Will Nigel Farage's Reform party win any seats in the election?

The chance of Reform UK returning any MPs is slim, but they still pose a threat to the Conservative Party.

Nigel Farage poses for photographers in Dover, after announcing Howard Cox as the Reform UK candidate for Dover, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Tuesday May 28, 2024.
Reform UK co-founder Nigel Farage has claimed the Tories have 'wrecked it for themselves'. (Alamy)

Nigel Farage has announced that he is set to stand as a Reform UK candidate in Clacton, Essex, in the upcoming general election.

Speaking at a press conference in which it was also announced that he was taking over as party leader, Farage said: “So I have decided I’ve changed my mind, it’s allowed you know, it’s not always a sign of weakness, it could potentially be a sign of strength. So I am going to stand in this election.”

His bid to win Clacton will be his eighth attempt to secure a parliamentary seat, with all the previous seven ending in defeat.

So with Farage now at the helm, how is Reform expected to do at the polls?

Reform UK was co-founded by Farage and Catherine Blaiklock in 2018 and initially named the Brexit Party.

It advocated hard-line euroscepticism and a no-deal Brexit, with many former Ukip members joining the new party. The Brexit Party was re-registered as Reform UK in January 2021.

That same year, Farage stepped down and was replaced by party chairman Richard Tice, who is still leader now. Reform's name was tweaked to Reform UK: The Brexit Party in November 2023.

Reform's slogan, "Let's Make Britain Great", suggests parallels to Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again".

On its website, the party says: "To succeed, we need to do Brexit properly. We must grow our way out of the crisis, we cannot tax our way out of it. We must stand up for our core democratic values, our civil liberties, our right to free speech.

"Let’s have a proper immigration policy that works for our country and protects our borders. Together, let’s make great things happen."

Barnsley, West Yorkshire, UK. 28th May, 2024. Reform UK's leader Richard Tice launches his electoral campaign in one of Reform UK's strongholds today. Picture Credit: ernesto rogata/Alamy Live News
Richard Tice launching his Reform electoral campaign in party stronghold Barnsley, although he has now been succeeded as party leader by Nigel Farage. (Alamy)

Having previously ruled himself out as a candidate due to the "very short notice" of the 4 July vote, Farage on Monday revealed he had changed his mind and was now standing to be the MP for Clacton.

On 23 May, Farage said he would focus on getting Donald Trump re-elected as US president rather than stand as a Reform candidate in the UK general election.

But speaking on Monday, the new Reform party leader said he would be “back for the next five years” as he sought to put pressure on the prime minister.

Farage added he wanted to lead a “political revolt”, adding: “Yes, a revolt. A turning of our backs on the political status quo. It doesn’t work. Nothing in this country works any more.”

He also predicted the Tories will be in opposition after the general election, saying: “They are split down the middle on policy, and frankly, right now they don’t stand for a damn thing.

“So our aim in this election is to get many, many millions of votes. And I’m talking far more votes than Ukip can got back in 2015.”

Whether Farage's influence and popularity among some voters will be enough for the populist party to win seats remains to be seen, but the Tories are clearly worried that Reform UK could split the vote.

Farage himself has a less-than-successful past when it comes to previous elections – between 1994 and 2005, he failed to become an MP seven times while he was a member of UKIP.

Speaking to Yahoo News prior to Farage's announcement that he would run as an MP, Emma Levin, associate director at polling and market research company Savanta, said the likelihood of Reform UK actually winning any seats was slim.

Nigel Farage announces Howard Cox as the Reform UK candidate for Dover, at the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club in Dover, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Tuesday May 28, 2024.
Nigel Farage announcing Howard Cox as the Reform UK candidate for Dover on Tuesday at the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club. (Alamy)

In some parts of the country voting intention for the party exceeded 9%, but "not in any significant way that we anticipate them winning", she explained. "We have a 'first past the post' voting system in this country that makes it incredibly difficult for smaller parties to win seats," Levin added.

However, now Farage is standing, Reform's forecast results for 4 July could well change.

In a report by the Sunday Times on 2 June, Farage suggested he wants to "take over" the Conservative Party. “I certainly don’t have any trust for them or any love for them. I want to reshape the centre-right, whatever that means," he said.

Referring to a political movement in Canada in the 1990s, Farage described how the Reform Party of Canada subsumed the Conservatives. "It took them time, it took them two elections, they became the biggest party on the centre-right. They then absorbed what was left of the Conservative Party into them and rebranded.”

Asked about the prospect of a Reform/Tory merger in the UK, he reportedly replied: “More like a takeover, dear boy.”

In the UK, while Ukip managed to take votes from both traditional Labour and Tory voters, Levin – again, speaking before it was announced Farage would stand – suggested that Reform UK are only really a threat to the latter, according to recent polling.

"A vote for Reform only helps the Labour Party really, and I think that's why you're seeing in this early stage of the campaign the Conservative Party really a major plea to those Reform voters.

This chart by pollsters Survation shows where Reform UK may have the best chances. (Survation)

"Even if they win back a significant proportion of these voters – they have still lost a significant number to the Labour Party. So while I think this strategy to win these Reform voters back is a logical one, I honestly don't think it'd be enough to get them back into No 10. They really have to win back those votes directly from Labour."

Keiran Pedley, UK director of politics at pollsters Ipsos MORI adds: "Our analysis at Ipsos shows around 8 in 10 people saying they will vote Reform UK voted Conservative in 2019.

"We also saw at the local elections that the Conservatives did much worse in areas Reform stood than in areas they didn't.

"However, whilst some Reform voters may be won back to the Conservative fold, it is worth stressing that these are typically voters that do not like Rishi Sunak and are angry over the issue of immigration. Fear of Keir Starmer alone won't win them over. It's about the issues too."