Reform will be a busted flush without Nottinghamshire successes

Lee Anderson onboard a bright blue bus, stood at the entrance door wearing a black coat, shirt and tie. Reform leader Richard Tice, wearing a long dark blue coat, is stood next to Mr Anderson, smiling and pointing at him
-Credit: (Image: Nottingham Post)

Reform UK has already made a lot of noise in Nottinghamshire. Parading its only sitting MP on an open-top bus earlier this year, the party blocked up supermarket car parks and hurtled a top deck full of journalists down the M1.

Months on from Lee Anderson's tour of his home district with Reform UK's leader, Richard Tice, the initial excitement around the Ashfield MP's defection from the Conservatives is now being put to the test. On July 4, voters in Ashfield will deliver their verdict not just on the Government's record, but on Mr Anderson's, and on whether they are content with his party-switching.

For the Reform UK Party, which grew out of Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, holding on to their only MP will be vital. No surprise then that Mr Farage has chosen Ashfield as one of the first areas he will visit on his tour of the constituencies Reform wants to win.

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The party has pledged to stand a full slate of candidates across the country, but it is here in Nottinghamshire that the future of Reform UK will be decided. Many analysts have said that those who voted Conservative for the first time in 2019 and who are now dissatisfied with the party are Reform UK's key demographic.

Mr Tice himself has said he wants to "punish" the Conservatives for their record in power. If it is first-time 2019 Tory voters that Reform UK is looking for, then Nottinghamshire is where the party should be ploughing most of its resources.

The story of the 2019 general election was the Tories overturning Labour majorities that had been in place for decades across the North and Midlands. That story had its origins a couple of years earlier at the 2017 general election, when Mansfield was one of a tiny number of solid Labour seats that the Conservatives ended up gaining.

This phenomenon then spread across Nottinghamshire in 2019, with the election leaving the county a sea of blue and the city a small island of red in the middle. If Richard Tice believes that these voters are upset with the Conservatives and that Reform is where they will turn, Nottinghamshire is the best place to test it.

Yet polls currently suggest that Reform won't win any of the Nottinghamshire seats, even in Ashfield. Losing Lee Anderson would be a huge blow to the party, but it will also be closely watching the figures elsewhere in Nottinghamshire.

If it ends up losing to Labour, but coming ahead of the Conservatives in some Nottinghamshire seats, then Reform UK can claim to have proved that it has its constituency of voters. Yet if it doesn't even come ahead of the Conservatives and ends up polling similar numbers to the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats in Nottinghamshire, it begins to look pretty bleak for Reform UK.

The party currently has candidates picked in most Nottinghamshire seats, with only Bassetlaw and the three Nottingham seats left without a Reform candidate. The party is therefore having a good go at Nottinghamshire and will be hoping that those polling numbers begin to improve. If not, we may have seen the last of that bright blue bus.