Friday, July 05, 2024

UK Reform Party celebrating, but election results underwhelming

This is the day after the UK general election in which Keir Starmer's Labour Party swept the board with 412 seats out of the 650-seat British Parliament. It wasn't a surprise, with an electorate in desperate need of a change after 14 years of turbulent Conservative rule, but it may have been more definitive than even Labour had hoped, more than doubling it's previous seat count, and handing the Conservatives their worst electoral defeat in 200 years.

But, as of last night, and based on exit polls, a lot of the media attention was focussed not on Starmer but on the grinning mug of Nigel Farage, leader of the nascent Reform Party (ex-Brexit Party and UK Independence Party). Garage is Boris Johnson's far right alter ego, a blustering mendacious populist who was responsible in large part for the misinformation that led to Britain's disastrous exit from Europe.

As of last night, the Reform Party - named, incidentally, in deference to Canada's Reform Party, in whose footsteps Farage transparently hoped to tread, taking over the larger, more moderate Conservative Party from within - was predicted to win 13 seats, including Farage's own (after seven previous failed attempts). While this is only 2% of the available seats, it represented a big breakthrough for a far right party in Britain, and therefore a big deal.

In the cold light of today, the Reform Party actually only won 4 seats: Farage in Clacton, Lee Anderson in Ashfield, Richard Tice in Boston/Skegness and Rupert Lowe in Great Yarmouth. That's just 0.6% of seats, and so not exactly a tsunami, and certainly not the "many, many seats right across the country" that Farage was expecting. As it happens, this is the same seat count as the Green Party, and less than the Scottish National Party (9), Sinn Fein (7), individual members standing as independent of any party (6), and the Democratic Unionist Party (5). The Green Party saw its haul of seats rise almost as dramatically as Reform, from 1 to 4, to much less recognition -  wouldn't/shouldn't that be as big news? UPDATE: the 4 Reform seats have now been updated to 5, with James McMurdock belatedly taking the seat for Basildon South and East Thurrock,  which messes up my math, but my point stands.

Farage and Reform are nevertheless celebrating getting a foot in the doorway, so to speak, and Farage, ever the blusterer, is not ruling out a spell in Downing Street in five years' time. 

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