Reformed Brexit Party ready to oust 'catastrophic' Con-socialists

Sheltering from the rain on a cold, wet and windy afternoon on Bloxwich High Street, Richard Tice is unequivocal when laying out his view on the last three years of Tory rule.

Reform UK leader Richard Tice visits Bloxwich High Street. Pictured with prospective candidate for Walsall North Elaine Williams
Reform UK leader Richard Tice visits Bloxwich High Street. Pictured with prospective candidate for Walsall North Elaine Williams

"They've been catastrophically disappointing," he says. "There was so much potential but now everywhere you go people are disillusioned.

"We helped them get that majority but they have just made things worse."

The Reform UK leader is referring to the 2019 general election when his party, then under the Brexit Party banner, pulled out hundreds of candidates – a move which helped Boris Johnson's Tories dominate the Commons.

He's in Bloxwich to launch Reform's campaigns for May's local elections and the next general election. And when the nation next goes to the polls he's planning to field 630 candidates and has given a "cast iron 110 per cent guarantee" there will be no deals with the opposition.

Bloxwich – a true Brexit epicentre – sits inside the Walsall North constituency that Conservative Eddie Hughes won off Labour for the first time in four decades in 2017, before extending his majority to almost 12,000 two years later.

Reform UK leader Richard Tice says people are fed up with the Tories

But according to Mr Tice, the Tories have made such a pig's ear of almost every policy area that it's time for another change.

"All the opportunities for Brexit have just been abandoned," he tells me during a walk around the High Street, before he heads to Beechdale Social Club to deliver a speech.

"They have sold fishing down the river. They have sold Northern Ireland down the river. They haven't cut taxes on environmental levies. They haven't cut VAT on domestic fuel. And they haven't bothered to deregulate."

He shakes his head as he speaks of the Tories failure to "stop the boats", allowing illegal immigrants to pile into the country, while the lack of policing, higher taxes and a failure to exploit the country's natural energy resources are branded "an absolute disgrace".

"They've shafted everybody with higher rates, higher energy bills, higher taxes, no police presence," he adds. "Where's the Conservatism in that?

"The UK's bedrock is small businesses, and places like Bloxwich have been let down."

It has got to the point, he says, where the Conservatives – who he dismisses as "Con-socialists" – were no different to the Labour Party.

"What's tragic is when people say they're not going to bother voting," Mr Tice says. "They say all the parties are the same. Well actually, we're different.

"We're a new party with some bold solutions to make this great country of ours better again."

Reform UK leader Richard Tice visits Bloxwich High Street. Pictured chatting to shop owner Raj Bhandal

Certainly, in the shops along the High Street there is not a lot of goodwill towards Westminster going around.

Raj Bhandal, who runs Drinks Oasis, said the area is blighted by crime, with "beggars and thieves" regularly hanging around his store.

He said High Street had deteriorated in the five years since he'd been there – although it was not yet as bad as nearby Blakenall, which he described as "like a warzone" and "worse than Ukraine".

To compound his misery his electricity bill is about to double from £500 to £1,000.

Does he think any political party can sort it all out after the next election? "They're all as bad as each other, aren't they?" Mr Bhandal said, adding that he didn't vote in 2019 and had no plans to next time around.

"Just look at the state the Tory Party is in," he said. "You've got the Tories for the super rich, and Labour for the working class. What about the people in between?"

Bloxwich High Street

Shoppers on the High Street were also less than impressed with the Conservatives. John Alford, from Walsall, said he had previously voted Tory but was unlikely to repeat the trick next time.

"Tell me one good thing they've done since Brexit," he said. "They had a chance with Boris but they got rid of him. They've got no hope now."

Stephen Hales, from Bloxwich, is a lifelong Labour man who will be sticking with Sir Keir Starmer's party next time the country goes to the polls.

"I think Labour will win," he said. "When you look at it the whole country is in turmoil. The Conservatives have had 13 years in power and they just can't get it right no matter what they do."

Mr Tice concedes that any success for his party – which is currently polling at around seven per cent, ahead of the Greens and just behind the Lib Dems – could end up helping Sir Keir Starmer get into Number 10.

He says should that happen Reform will be "holding Labour to their word" over not attempting to return to the EU. He also revealed he had already had discussions with Conservative MPs who were considering defecting to Reform having become disillusioned with their own party.

"I think there are a number of Tory MPs who no longer recognise the party they represent," he said.

And what of a potential return to frontline politics for Nigel Farage, Reform's honorary president who has previously initiated political upheaval in the UK with both Ukip and the Brexit Party?

"Like all of us, he's concerned that Brexit is not being done properly," Mr Tice said. "He's concerned about the direction of the country and he's deeply disappointed.

"I think he's made it clear he won't stand in an election that is first past the post, but would re-look at it should proportional representation be brought in."

Elaine Williams, Reform UK's prospective parliamentary candidate for Walsall North

Elaine Williams, Reform's spokesperson for Walsall North, is the party's prospective parliamentary candidate and is also standing in the Birchills Leamore ward at this year's council elections.

She said the Conservatives record on national issues – such as a failure to make the most of Brexit and a lax approach to law and order – had left people in the town fed up of the Government.

The "horrific" standard of some housing and overcrowding were adding to residents' frustrations at a local level, she added.

And is Reform's message getting across in Walsall North? "We're finding a lot of people coming across to us are people who had stopped voting altogether.

"They want change and see Reform as a chance to do something different."

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