electoral system, which has consistently delivered Tory majorities on a minority of the vote and hands disproportionate power to swing voters in marginal constituencies,’ said Gaya Sriskanthan, Momentum’s co-chair. ‘Momentum will join the charge for PR, as part of a broader commitment to deep democratic change and alongside our strategy of building popular support

Nigel Farage is destroying his own legacy

How’s this for a terrible confession? There has always been a small part of me that admires Nigel Farage. As a Remainer liberal, it’s hard to admit. I disagree with Farage on many things. And my (partial) admiration doesn’t mean I forgive him for some of the low points of his political career, not least the disgraceful ‘Breaking Point’ poster unveiled in the lead-up to the EU referendum, nor his earlier comments about migrants with HIV. Yet I have a soft spot for outsiders, particularly ones like Farage who beat the odds.  What Farage achieved, all from outside a two-party system pitted against him, is unprecedented in the history of British politics. When you think back to where

Why Farage’s successor is ignoring the culture war

The departure of Nigel Farage from the stage does not necessarily mark the end of the ‘revolt on the right’ that has so shaken up British politics over the past decade. Followers of the fortunes of the Brexit party, which has now morphed into Reform UK, will know that Richard Tice has been the coming man for many months. Today Farage’s newly-appointed successor as party leader (the party doesn’t, as yet, do internal elections) sets out the ground on which he has chosen to take on the political establishment — for which one should read ‘nibble away at the Tory vote share’. And Tice has chosen to ignore the fashionable notion

The danger of mocking Nigel Farage

He’s gone. Again. Even casual watchers of UK politics will be used to Nigel Farage quitting…and then returning. But this time, he insists it is for real. Except leaving politics does not mean disappearing from public life. ‘I now feel I can do just as much to shift public opinion through media and social media as I can as a campaigning party leader,’ he said in his announcement that he was quitting heading up the Reform Party.  He’s right. And his opponents will once again play into his hands because they will fall back onto the same patterns of caricature and derision as they have throughout Farage’s career. An announcement

What’s the point of Nigel Farage?

Nigel Farage is in some ways a victim of his own success. It was the political threat he posed during the coalition era that more than anything else caused David Cameron to pledge to hold an in-out referendum on EU membership if he won a majority. It is safe to say that without his persistence, we would never have left the European Union. Yet Farage is now politically redundant and what’s so strange about that is that he did it all to himself. When Farage declared that the Brexit ‘war is over’ after the government announced its trade deal with the EU on Christmas Eve, my first thought was that

How did Richard Braine become Dick Braine?

Name calling Richard Braine was appointed leader of Ukip, leading to jokes about the party being led by a ‘Dick Braine’. How did the name Richard come to be shortened? — There was a common practice in medieval England for rhyming slang, with the first letters of many common names being interchanged, hence Robert became ‘Bob’ and Edward ‘Ted’. It is believed the practice may have come about as a result of Anglo-Saxons finding it hard to pronounce Norman names and vice versa. — Dick was established by Shakespeare’s time — the bard referred to ‘every Tom, Dick or Francis’ in Henry IV, Part 1. — For the first few

Ukip’s Peterborough by-election woes

It’s fair to say that recent campaigns and elections haven’t been kind to Ukip. First, the party fell apart and crumbled following the EU referendum campaign, and now it’s suffering the indignity of seeing Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit party surge in the polls, while its own organisation is taken over by YouTube stars. But the party has been made to suffer another embarrassment in the Peterbrough by-election tomorrow. The Ukip candidate for Peterborough, John Whitby, tells Mr S that Labour and the other political parties are giving him a hard time because he lives over the river past the constituency boundary, and so can’t vote for himself in the

No wonder Ukip failed at the European elections

How does a party go from topping the European elections in 2014 to scraping just over three per cent of the vote, and losing every single MEP, within five years? Just ask Ukip, whose staggering decline is one of the most interesting subplots from this year’s elections. Some may quibble with the ‘Ukip wipeout’ analysis. They will say that the real Ukip – both its heart and structure – was rolled over to the Brexit party along with its former leader, Nigel Farage. And they’re partly right: in the last few years, all but three of Ukip’s 2014 MEPs quit the party. But the fact remains that Ukip still mounted

Nigel’s revenge

Something’s been missing from Westminster these past few days. Normally, in an election week, there is a buzz about the place. Politicians feast off their encounters with the voters, coming back from the campaign trail with new theories about what the public really want. But this time, few MPs from any party seem keen to talk about this week’s local elections — or the impact they are likely to have on Brexit, Theresa May’s tenure in No. 10 and the future of British politics in general. This is because they know that the European elections, which are just three weeks away, will have a huge influence on all of these

Nigel Farage finally reaches his ‘breaking point’ with Ukip

‘Obsessed with Islam and Tommy Robinson.’ This is how Nigel Farage describes a cohort of Ukip activists he encountered at the party’s Birmingham conference earlier this year. Gerard Batten, the tenth leader of Ukip, has openly courted such elements in his calculated lurch to the farther-right. He has recruited as an adviser Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson or St Tommy of the Uncollapsed Trials, the free speech martyr vilified by the establishment purely because he keeps imperilling court proceedings against Pakistani grooming gangs. Batten has called Islam a ‘death cult’ in which ‘they believe in propagating their religion by killing other people and martyring themselves and going and

Tory MP: Conservatives resemble ‘the armed wing of Ukip’

It’s day one of Tory conference and already the blue-on-blue warfare is rife. Aside from Boris-bashing in the main hall, the fringes have been witness to some choice comments. This afternoon’s ‘How Can Conservatives Win Back Under 45s in 2022’ fringe event, saw a panel comprised of Justine Greening, Neil O’Brien, David Willets, George Freeman and the Times’ Rachel Sylvester gather to let off steam about Brexit and Theresa May. Freeman complained (again) that May’s Tories have ‘no vision’. However, the comment that got Mr S’s attention was his claim that his party is starting to resemble the ‘armed wing of UKIP’. Putting aside the fact that deputy party chairman has

Nigel Farage has himself to blame for Ukip’s drift to the far right

This year’s Ukip conference in Birmingham has only just started but already trouble is breaking out. A row that has been bubbling within the party since it was first founded a generation ago is coming to the surface thanks to a clash between the party’s current leader, Gerard Batten, and its most famous one, Nigel Farage. Farage, no stranger to chucking rocks from the sidelines, has criticised the direction in which Ukip is now travelling. The former Ukip leader warned that the party risks ‘utter marginalisation’ if it cosies up to the far-right. The catalyst for his comments is Batten’s bid to recruit former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson. Farage’s assessment

Welcoming in Tommy Robinson would be the end of Ukip

Is Tommy Robinson a political martyr? Some Ukip supporters think so, and want the former English Defence League leader to be allowed to join their party. A motion set to be debated at Ukip’s conference this month could now decide the issue, with the party’s ruling body debating this weekend whether it should be up to its members to have the final say on whether Robinson should be welcome in Ukip’s ranks. If the ban on Robinson’s membership is lifted, then the smallest fig leaf separating the party from the EDL will have finally been removed. Under Ukip’s latest leader, Gerard Batten, this seems to be the direction in which the

Ukip should return – our politics depends on it

‘The return of Ukip’ declared the headline on our cover story last week. The polling boffin Matthew Goodwin to whose analysis this referred was in fact more careful. Professor Goodwin did argue, however, that the potential may be there for a Ukip revival. So it may. But the figures for new recruits that he cites are modest. The doubt he describes as surrounding Nigel Farage’s chances of a comeback is real. Ukip’s present stance under its latest leader Gerard Batten (who has developed links with the campaign for the disgraced and imprisoned former leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson) looks crazier by the week. And there’s a world

The Spectator Podcast: return of Ukip

It’s safe to say that Brexit negotiations haven’t gone smoothly. The Tories are down in the latest polls, but Ukip is up. Are we witnessing the beginning of Ukip’s return? Meanwhile, Australians are stuck between a rock and a hard place as China and America continue to bicker; and Cosmo Landesman complains about modern parenting. You don’t have to be following Brexit very closely to know that it’s not quite going to plan. May has lost the main Brexiteers in her Cabinet, and Jacob Rees Mogg is leading a Leavers revolt from the backbenches. If you voted for a hard Brexit, you would understandably be worried. Is this what explains

Ukip reborn

The UK Independence Party might be about to make a comeback. Ever since Theresa May’s Chequers deal on Brexit, which went down very badly indeed among grassroots Conservatives and Leavers, the opinion polls have been kind to the Purple Army. The week after the Chequers deal went public, one pollster found support for the party had surged by five points to 8 per cent. It might not sound like much, but it is its best showing since March last year. Furthermore, such numbers are more than enough to tilt the balance at the next general election toward Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. Indeed, it is no coincidence that as Ukip recovered