What is Reform UK? Could it really put Labour in No10? And what about Galloway?

Richard Tice, who leads Reform UK, and Workers Party of Britain leader George Galloway both have high hopes for this year's general election. Credit: PA

A new-ish right-wing political party is cementing itself as an electoral force in the UK - but what is Reform UK and can it really have an impact on the general election?

Many people may not have heard of it yet, but they will certainly have heard of its honorary president Nigel Farage - and the party's performance in the local elections suggests Rishi Sunak should be worried.

The Conservatives have already lost one MP to Reform UK - Ashford's Lee Anderson, who defected in March - and the results in England's local elections and Blackpool South's by-election suggests many former Tory voters are going the same way.

Reform was just over 100 votes behind the Tories in Blackpool South, where Labour won, splitting support from the right.

The Conservatives are so concerned about the party that is issued this warning: "A vote for Reform is a vote for Sir Keir Starmer – taking us right back to square one.”

There is, however, a party parallel to Reform on the left of the political spectrum - and Mr Sunak will be hoping George Galloway's Workers Party of Britain can have a similar impact on Labour.

Both parties have high hopes for this year's general election, which is expected to be held in the second half of the year, although the exact date is still unconfirmed.

What is Reform UK and who are the key players?

The party changed its name from the Brexit Party after the UK officially left the European Union, and Mr Farage stood down as its leader.

He was replaced by businessman Richard Tice, who until recently was not a name known beyond Westminster.

But the party recently got its first Member of Parliament, convincing Lee Anderson to join after he was suspended by the Conservatives for refusing to apologise for controversial remarks about London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Mr Anderson, who was once a Labour councillor before joining the Tories, thinks his new party can overtake his former party.

"We’re going up and the Conservative Party is coming down," he said after learning the result in Blackpool South.

"We’re going to meet at some point. We’ve already met it in places in the north and in the Midlands.

"I think with a general election probably four or five months away, then we’re going to surpass them."

The party has been campaigning on issues such as low taxation and low migration, with a reputation for being anti-woke.

What impact can Reform UK have?

The Brexit Party never gave itself an opportunity to compete against the Conservatives because Mr Farage decided not to stand candidates in seats held by the Tories because Boris Johnson, who was leader at the time, was campaigning to swiftly leave the EU.

Reform UK has said it will not be doing that again this time around, with Mr Tice insisting there will be no electoral pacts.

Asked what Reform UK aimed to achieve at a general election, party leader Mr Tice said: “As many votes as possible. To secure some seats.

“Frankly, it would be a really good time for us to get more votes cast than the Conservative Party.

“You have to be optimistic. It’s ambitious but it’s well doable given the trend of our polling, the progress.

“Bear in mind there is probably a third of the country who have still never heard of us. So, if you think what we are polling and what we are achieving when people have not heard of us, in a sense it just shows there is a huge amount of extra growth and votes to go for.”

Reform's chance of having an impact at the general election will be significantly boosted if honorary president Mr Farage decides, as is expected, to return to front-line campaigning.

ITV’s elections expert Colin Rallings said if the Reform UK was to replicate its Blackpool South performance across the country at the general election, it would be “disastrous” for the Tories.

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What about George Galloway's Workers Party?

There's another new force in British politics who many younger voters will never have heard of but older Britons will almost certainly be aware of George Galloway.

The man who founded and leads the Workers Party of Britain was a Labour MP before being booted out by Tony Blair over his opposition to the Iraq war but he went on to win two by-elections standing for the Respect Party.

He formed the left-wing Workers Party of Britain in 2019 and became its first MP this year after winning a the Rochdale by election in March on a ticket supporting Gaza in the middle-east conflict.

Despite being on the opposite side of politics to Reform UK, the similarities are striking.

Mr Galloway also campaigned for Brexit, he too describes himself as anti-woke, and like Mr Tice, believes his party can have a significant impact on the general election.

How much will impact will the Gaza conflict have in the UK?

Mr Galloway's success in Rochdale, where there is a large Asian population, has been put down to his support for Gaza - and its thought the conflict could have a real impact on who holds power in the UK.

Labour lost control of Oldham in the local elections, with pro-Palestinian independents winning a number of seats.

When Mr Galloway won in Rochdale, he declared "this is for Gaza" - and has repeatedly supported Palestinians while speaking in the House of Commons.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was “concerned wherever we lose votes” after reports his party’s stance on Gaza had cost some seats at the local elections.

Mr Galloway said: “We’re set to win big in Manchester City Council, with my candidate Shahbaz Sarwar set to knock out the Labour Deputy Leader in a stunning upset.

“We’ve broken through on Rochdale Council, with our new Council group set to be announced later on this afternoon.

“And our candidate in the West Midlands looks like he may have cost Labour the Mayoralty.

“I said Keir Starmer would pay a high price for his betrayal on Palestine. Today is the start of that.”

His party has so far won at least two council seats in the Rochdale area and is hoping for more.

'We will have the same impact on Labour that Reform has on the Tories', Galloway insists

The firebrand politician recently announced his party would stand candidates in up to 500 seats across the UK in this year's general election.

Mr Galloway said: “We will have the same impact on Labour that Mr Farage and the Reform party are likely to have on the Conservatives.

“We will win seats, but in potentially hundreds of seats, we will materially affect the results.”

Mr Galloway also said he was in talks with three Labour MPs and a peer about defecting.

Mr Galloway said his party was “quite confident that in the vast majority of seats in England – except those that we’ve decided not to stand in for political reasons – that we will be on the ballot”.

“And so people will not have to choose between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. They’ll have a genuine choice. And we think that’s our duty to offer that.”

One seat where the party will not stand is Islington North, if former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn runs as an independent.

“We would like him to lead an alliance of socialist political forces, he is the ideal man for that,” Mr Galloway said.