March 22, 2024 - 1:00pm

The latest YouGov poll isn’t just a new low for the Conservatives, but a new high for Reform UK.

The party’s 15% vote share puts it just four points behind the Tories. But that’s not all. The YouGov data tables show that Reform is now in first place among Leave voters — edging out the Conservatives by 33% to 32%.

It’s also beating the blues in a number of other categories, including male voters, working-class voters and Northern voters (though in all three cases Labour is way out in front).

Not every pollster has Reform doing quite as well. Redfield and Wilton has the Right-wing party on 14%, People Polling 13%, Deltapoll 12%, Savanta 11% and Ipsos UK 8%. That said, it’s not just the current level of support which matters, but the direction of travel — and most polls show the party gaining ground.

The ground, though, is about to get stony. After Easter, we’ll be straight into the campaign for the local and mayoral elections on 2 May — and Reform, like Ukip before, is much more about national controversies than pavement politics. The party is facing a relevance problem over the coming weeks.

Crucially, there are three things it can do to hold our attention. Firstly, overtake the Tories in a national poll. Given that YouGov had Reform on 10% at the start of the year, and 15% now, the long awaited crossover could happen within a couple of months. This might just be the shock that brings down Rishi Sunak.

Secondly, attract more defectors. Only this week Dan Barker, who had been the Conservative mayoral candidate for Greater Manchester, announced he was joining Reform. Of course, MPs are the most valuable prize — and Lee Anderson could do with some company on the Opposition benches.

Thirdly, sort out the leadership. Reform UK already has a leader in Richard Tice, but he’s always been a placeholder for the real deal: Nigel Farage. If the latter returns, then that guarantees the party all the publicity it wants. Indeed, just such a comeback has been promised time after time. Yet, despite the hype, the stage is still empty. The longer the no-show goes on, the more the opportunity becomes a problem.

Does Farage not realise the potential here? Reform is unlikely to win more than one or two seats, if that, but it could bring about a much bigger change: the fall of the Conservative Party. Entering the YouGov poll figures into the Electoral Calculus seat predictor produces a Tory meltdown for the ages. There’d be only 36 Conservative MPs, a Labour majority of nearly 400, and the Lib Dems would be the official opposition. That’s the sort of thing that happens when you split the Leave vote in half — which Farage could easily achieve.

But perhaps that’s just it. It could be that he doesn’t want to destroy the Conservative Party. Indeed, he doesn’t seem averse to the idea of himself leading it. Whether he’s entirely serious about that is open to question — but it certainly won’t happen if there’s nothing left for him to lead.

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.