Julia Hartley Brewer Interviews Ben Habib About Recent Reform UK By-election Results

Now, after finishing third in both the Kingswood and the Wellingborough by-elections last week, Reform UK are now a serious threat to not just the Tories but Labour as well. I’m joined now by Deputy leader of Reform UK Ben Habib who for stood in Wellingborough.

Good morning to you. Good morning, thank you very much indeed for joining us and congratulations on your 13% result. But now of course people say 13%, you didn’t win, you didn’t come second, you weren’t a real challenger, you only came third, but taking the Lib Dems and also the highest result for Reform UK in an actual election after polls have shown you steadily growing is this the start of something or do you think this the peak have you been and gone?

No, this is definitely the start of something and I there are a number of reasons I say that. The first is that in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire where we also stood we got 5% and just under 5% of the vote respectively and four months later I stood in Wellingborough and my colleague Rupert Lowe stood in Kingswood and we got 13% and 10%.

But, the underlying story is more dramatic than that because Rupert and I didn’t really kick off our campaigns until after it was too late to really garner any of the postal vote and as you might know and viewers might know, postal votes have become increasingly important in particularly in by-election campaigns.

Before we’d even started about 10,000 votes had been cast, had been cast by postal votes and I got very few votes in the postal votes as did Rupert because our campaign was on the ground after the postal votes had more or less been done.

So, even though I got 13% actually if you look at the take on the day you know how many people voted on the day itself? My vote was closer to 20% and Rupert would have been closer to 15% if not higher so there’s been quite a dramatic rise in popularity of Reform UK.

I was literally on a call with Richard Tice just before I came on to you and I think what I was telling him as a debrief is that we’re pushing against an open door. People really want change, they’re sick of the two-party system, they recognise Labour to be just as bad as the Tories and they want something different.

Reform UK has all the small C conservative policy which you know that silent majority and I know you were talking about it to Charlie before that, silent majority that voted for Brexit they’re all there. There are a lot there are people and they’re looking for something like us and as we become known I think you’re going to see our vote share rise.

Frankly I hope I’m not creating myself a hostage for fortune but I think rise dramatically.

Well, when we see that happen with the Lib Dems, with Greens when the smaller parties are talked about more because of results like this, then you get more attention and then people consider you as someone that they could actually vote for.

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You know in a poll, if you’re not mentioned you might not get as many mentions, here’s the thing though, it’s one thing is by election isn’t it and one of these seats, I mean goodness me it’s not even going to exist after boundary changes at the next election. People might want to have a little bit of a protest vote when it comes to election day.

General election you’ve basically got only two people, two men who’ve got the option of being Prime Minister. All respect to Richard Tice, the leader of Reform UK.

I mean we have a first pass the post system, he ain’t going to be the next prime minister people got a choice between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer at that point, a lot of people will say I would vote for Reform UK, I like the cut of your jib, I like your policies you know, on a lot of these issues, you’re more conservative than the Conservatives are. you’re not like the wishy washy Labour party, indeed indeed well yeah the Lib Dems but I don’t want to risk, they might say I don’t want to risk a Labour government.

What would you say to those people? Well, well I’d say a number of things, first of all whether or not you vote Tory or Labour you’re going to get socialist policies. You know, look at 14 years of Conservative party governance.

We’ve got national debt at a post World War II high, taxation at a post war war II high, GDP shrinking, GDP per capita shrinking even faster, rampant immigration, these are all symptoms of a protracted period of Labour governance.

It’s not what you would expect of the Conservatives, they delivered this country to the precipice of economic collapse and so what I would say to people is don’t think that by voting Tory first of all you’re going to get a Conservative government and the second thing is that the only way to get change is to vote for it.

If you keep voting for the Conservative party or the Labour party you’re going to reinforce their belief that the agenda that they have for the United Kingdom is the right agenda and we can all see from the numbers that it’s the wrong agenda.

The United Kingdom is in deep deep trouble at the moment, so if you want change, you want those small C conservative values, you want a ditch Net Zero, cut back immigration, reduce tax, deregulate the economy, you know promote and celebrate the private sector, put aspiration back into people’s spirit, get rid of wealth redistribution and replace it with wealth creation.

You’ve got to vote for that and the only party frankly offering it is Reform UK and we may not, we will not form the next government but there’s a really good chance Julia of getting a good number of seats even in the first past the post system, which is why I started by saying you know my true vote share on the day was more like 20% not 13% it was only the postal votes that put us on 13%.

You said already now Nigel Farage has been saying that you know actually the Tories would rather have him as leader than they would Sunak, he’s more in line with the Tory grassroots members. We certainly saw at the last Tory conference and any event that far turns out but of course he’s your honorary president of Reform UK, Still, they know he’s very popular with the grassroots we’re told again and again by him by Richard Tice your party leader that there won’t be any sort of deal.

Can people really trust that because a lot of people think that actually on the day well you know the week beforehand that there will be a deal. That if there is a deal I first of all I will resign from Reform UK instantly, I will not be part of any deal with the Conservative party because that would be doing the opposite of what I just said which is you know voting for change.

What we would be doing if we did a deal would be to embed the policies that have brought the country to the precipice and I could not be part of any of that, and when I joined Reform UK I got a solemn promise from Richard and by the way he was completely on side anyway, I got a solemn promise from Richard that there would be no deals and we would stand in every single seat in Great Britain.

We shall see what happens, it’s going to be fascinating to watch I’m certainly very much of the view that I want I’ve been a floating voter all my life, I just think when people say well, I always give my vote to this party, I always give my vote to that party, then you do actually end up getting ignored because they your vote is taken for granted and people my main thing is people need to go and vote. Whoever they vote for, they need to go out and actually cast their vote so that they actually get their say.

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Can I ask you just one final question though Ben Habib, Labour we understand Sue Gray, you know formerly you know of the party gate inquiry she is now going to be Chief of Staff to Keir Starmer, she says they’re looking at having citizens assemblies when they come into power to decide big issues. Just very briefly, your thoughts on that?

Well, every time you get a Labour government they want to devolve authority away from Westminster and this is just another one of those you know, sounds like a citizen assembly. What it’s going to be is forums in which they can promote their own ideology and exclude actually what the majority want.

I wouldn’t trust anything coming out of Labour. OK, Ben Habib, thank you very much. Indeed he’s Deputy leader of Reform UK