Dan Barker Manchester Mayoral Reform UK Candidate

Dan Barker is the Reform UK candidate for the Greater Manchester Mayoral election.

I started my campaign to be the next Mayor of Greater Manchester as a Conservative and am proud to be ending it representing Reform UK.  The journey I made to Reform UK was accelerated by the pressure of standing in a high-profile election and not being supported by the Conservative Party because they thought they had zero chance of winning against Labour’s Andy Burnham. 

But the truth is that I, like many other conservative voters up and down the country, had already started to make that journey from Conservatives to Reform UK.

The ‘push’ factor of finding myself in that awful situation, which made me leave the Conservative Party is only part of the story.  Because for people like me there is also a massive ‘pull’ factor to join Reform UK. 

I am someone who is a small ‘c’ conservative and has voted Conservative all their life, who is patriotic and cares deeply about the country, is worried about the general drift of politics, the public discourse, the media and our public institutions to the left.  And also, about the rate of immigration and the threat this poses to public services, social cohesion, shared values and our cultural identity and heritage.

The chief pull factor of Reform UK is the party’s manifesto or ‘Draft Contract’.  This is a list of policies that less than 20 years ago would have been quite at home in the Conservative Party manifesto, but nowadays actually looks quite radical for them. 

The Draft Contract promises, amongst other things, to reduce immigration, grow the economy, cut taxes, eliminate NHS waiting lists, reduce crime, address waste in the civil service, boost small businesses and reduce energy costs.

In the current climate of a lack of confidence and self-belief in our political class and system and with a perception that both of the mainstream parties are basically offering a narrative of managed decline, even if Reform UK were only able to implement only 50% of these policies, that will be a reason to celebrate.

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Reform UK Draft Contract

The Draft ‘Contract with You‘ is based on common sense and addresses the key issues and challenges that face our society and country with simple, workable solutions that just need courage and the political will to implement them.  These are both characteristics which the two main political parties abandoned long ago.

The ideas and policies in the draft contract challenge the current liberal orthodoxy and agenda, that prevails in Westminster, the media, public institutions and in most large metropolitan areas. 

This is one of the reasons why I think left-wing Marxists organisations like Hope not Hate, the Good Law Project and others have been so aggressively targeting candidates in Reform UK – they see us quite rightly as a threat to their progressive world view.

Many in the media and other political groups are trying to label Reform UK as a populist party, and in the same breath dismiss us as being irrelevant or that people should not take our ideas seriously.  But Reform UK policies resonate with the silent majority – the body of voters from both right and left who are normally not that interested in politics, but speak decisively now and again. 

In the way that they did in 2016 at the Brexit referendum and then again at 2019 general election to provide Boris Johnson with an 80 seat-majority, which was an agenda for change that he sadly frittered away.  As I said to the media the day that I defected, Reform UK is the new home of conservatism in the UK.

And it is not just the policies.  As an insurgent, grass roots movement, the members, activists and candidates are ordinary citizens – like me – who have basically had enough and decided to step up, as the slogan says to: ‘Save Britain’ from a path of self-destruction. 

Coming from a large, well-funded political organisation to now being part of a group of people who care passionately about their local area and communities, who believe in the cause and the politics is so refreshing.  This is a political movement that is completely connected with its grass roots, because they are one and the same.

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Reform UK – People First, Party Second

In keeping with so many other commentators, I believe the Conservative Party has lost its way and forgotten who it is and what it stands for.  And like many traditional conservative voters, I recall feeling troubled and uneasy about introducing a legal requirement to achieve Net Zero by 2050, not because I am a climate change denier (I am not) or that I don’t care about the environment (I care deeply) but because instinctively as a conservative, I knew that making this law was the wrong approach.

This would drive an agenda for spending, social change and threaten basic freedoms and civil liberties on a scale previously unimaginable in peace time before the Covid lockdowns.

Then there is the ‘party-first’ culture that plagues the Conservative Party’ way of treating candidates and the party faithful.  This expresses itself as an unspoken demand for unquestioning loyalty and obedience, which is both demanded, expected and prized.  Perhaps this has originated in the Party’s elitist roots of being populated by so many alumni of the public school system.

For someone like me who was state school educated and proud of it – I found this system alien and arrogant – loyalty, like respect, has to be earned before it is given.  There is something warped about an organisation that exists to represent people politically, yet places a greater importance on its own self-interest and survival than the wellbeing of the country, constituents and even its own members.

When Have Tories Ever Defected to Labour in a Two Party System?

And if we needed any more evidence that there is not much more than a fag-paper between the Conservative Party and Labour in terms of policies and approach to almost everything it is the defection of not one, but two Conservative MP’s to Labour in the current parliament.  Most recently, Dr Dan Poulter MP (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich and a former minister, no less), but lets not forget Christian Wakeford MP (Bury South) back in 2022.

Whatever their individual circumstances or reasons, you cannot escape the fact that less than 20 years ago, this would have been unthinkable – not because sitting MP’s don’t occasionally defect, but that the two Parties politics and world views were fundamentally irreconcilable – defections of this kind were just not credible.

And finally, I also note with some irony, that the One Nation Tories, that group of centrist Conservative MP’s (led by Damian Green MP) who are one of the largest factions within the parliamentary party and from which most, if not all of the current Cabinet and Party hierarchy are drawn – are increasingly quoting and ‘channeling’ Margaret Thatcher to legitimise their claim that their centrist approach makes them the true heirs of Thatcherite conservatism.

But in fact Thatcher was associated with the ‘New Right’ movement of the 1980’s that included the likes of Ronald Reagan.  I do not think that Thatcher would have been a fan of the current raft of luke-warm soft socialist policies that have been delivered under successive conservative Prime Ministers from Cameron right up to Sunak.  No, because if Margaret Thatcher were alive today, she would most definitely be leading Reform UK.

Find out more about Dan Barker at: https://www.reformparty.uk/dan-barker-greater-manchester-mayoral-candidate-reform-uk