• Thursday, July 18, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

First seat for Reform, Anderson wins Ashfield

Lee Anderson, who defected from the Conservatives to Reform in March, won Ashfield with 34 per cent of the vote, pushing the Conservatives into the fourth position

Lee Anderson (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

By: Shajil Kumar

Reform UK, the right-wing populist party led by Nigel Farage, looks set to emerge as a new force in British politics, winning its first seat in an election and squeezing the Conservative vote in the early results declared.

Farage, a driving force behind Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, only entered the election race last month, a move that caused shockwaves in a Conservative Party that was already far adrift of centre-left Labour.

Lee Anderson, who defected from the Conservatives to Reform in March, won Ashfield in the East Midlands with 34 per cent of the vote, pushing the Conservatives into fourth with just 8.2 per cent.

In 2019 he was elected in the seat as a Conservative with a 39 per cent share.

Early results in seats won comfortably by Labour showed Reform performing strongly, pushing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives into third place in a significant number.

It took 29 per cent and 27 per cent of the vote in the first two counts, prompting Farage to say: “That is way more than any possible prediction or projection, it’s almost unbelievable.”

Reform, founded as the Brexit Party in 2018 and renamed in 2022, had not previously won any seat in an election.

Farage is standing in Clacton, an Essex town that had one of highest votes to leave in the Brexit referendum in 2016.

His party aims to shake up British politics as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally is doing in France by taking a tough line on immigration, demanding that illegal migrants arriving in small boats from France are sent back.

That would be difficult to achieve, but by focusing on the issue, it has targeted a weak spot for the Conservatives, which have failed to “stop the boats” as promised by Sunak.

The Conservative plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda also failed to get off the ground before the election was called.

Polling company Savanta’s Political Research Director Chris Hopkins said if the exit poll was right, it would be “dream scenario” for Farage.

“He’ll be rubbing his hands with glee,” he said. “He’s got enough MPs (lawmakers) to make a racket in Westminster, and the party he shares the closest political space with could be reduced to a long period of soul searching.

“It could be that Reform UK is second in a huge number of seats.” (Reuters)

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