LONDON — Nigel Farage didn’t bother showing up — but his Reform U.K Party is making a big pitch to “save Britain” from both the Tories and Labour.
The right-wing populist party — led by the businessman Richard Tice with the arch-Brexiteer Farage as party president — set out its stall for the next election in a much-hyped press conference Wednesday morning, where Tice claimed a government led by Labour leader Keir Starmer would lead to “Starmergeddon.”
There was speculation beforehand that Farage, fresh from his exploits in the reality TV jungle, would appear and announce his return to front-line politics.
But Britain’s most prominent Brexiteer was nowhere to be seen. Asked if he would return to take on a front-line role with the party, Tice said Farage is “giving a lot of thought” but “still assessing” his future with Reform.
“A good poker player does not show their hand too early,” Tice said. “Nigel is the master of political timing, but I am very clear — the job at hand is so big, to save Britain, the more help Nigel is able to give in the election campaign the better.”
Tice later added that he is “very confident” Farage will play a formal role of some kind for his party in the election.
Reform U.K. replaced Farage’s Brexit Party in 2021 and aims to attract right-leaning Brits frustrated with the Conservatives.
The low-tax, small-state outfit currently polls at 9 percent in POLITICO’s Poll of Polls aggregator, which would see it struggle to win any seats of its own — but potentially hurt the Conservatives in their efforts to hold off Labour.
Tice said Wednesday that the party will not stand aside in Tory seats, and insisted it will field candidates across the U.K.
In the absence of Farage, Tice instead delivered a presentation about the claimed failings of Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government — and the potential dangers of a Labour administration.
“Starmergeddon is a risk near you in 2024,” Tice said, arguing Starmer’s Labour Party would usher in higher government spending and “bankrupt” Britain.
But he also turned his fire on Sunak, arguing that the prime minister and Starmer are two sides of the same “socialist coin.”
This statement was accompanied by a photoshopped graphic of the Labour leader and PM as mashed-up “socialist twins.”