Nigel Farage’s Reform Party contradicts itself
A core tension exists between reactionary populism and Right-libertarianism
The most striking thing about Farage’s reinvention of the Brexit Party as an anti-lockdown movement is the proposed new name: Reform UK. Hinting slyly at both progress and a return to older and better things, it’s a formula that captures a deep paradox at the heart of Farage’s coalition.
It’s a notable feature of modern conservatives that their views often unreflectingly embrace core progressive assumptions that conservatism might be imagined to oppose. As our erstwhile Tory Chancellor George Osborne put it: “Change in a progressive country is constant and there’s no point in resisting it”. This belief is so widespread it’s nigh-on invisible: change and progress are unavoidable and generally good, and humans can and must move forward. The only topic of debate is what constitutes the best way to make progress.
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Even for conservatives, anything that disturbs these positive connotations of change must be discarded. This seems to be the case even for the Brexit Party, which drew supporters heavily from groups that appeared to have been ‘left behind’ by the ineluctable progress (as embodied in the EU, among other things) celebrated by George Osborne.
So while many Brexit Party supporters may yearn less for reform than the kind of political reaction embodied by Tory-turned-Brexit-Party-leader Ann Widdecombe, it’s near impossible to imagine Nigel Farage calling his party ‘Reaction UK’. Because in this contemporary framing, ‘reactionary’ just means ‘bad’.
This tension between the reactionary longings of Farage’s base, and a universally progressive elite value-system, creates a conflict of interest that’s dogged Farage and Brexit Party Chairman Richard Tice since the Brexit days. Farage’s campaign united ‘Global Britain’ Brexiters, who sought limited regulation and more international trade, with the ‘Little England’ Brexiters who wanted (far more protectionist) pre-Thatcherite Britain back.
The choice of ‘Reform’ reveals him still riding this reactionary populism while keeping the door ajar for ‘progress’ in the form of Right-libertarianism. For we see the same unstable alliance of reaction and Right-libertarianism in the anti-lockdown movement. On the one hand, here are cultural conservatives horrified at the harm anti-coronavirus policy is inflicting on the organic structures of society such as congregations, families and small businesses. They’re joined by libertarians appalled at the state imposing curtailing individual liberty and sidelining personal responsibility, in the name of ‘safety’.
It was clear even during the Brexit Wars that ‘Global Britain’ would eventually come into conflict with ‘Little England’. These (chlorinated) chickens are now, gradually, coming home to roost as the detail of our divorce from the EU gets hammered out. But the same paradox is at work in the anti-lockdown coalition of cultural conservatives and Right-libertarians.
For now, the pursuit of ever greater freedom remains yoked to those who would see a re-imposition of order and limits, within the vague term ‘Reform’. But take away the Faragist bogeyman of a ‘LibLabCon establishment’ dedicated to enforcing its liberal vision of progress, and things may change.
Should Farage’s new venture gain any kind of wider traction, the fragile Reform coalition between reactionary and Right-libertarian factions may yet become a conflagration.
Wow. For a moment there I was tempted to engage in a critical debate, but I simply can’t be bothered. This article draws wildly tenuous correlations and juxtapositions and is, at best, confused, and at worst…. just bad. Change = progress = unavoidable? REALLY? For fecks sake, I can, off the bat, think of at least 5 events in recent history that challenges that assumption…and the article just goes downhill from there. She could have saved us the bother of actually reading and just stated ‘I hate Farage’. It’s about as solid an argument as the article provides.
I actually found it a reasonable article, I wasn’t expecting to, so maybe I came at it from lower expectation – and I do like the correct mention of Little Englanders. So many anti Brexit rants manage to accuse all Brexiteers of being Imperialists, free traders and Little Englanders protectionists all in one. They also manage to say that food will be far more expensive and our farmers will lose out to far cheaper imports.
Of course there are big differences in the groupings of Brexit/Reform party – but it’s their core values that bind them together. They all believe in democracy, freedom of speech and the fair rule of law, a society of open and rational debate, something very much absent in recent years from the ‘progressives’.
Brexit could deliver us an extreme free market country, or a socialist state – it will be up to the UK population to decide on their government policies, and to live with them.
Sorry, we’ve had millions of column inches of this rubbish hurled at us for over years from people who cannot get over the fact that the majority of Britons – and quite right too – don’t want to be in the EU.
Ms. Harrington, please stop whinging and get a real job, soon.
‘Little England’, ‘libertarianism’ etc is otiose given demographics. Economics was only a principle of political rivalry to the extent that national identity was taken for granted. Hence about turn on ‘Europe’: Out a “teft- wing” cause in the first 1975 referendum but now “right wing”, race and culture having displaced economics and class as principle of political allegiance.
Before 2030 ‘minority’ births will be a majority in Britain; British schoolchildren a minority in British schools by 2035. Muslims a majority by 2050. Those figures are based on fertility rates alone. Even without further influx the dissolution of natives is mathematically guaranteed. What’s happening in Britain over past twenty years meets UN definition of genocide.
If an African people were being displaced by Europeans at the same rate in their native land, to say nothing of the crime and violence visited on the indigenous, Crimewatch having been discontinued for the sake of Diversity, we’d be sending troops in to defend the Africans’ right to “self-determination.”
Of course this is ignored by all these ‘poputist’ parties because even to recognise the demographic reality other than to welcome it is to be denounced by plutocrat media as “racist” and to be banished from public life faster than you can say ‘Ron Atkinson’.
Patriots are already being persecuted by state and big business alike, even having bank accounts cancelled. After Jake Hepple flew a White Lives banner as his team took the knee for Black Lives, not only was he sacked from his job but Sun and Daily Mail then went for his girlfriend and got *her* fired, too. Kin punishment, a feature of communist regimes like Russia, China, North Korea over the last century, now in England. Needless to say not a squeak from ‘right wing’ ‘free speech’ media nomenklatura anymore than from their Parliamentary counterparts.
The article is nonsense, the comments are spot on.
There is no conflict between 1) liberty and a limited state and 2) strong families and communities.
The opposite is true.
As for the idea that (the kind of) change (which the writer favours) is inevitable: nothing is written.
Individuals (Lawrence of Arabia, Nigel Farage…) make things happen.
Yes there is is – in the REAL world!
EU is not the reason that many communities (that voted Leave) are struggling? What are you going to do Blackpool? Make vacations in Spain illegal?
One of your few good ideas Jeremy.
With luck global warming will make trips to Spain unnecessary.
I hope my annual sojourn in the mountains of Mallorca becomes possible again in 2021.
“It was clear even during the Brexit Wars that ‘Global Britain’ would eventually come into conflict with ‘Little England’.”
I haven’t seen any sign of this. ‘Global Britain’ in this context means trade and exports, not outsourcing. ‘Little England’ wants decently paid skilled manufacturing work, & to be able to buy things with one’s wages. There is a high, perhaps surprising, degree of compatibility between the two perspectives on economic issues. Where there are differences they tend to be on social issues, with Global Britain types more liberal-libertarian and Little Englanders more conservative. But this is not a major schism in the UK.
Outsourcing is trade! How are you going to stop a company from doing that ?
a) I don’t need to stop a company doing anything.
b) I referred to trade as export & import of goods and services.
c) Outsourcing is not itself trade, they are not the same thing. I don’t know why you’d declare this.
UK trades right now, nothing is stopping UK (certainly not EU membership) from being more competitive.
Little England simply (we have endless studies about it – no need for patriotism) can not compete – right now- for market share.
Obviously England can compete on some things, since England does have some exports.
Outsourcing First tried by Met police Catering in 1995 When it Moved ”in house”in 1997 it was discovered it was 1) more security 2) Cheaper outsourcing makes money,employees dont..
By making it more attactive to stay here.
This is high flown nonsense. The “tension” to which you refer is easily resolved and in ways which should please the whole of the right – not the spurious dogmatists of free movement who pose as free marketeers, but the coalition of interests which supported Margaret Thatcher; for all it involves is the exemption of labour from global exchange. This exemption held in the high summer of Liberal Free Trade, when governments in Britain passed various acts limiting immigration in the late Victorian and Edwardian era. Why should it not hold today? No reason at all. Besides, in a period of automation there is no need for the free movement of labour; rather the reverse.
‘This is high flown nonsense.’
Well it isn’t particularly high flown, but it is nonsense. The incompetence and intellectual, moral and often financial corruption of the political and governing classes has been obvious for at least 20 years. Covid has merely made it plainer then ever.
Somebody has to take them down. Farage has proven that he can do this by, almost single handedly, extractive the UK from the vile, undemocratic claws of the EU. (And I was once a big supporter of the EU…).
The timing is somewhat unfortunate given Laurence Fox’s Reclaim party has already launched, something that probably wouldn’t have happened had Farage moved more quickly. Hopefully they can come to some sort of an accommodation.
Spot on. The real battle is with the corrupt political classes who have sabotaged democracy and betrayed their own people.
If we are turning to Nationalism as an antidote to this betrayal, it’s on THEIR heads, not on the British people.
NB The liberal centrists contribute nothing to the debate… they are just the ‘herd’ that the corrupt political classes move about their chessboard like willing slaves. ‘This week you will be incensed by racial inequality, next week by gender politics, the week after colonialism…. wear a mask, bend the knee’ blah, blah adinfinitum. Anything to distract them from the real issues of the day such as the fall of democracy and the loss of personal freedom. They are the passive majority walking willingly into the gas chambers…
The real issue is that 45,000 have died from coronavirus, and without lockdowns it would be vastly more.
Oh right, like Sweden, you mean, with no lockdown? Or do you mean like Belgium – aggressive lockdown, early, highest death rate in Europe, or perhaps Peru, near the highest death rate in the World, with strict early lockdown, enforced by the army?
No doubt you could come up with reasons for the above, but we could both play that game all day. There is very little correlation between lockdowns and death rates either way.
PS Small point – they died “with” Coronavirus (often contracted at hospital) not necessarily from it.
So according to you no lockdown in March would have killed less people?
I didn’t say that. In fact we don’t know, because lockdowns were a completely untried, untested method, never used before and not recommended by the WHO.
So far I’d say the efficacy of lockdowns on stopping the spread of the virus is pretty debatable, when you compare countries and states that did and didn’t.
In any case, the idea of lockdown is not to prevent deaths, but to spread the virus out, lessening the impact on the heath service. But in doing so, the collateral damage to people with other health conditions is immense, and the economy is trashed, so overall, I’d say lockdowns easily kill far more people in the end.
However, probably Not more.
I dont Know where you get that figure ..Worldwide 96% recover and its similar here in UK, It will Continue …Cancer Leukaemia,lung ,Heart patients will continue to die needlessly ..Reestablish Isolation hospitals..
Let’s not forget the number of people who have died because, upon entering hospital, with any illness, people are now “encouraged” to agree to a Do Not Resuscitate policy. In other words, will you agree to us not doing our jobs if you become dangerously ill?
With such foresight, can you please send me next week’s Euromillions winning numbers?
Absurd comment; c50% of the population voted Remain and 57% of the population voted for parties that opposed Tories.
Political class is elected, Mark Francois was not beamed from space!
No sonny 17.45Million voted Leave 16.2m voted remain .A clear majority 481 Constituencies against 143 Remain..dice it anyway ..YOU Lost heavily.Emphasised by 2019 european elections ..And Tories in 2019, If they betray Fishing communities,they will be OUT
“A clear majority 481 Constituencies against 143 Remain”
Pointless, you can change the constituency lines. I didn’t say that Leave did not win. I simply pointed out that sizeable chunk of population did vote Remain.
Leavers (like you!) act as if Remain was only 1.6M and not 16M.
Rhetoric You meaningless 57% voted against Tories ,Tories ONLY Won because they promised to get Exiting Eu done//Well if civil servants & 90% of the Commons &lords hadn’t blocked exiting for 4 1/2 years Taxpayers Wouldn’t have Given extra Â£60billion on top of Â£40billion..no ”Club” charges you for leaving .. Why Richard Tice Reform & Lawrence Fox are forming political parties in Case,Corrupt chancers at westminster try to take us back in 2024-29 ..Although i’ll be Surprised if Greece,Italy,Spain are still members then..
Farage never (in 7 times) won his election as a MP.
You write as if “your” side is c90% of the voters. It is not!
As best is c50% and old.
Old & wiser.
Most children grow up to be older & wiser.
Old & senile would be a better description.
People such as you probably will not become old.
Yes & opponents got away with Excessive Spending unpunished by Corrupt Electoral Commission….
I think Richard Tice will head it, It MUST NOT do tories any favours & stand in By elections & Local elections but stay out of my Patch.. most Fair minded people Want HS2 scrapped,House of Lords Abolished. Government contracts scrutinised like Illegal immigrants &SERCO Director is Ralph Soames (Tory donor), Vaccine Procurement Kate Bingham leaking knowledge to US webinar, Pharmaceuticals..Starmer Suppression of Rotherham Report etc….reform Now &Independent MPs
“….. ALL it involves is the exemption of labour from global exchange” [my capitals].
Controlling immigration is certainly part of it, but if that is all that happens, then those who supported Brexit as a way to deregulate everything and have a race to the bottom on the way to making Britain into Singapore-on-Thames will have lost out to those who wanted social protection. As I read it, that’s exactly the tension inherent in the Brexit project that Mary Harrington is pointing out.
Actually, and building on that, I suspect that those who supported Brexit because they wanted social protection wanted some more interference in the free market than just limiting competition from EU nationals coming to Britain and competing with them for jobs. I can imagine them saying “why can’t we make our own X / Y/ Z, we always used to, why do we have to import them from Germany / China etc, there used to be thousands of jobs round here making X / Y / Z”. In which case, merely controlling immigration may be a compromise between the deregulators and those wanting social protection, but it does not eliminate the tension between them, which is Ms Harrington’s point.
And I refer you to the important point that no state of any size will “deregulate everything” in a “race to the bottom”, but will find a shifting balance between the two needs. Hence no tension – or rather insufficient tension to prevent a workable programme from being worked out.
The writer needs to get out more-this is a shockingly bad article on every conceivable level-shallow,glib ,patronising,cliched with no real narrative purpose.
Anyway-just joined Reform UK & made a donation-I guess that makes me a “reactionary populist”…whatever!
Whatever, you’re fortunate to have enough money to donate to Farage’s latest, socially divisive project. Enjoy your freedom of movement.
I’m about to donate as well. This article convinced me,
Congrats, you’ve both discerned the real point of Reform: donations for Farage’s company. I suppose, post-Brexit, that funds were drying up a bit, so it’s good you’re able to help him out in these difficult times.
I agree that the article is nonsense and also not high flown. I am no great supporter of Farage but think he may serve a useful purpose in putting the frightener in our elites again and maybe enabling the Conservative Party to finally find it’s way out of the Cameron/ Osbourne mess and returning to the winning policies of Thatcher – who I imagine must be spinning in her grave right now. The analogy between WW1 and the current fiasco grows ever stronger in my mind. Weak politicians across Europe playing on sentiment and allowing themselves to be dictated to by dunderhead generals incapable of doing anything more that repeatedly adopting clearly failed tactics in the hope of an eventual breakthrough and no matter what the cost in human life and misery. That time the Yanks saved us – but no chance of that happening this time. Maybe Farage can be a catalyst for a much needed change in strategy.
Following scientific/medical advice is a bad thing when dealing with a pandemic which has killed 45,000? What do you think the outcome of ignoring scientific/medical advice would be? It’s hard to understand “no matter what the cost in human life” as a condemnation of following medical experts’ advice when dealing with a killer disease.
Chris – do you actually believe 45,000 people have died from Covid. I think that may be your problem.
“..winning policies of Thatcher”…are you going to pump money from the north sea again?
Are you going to privatize housing again.
Maggie’s decade ended with 2007-8 financial crash. The driving force for the UK economy since 1980 has been – BRACE YOURSELF – private sector debt.
Private sector debt (consumer + business) as % of GDP:
1979 – c.80%
1992/3 – c.160% (ERM crisis)
2007/8 – c.250% (house bubble)
What is your plan? Double the debt by 2032 (c.500% of GDP)?
er Thatcher 1979-90 ..Major 1990-97 Blair 1997-2008 Brown 2008-2010 ..get your Facts straight .useless globalism is dead, Ironically The Corrupt WHO,UN, EU have hastened their own demise by their incompetence & Killing people with underlying illnesses.. ”Spanish flu” herd immunity took two &half years to diminish..I believe Influenza at the moment has 15 strains ..
You need to take your medicine.
The ” winning policies of Thatcher”, you mean the alienation and destruction of the province’s by her hatred for industry, Unions and the workers. She and her cronies dismantled our manufacturing base in favour of ‘service industries” based in London. The poverty of those ideas are well illustrated by our total weakness in production of the required products for fighting Covid and our dangerous reliance on imports. Remember er the Turkish masks and the Chinese ventilators that didn’t work?
All the comments here seem to suppose that Ms Harrington is endorsing the notion that “Change in a progressive country is constant and there’s no point in resisting it”. Surely that belief (attributed to George Osborne, and not endorsed by the writer) is what the article is actually critiquing?
Only Mr Wells above seems actually to be responding to the point the article is making: that there may be a contradiction, or at least a tension, between the libertarian and communitarian aspects of Mr Farage’s policies. But Mr Wells is surely mistaken in assuming that Ms Harrington supports the progressive agenda.
Isn’t she implying that she wishes there was a party called “Reaction UK”? Isn’t she arguing for a party that would stand up for the parish church, the local pub and the village shop? Isn’t she really promoting a form of paternalistic conservatism that would manipulate the economy in order to protect and preserve traditional institutions?
Perhaps she is. I’d support it!
Reform seems a pretty good name to me, albeit a few hackles may be raised in the Reform Club of Pall Mall.
As for ‘Little England’ it’s a flawed insult, used by the very remainers who apparently think that the UK is too small to make its own way in the world.
From my point of view, the Brexit Party does have inherent tensions which aren’t dissimilar to the reconstituted Conservative coalition as a whole.
However these tensions are mediated through the prism of national sustainability, national resilience and national sufficiency.
Both the Little Englanders and the Libertarians are concerned about national sustainability, especially in socio-cultural terms such as woke advancement on public institutions, overpopulation in relation to our diminishing ecological capacity and the inherent cronyism of the House of Lords. Similarly, in more political terms, there is support for proportional representation from both groupings.
In economic terms, the Little Englanders actively support the levelling up programme of regional infrastructural investments and a reshoring of strategic interests including any necessary state aid, which ties in with national resilience. The Libertarians are mostly on board and recognise the need to rebalance the national economy in relation to services and manufacturing and to create the necessary infrastructure for a dynamic economy.
This leaves national sufficiency which does create tensions between domestic production and the absolute requirement for import dependancies due to overpopulation and limited national resources. However, Libertarians have been pacified by making a clear distinction between domestic markets and international markets and the available opportunities for Libertarians to take advantage of free trade deals and free ports for example, along with domestic economic policy that allows entrepreneurship to thrive.
As such any tensions regarding national sufficiency aren’t unnegotiable. Trade deals can take account of our farmers and our strategic interests and sustain favourable manufacturing conditions for the working class, especially in the deployment of renewable technologies including hydrogen, carbon capture and recycling whilst libertarians can travel the world to satisfy our import dependancies.
Lastly, regarding their covid policy, the Great Barrington Declaration, both groupings are largely in support, especially from a national debt and budget deficit point of view along with the deep acknowledgement that we need to work to live.
So overall, I think The Reform Party is not such a bad name when in reality it is trying to ‘re-form’ a renewed sense of democratic national sovereignty underlayed by Conservative ideals of civic associationism, personal responsibility and democratic pluralism which is a world away away from the institutional bias of Progressivism and the inbuilt governmental managerialism of the EU Treaties.
That conflict, between Whigs and Tories, between classical liberals and classical conservatives has existed in every successful centre-right party in the world for the last 100 years, including Britain’s Conservative Party. So it’s not unique to Reform UK, or an insuperable problem.
and right here is why Farage has a good chance:-
1) Arrogant believer in the status quo – check.
2) Rude about anyone who might think differently – check.
3) Zero empathy for others – check.
4) Tedious long in the tooth attempt to draw dividing lines – check.
All in all you and the establishment parties just want the brexiteers and the silent majority to keep silent, and preferably go away and die and failing that bully and control them more and more. Trouble is credibility is gone for your lot so it will boil down to tribalism and bribes and will you be able to keep that going, lets hope not.
“Silent majority” gets to vote – just like the “loud minority”.
You write as if Remainers were 1.6M and not 16M.
and they did vote, its just the loud minority have all the money and power and some of them (the rich totally vested ones) are corrupt as the day is long.
I think the article is making a better point than many comments allow. Perhaps those making them are uneasy about that?
Take, for example, a US trade agreement which allowed food produced using lower standards of environmental protectional, food safety and animal welfare. The extreme free marketeers who supported Brexit as a way to eliminate regulation would welcome that, no doubt with some mumbo-jumbo about customers having freedom of choice (do the rest of us have any choice about the damage to the global environment? do the animals kept under conditions which would lead to prosecution for cruelty in Britain have freedom of choice about their miserable lives? would American food be labelled with an honest statement of the facts of its production, or would it just be labelled “special purchase / costsaver bargain”?). Conversely, those who supported Brexit because they thought they would be protected from globalisation and a race to the bottom would not be happy, as well as being unemployed / their farming business being ruined. But both groups supported Brexit. Hence the contradiction which Mary Harrington is pointing out.
“Hinting slyly at both progress and a return to older and better things,”
What is sly about the term reform?
The lofty intellectual caste still hasn’t learned that one of its greatest enemies is condescension, with which this article drips. I guess it is because they think the ordinary person is too stupid to detect that quality in written argument. Well, guess what.
New party, more cash for Nigel. Simples! Worked with UKIP, worked with TBP. This is simply CashForNigel 3.0. Why should it not have contradictions? That makes it all the more easier to justify everything he does. Or doesn’t. There will be no shortage of takers. Victims of schemes such as “Nigerian” frauds and timeshare sales usually fall prey to a follow-on scam which offers them a chance to get their money back. Nigel has lists of names which are very valuable.
This makes me look back on the run up to the Brexit referendum. Gazebos from either side were erected and I, undecided, quite liking freedom of movement and aware only a small part of UK was involved with exports went along to listen. The Leave camp were indeed little Englanders pointing out, shaking fists at the Romanian Big Issue seller and, getting all red faced with the Lib Dem councillor, a nice bloke, their attitude soon became unreasonable. In comparison, the Remain tent were reasonableness personified, staffed mainly by people who I describe as ‘young farmers’ (due to I always wonder from where they buy their clothes). The Marxists were still in shock over Corbyn and still shy. The Greens were still mourning the Rainbow Warrior and Greta barely pubescent. Gays, asians and black people were integrated, running small businesses. How the tables have turned since. We don’t get to choose our magistrate, head teacher, local bobby; if you don’t like them, tough. Time maybe for heads to be banged together. Who? We only have one candidate and Boris’s popularity didn’t last long. I didn’t join the young farmers btw.
Farage got nothing to do so he is going to “create” a new party to fight Tories 4 years from now…on what? Covid restrictions?
Dopey it’ll be Richard tice and others to Carry Reform banner & it WONT be conservative mark2, SDP is also worth A Glance..thats if You ”lockdown gauleiters” have left Any businesses other than non-tax paying Amazon .left
I used to have a lot of time for Nigel Farage. I do not now.
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