Reform puts British people first – how is that a wasted vote?

Pearson: '[Watching Farage] the public enthusiasm was extraordinary, especially among the young'
Pearson: '[Watching Farage] the public enthusiasm was extraordinary, especially among the young' - Bloomberg

This is just a hunch, but I imagine some of you are as sick as I am of hearing that a vote for Reform is a wasted vote. Let me tell you what a wasted vote is. Casting my ballot in December 2019 with a song in my heart for the Conservatives. Nothing I voted for came to pass. Worse than that, in many cases the alleged Tory government did precisely the opposite of what I wanted. Every Conservative principle I held dear trashed.

We can all recite our favourites from the List of Blue Betrayal. The abject failure to put British people first at every conceivable opportunity. After promising a high-skilled, Australian-style points-based system – the Government’s stated aim was to make the UK “a magnet for the best and brightest”, meaning that “there will be fewer lower-skilled migrants” and “overall numbers will come down” – the Tories lowered the admission criteria, triggering a housing crisis, a health service crisis, a sewage crisis, and the biggest rise in private rental costs since records began. That is why my young adult children are having to find £800 a month out of wages that haven’t grown for a poky room in a shared London flat. Prospect of ever saving for their own place, let alone producing my grandchildren: remote.

As author and professor Matthew Goodwin has observed, voters were told “a big, fat barefaced Tory lie”. Over the last five years, about 2.2 million people from outside Europe arrived in Britain through net migration. Astonishingly, only 15 per cent of those came to work. Yes, that’s a puny 15 per cent. The rest entered the UK as the relatives of workers, international students, the dependants of the students, or as asylum-seekers and refugees. Soon to be the dependants of thee and me and our post-war record taxes. Oh, joy!

Rishi Sunak now boasts that the numbers are coming down. What he means is immigration is finally decreasing a bit from the stratospheric levels caused by those people I voted for in good faith. In the words of poor, doomed Ophelia: “I was the more deceived!”

Plus, as Nigel Farage pointed out, today marked the arrival of the 50,000th illegal migrant – overwhelmingly young, undocumented males – crossing the Channel under Rishi “Stop the Boats” Sunak’s premiership.

And yet, if we say we refuse to vote Conservative and will be voting Reform (which promises net-zero immigration – one out, one in) we find ourselves on the Naughty Step. Don’t you know, you will give Labour a supermajority, you stupid, uneducated Farage supporter? Yes, folks, it’s our fault. We are constantly letting down our political parties when we should be jolly grateful we’re allowed to vote for them to betray us again.

The truth is, the Conservatives are not going to win next week whatever happens. Sir Keir Starmer could announce he had fallen in love with a giraffe at London Zoo and the polls would barely blink. (Given how paralysingly dull he is, necking the giraffe might even improve them.) Disillusion with the Tories is a powerful fuel for the Reform rocket but, long before Nigel Farage announced he was running, there were 10 by-elections in “safe” Tory seats and the Conservatives lost every single one. Not because the Labour vote shot up – it barely increased – but because thousands upon thousands of Conservatives simply refused to vote.

How is a vote for Reform (or the excellent SDP, for that matter) “wasted” if it sends a message to that arrogant cadre of One Nation Tories (which nation would that be, darling? Not mine) that their clear disregard for ordinary British people, their abject failure to plan for long-term energy security, their casual disregard for our culture, their witless obeisance to a ruinous net-zero target that will bankrupt us, their bloody potholes, is not acceptable.

To those among the doomed MPs who try to claim their pending evisceration has been caused by the party moving away from the centre, let me direct you to a recent poll by Lord Ashcroft. It quite clearly shows that the number of former Conservative voters who feel their party swung too far to the Right is miniscule. It was forming a Nick Clegg Tribute Band, and lurching Left, which lost the Conservative some of its most loyal followers. We had not moved at all, but absurdly found ourselves branded “far-Right”.

And now, with the sirens screeching, with just a week to go till Starmergeddon, they purse their lips and whistle for us to return to the fold like the sheep they think we are. Sorry. Don’t you know we ignorant xenophobes only respond to dog whistles?

Two dear friends tell me they are now Reform voters. I was surprised but not surprised. Both are far from the caricature that label implies: feisty, foxy feminists in their forties, they are done with politics as usual and want things shaken up. “Reform has the best manifesto,” they both say.

Critics have focused on whether the sums add up (they are scarcely more fanciful than any other party’s), but there are many imaginative and appealing plans: scrap interest on student loans, tax breaks on private healthcare to relieve NHS waiting lists, remodel our atrocious health system, copying one of the many European ones that deliver better outcomes and don’t kill people as they queue for treatment. Abandon net zero, build nuclear, take the shackles off our own oil and gas production so we stop giving Norway the Education budget every year. Sensible on gender, ban the teaching of trans ideology and critical race theory in schools. Teach children to be proud of their country (would it ever catch on?). Embed free speech rights via a Free Speech Bill and a Bill of Rights. “Never again can our entire country be locked down on shoddy evidence and lies,” the manifesto states boldly. And proportional representation to break the duopoly which has so corrupted our politics leading to the current malaise.

To be honest, it reads like the Tory Party manifesto if the party hadn’t ceased to be Conservative. How is voting for that a wasted vote? A vote that says, these are my values and I’d like them to be represented if you don’t mind.

Readers of this paper are thoughtful people, concerned citizens. I know you will carefully weigh up how to vote, as am I. No one should be insulted for whatever decision they make. Regardless of wider dismay with CCHQ, some of us will be supporting our local Tory if they have been a great public servant or constituency MP, or if there is no Reform candidate, which is the case here. My MP is Kemi Badenoch, a warrior among wimps, who showed her mettle today when the irksome David Tennant, collecting a “celebrity ally” gong for his support of the trans community at the British LGBT awards, said he wished he could wake up and find that “Kemi Badenoch doesn’t exist anymore”.

Absolute sweeties these “Be Kind” trans allies, aren’t they? Wishing a mum to three children would cease to be. Kemi shot back on X (formerly Twitter): “I will not shut up. I will not be silenced by men who prioritise applause from Stonewall over the safety of women and girls… A rich, Lefty, white, male celebrity so blinded by ideology he can’t see the optics of attacking the only black woman in government by calling publicly for my existence to end.”

If only her government had channelled more of that defiant spirit instead of allowing trans allies to influence policy at the Department of Education.

Talking about spirit, I was in Clacton on Saturday watching Nigel Farage campaign (full report later in the week). The public enthusiasm was extraordinary, especially among the young of all people. If Reform get more votes than the Tories on election day – not impossible with the two currently neck and neck, Reform slightly edging ahead in a couple of polls and still with a lot of undecided and cross Tories – then a new party of the Right will form to fight for what millions of us believe in. Putting the British people first.

I don’t think that’s a wasted vote. Do you?