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How many seats could Reform UK win?

Conservatives can longer content themselves by saying that Nigel Farage's party will only win a couple of seats. Credit: Getty

June 18, 2024 - 3:30pm

At the start of this general election campaign, the Tory line designed to crush Reform UK’s vote share was to tell the British public that the insurgent Right-wing party wouldn’t win a single seat. Since then, almost every poll has shown Reform gaining ground and giant MRP surveys now suggest the party could have a clutch of MPs elected in its colours on 4 July. Even the Conservatives have ceased making the insufferably arrogant claim they started out with, and now content themselves with saying Reform can only win at best a handful of seats.

But how good could this election get for Nigel Farage’s party? If his campaigning brio keeps Reform’s poll ratings climbing, might it hit a level where it could win in dozens of seats? The most recent big MRP poll, based on more than 42,000 respondents interviewed between 31 May 31 and 13 June, was carried out by Survation. It puts Reform in the lead in seven constituencies: Ashfield, Clacton, Great Yarmouth, North West Norfolk, South Suffolk, Mid-Leicestershire and Exmouth & Exeter East.

But Reform’s average national poll rating has improved notably since then. Indeed, for the first few days of Survation’s interviews Farage wasn’t even back in the fray. The Conservative average poll score has also ebbed by a couple of points. In total there has been perhaps a five-point turnaround between the two parties in the smaller one’s favour. Labour, meanwhile, has also lost a couple of points, while still averaging an enviable 42% on the BBC poll tracker.

Reform, then, can do better than seven wins, especially if it receives a bounce from a manifesto that was heavily laden with retail offers to key sections of the electorate. Should the party recreate more widely its best polls to date — being a point ahead of the Tories on YouGov and at level pegging on the latest Redfield & Wilton survey — then this could easily lead more Right-of-centre voters to conclude where the momentum really lies. The Survation poll already shows Reform running ahead of the Tories in 59 seats, so that number could easily double. The party might then be able to harness anti-Labour tactical voting in its favour in these places.

Yet it is still possible that Tory warnings against giving Labour a giant majority, not to mention sheer force of habit, could bring some voters back into the blue column by polling day. More importantly, experience suggests that Farage-led insurgent political vehicles struggle to compete with the two main established parties — and even with the Liberal Democrats when it comes to getting the vote out on election day.

This is likely to be more true of Reform than it was of Ukip when it chalked up 122 second places but only one victory in the 2015 general election. Back then, Ukip had more than 40,000 members and an extensive local branch network. Reform has until very recently had almost no constituency-based ground game whatsoever.

Looking at Survation’s projection for Farage’s own prospective seat of Clacton, for instance, it is clear that although he is ahead the final result could go any one of three ways. Farage is estimated to have a 30.7% vote share, the Conservative candidate 29.4% and the Labour one 27.6%. If that Farage lead doesn’t widen, there is a strong risk that one of the big two will take the seat as a result of having better data and a superior on-the-day operation. The same is true in the other seats where Reform is notionally ahead.

If Farage can propel the national Reform vote share into the low 20s by 4 July, then the political world is his oyster — or at least the parts of it along the east coast of England could be. But failing that, and in his shoes, I’d still shake hands on seven seats right now.


Patrick O’Flynn is a former MEP and political editor of the Daily Express.

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UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

If Labour get 42% of the national vote and win 450+ seats while Reform gets 19% of the vote and wins just 1 the pressure for change in the electoral system will be irrestible, one hopes.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

But Labour will resist it. Don’t forget, these people think they’re on some kind of divine mission. The ends justify the means.

George Venning
George Venning
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Of course, but the incentives here are amazingly perverse.
On the face of it Labour would be mad to go for PR because they’d just have been the beneficiary of FPTP on a massive scale. BUT, although PR would cost them their lock on power in the short term, remember that the balance of votes cast in every election since 1983 have been for Labour and parties to its left (yes, even in 2019).
So, if they went for PR they’d never get another result like this one but they’d be pretty much nailed on as the leader of endless coalitions, with the Libs and the Greens for the foreseeable.
However, the Tories, would recently have been grotesquely disenfranchised by the same system that has gifted them all those elections in the past. If they embrace PR, they’d be giving up the source of all their power and giving Farrage the biggest gift imaginable.
Truth be told though, I don’t think it’s the Tory party itself that gets to make that decision. They are going to be a squabbling irrellevance. I think that it’ll be the press barons who end up being decisive. Are they now so addicted to grievance that they would back PR just as a means to attack “undemocratic” Labour? Because, if they do, whisper it but they might end up letting the genie of Britains’ progressive majority out of the bottle.
Wouldn’t that be weird?

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

But what would that achieve? Labour MPs would be replaced by Lib Dem and Green MPs, and the extra Reform MPs would, if the performance of UKIP MEPs is any guide, squabble with each other and achieve very little. Overall we would replace an electoral system where the Left can be regularly beaten with one where the Left would be in an almost permanent majority.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

It would achieve something more like a representative democracy. In South Africa recently the ANC have been demolished by getting 42% of the vote and forced to go into a coalition which hopefully will be constructive. The same minority proportion of the vote in the UK delivers a massive majority.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

As the European parliament elections and the Dutch election show, PR does not give the change you hope for, as the elite centrists will just stick together against anything they consider to be too right wing.
What Farage needs to do now is go for an all out assault on Labour in general and Starmer in particular (Starmer holds a big part of the responsibility for Brexit not delivering any of its benefits). If we see some more of that 42%, a significant minority of whom have no real enthusiasm for Labour or Starmer, switching to Reform we might just have a proper election on our hands with no need to whine about the system.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

“Starmer holds a big part of the responsibility for Brexit not delivering any of its benefits”
And how, exactly, is Starmer to blame for the utter failure of Brexit? This should be good!
Of course, the real reason Brexit is a failure is because it was a terrible idea implemented by crooks and incompetents

Michael Marron
Michael Marron
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Oh Labour will change it, don’t you worry.
Change it to make sure the Right and Centre Right never win again.
Gerry Mander, thy name is Labour.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

With 450 seats, Labour can simply laugh at the suggestion that it should allow such a majority to be threatened by permitting voting reform.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

I think I know what policies the SNP, DUP, Greens, Communist and Reform have, but I have no idea about Labour Tory or Lib Dem
Why would I vote for for nonsense ?

jane baker
jane baker
1 month ago

I think Reform will get maybe one,two,three seats at most..Because they’re an Old People’s Party. Old People who are home owners,got a bit in the bank.
I fear and suspect that because the anti-Tory vote (plus non voters) will be so spread out the Tories will get that “majority” to stay in power and it’ll be business same as before.

Michael Marron
Michael Marron
1 month ago
Reply to  jane baker

You mean people who are retired and living on that ‘bit in the bank’ to avoid being a burden?
Don’t worry, Starmer will take those savings, and then wonder why the welfare bill went up.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  jane baker

To the extent that Reform voters may be a bit older on average, that’s simply because with age comes wisdom. It has nothing to do with relative degrees of wealth, as the distribution of votes in less wealthy areas shows.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
1 month ago

Reform might get one seat if Clacton voters are foolish enough to go for a chancer like Farage. Although it would be highly amusing if that pound shop fascist lost for the 8th time!
It means little regardless. Labour are going go have a massive majority and will be in power for a generation,. They will get on with fixing the mess the Tories have left (again) while the UK right descends into utter madness. I can’t wait!

Gordon Welford
Gordon Welford
1 month ago

Socialism has failed the poor every time it has been in power throughout the world and this time it will not be different

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

Would welcome a bit more Reform representation but so they can be exposed to more sunlight and scrutiny. Their prospectus would even more rapidly unravel. The Red Wall and others don’t want reheated Neo-Liberalism. At same time sunlight will be a useful antiseptic to the dreadful nut-jobs they have as candidates and potential reps.
FPTP unlikely to change anytime soon for General Election. There are pros and cons to more PR – for every arguably better reflection of the public’s views there is a country in gridlock or in hock to extremists. Israel being perhaps the most current example.
However it may be interesting to see what happens on further devolution and what voting system goes with that.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

Since Reform aren’t offering “reheated neoliberalism” (bullshit phrase anyway, mostly), your point is somewhat irrelevant.

Reform is offering something approaching one of the Thatcherite core principles, namely that the taxpayer isn’t just a mug that underwrites state-driven greed, corruption and recklessness, and though that principle is not yet close to broad popularity, it’s only a matter of time, because Red Wall voters very often earn more than enough to fall into the 40p tax band, and their numbers are increasing every year that the consensus policy of fiscal drag continues.