Starmer should be just as frightened as Sunak about the return of Farage

Reform UK Proposes Tax Incentives to Boost Private Healthcare
credit: telegraph
Just when everyone thought election campaign was getting dull and boring, we have something to shake it up. Enter, Nigel Farage. Nigel Farage’s surprising arrival onto the campaign changed everything this week. Until now, the polls have been pretty stagnant. If Rishi Sunak was hoping for a narrowing when he called the election, then it doesn’t seem like his wish will be answered.

Our first two polls, one carried out before and one after Rishi Sunak called the election, showed no change in the 20-point lead for Labour. You can have a look at the tables here:www.whitestoneinisght.com/votingintention.

We’re running a poll every week of the campaign until the day of the election itself with our next one in the field and with results on Friday. Farage’s resurgence could present a nightmare for the struggling Conservative Party. He will no doubt syphon off support for the Conservatives in the Brexit voting coastal constituencies, like Clacton, which he will probably win.

But the prospect of Nigel Farage reinvigorating the left behind Brexit voters shouldn’t just frighten Sunak. It should also terrify Starmer.

Yes, there seems to be little that could be done to take the win away from Starmer at this point in the election campaign. Miracles happen, but he’s on course for a landslide potentially larger than ’97.

The trouble from Reform could unsettle his plans for taking back some of the red wall. Disaffected 2019 Conservative voters now have an alternative home to go to than Labour, and so Farage’s decision to stand could have an impact on the numbers of seats Labour are able to pick up in their targets such as should-be Tory safe seats such as Suffolk, and much of Essex in the south to Cheshire, Shropshire and others in the North.

Farage seems to have noted that the country feels unexcited by the prospect of a Starmer Government. In polling we did last week, we found that only 30% of voters thought Labour’s campaign was being run successfully. The same number, that is, less than a third of voters, think Labour have brought fresh ideas for the country.

The reality is, it’s not just Conservative voters who are sceptical of the choice on offer – it’s the whole country. Voters are not rushing to Labour because of anything good Labour are offering. And so there is every possibility that a good number could run into the arms of Reform.

This is why Farage can smell an opportunity. He wants to shake politics up for good. As he said in his launch on Monday, Reform is a radical party. One glance at their policy pledges shows this to be true. They want to abolish the House of Lords and replace first past the post with proportional representation. They would slash tax, remove regulation and get net migration to zero.

Of course, none of these policies is necessarily unpalatable to the public but they are radical in the sense that they are contrary to what is being offered by either of the major parties.

Yes, the resurgence of Reform will be difficult for the Conservatives. But the Labour party would be naïve to think that the arrival of Nigel Farage to the election campaign will onlybenefit them. Perhaps their current position is unassailable by anyone. But this election could prove to be the beginning of a shift in British politics. If Farage’s party does as he hopes it will do and reclaim the centre right of British politics, then Labour will have a charismatic, energetic and radical opposition.

For all his marmite tang, Farage’s ability to mobilise millions of voters cannot be denied or understated. In 2015 UKIP won 4,000,000 votes. In the 2019 EU elections his Brexit Party was the largest party not just in the UK but in the entire European Parliament. Starmer may be rubbing his hands at the prospect of total Tory wipeout, but the polling suggests he’ll need to do more to stave off the growing threat from a reinvigorated right.

Lachlan Rurlander

Lachlan Rurlander is a Consultant at Whitestone Insight