Reform UK’s ‘radical’ election manifesto sums criticised by spending analysts

Nigel Farage launches his party’s offering for the July 4th poll in Wales, upstaging Labour and the Tories

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage announcing his party's manifesto in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales on Monday. Photograph: EPA

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak returned to the campaign trail on Monday following the G7 meeting in Italy, while Labour leader Keir Starmer and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves turned their focus to the economy.

Both main parties, however, were eclipsed yet again by Nigel Farage’s Reform UK, which launched its election manifesto in Wales amid a blizzard of publicity and crowd-pleasing promises.

Mr Farage, reinstalled as Reform’s leader three weeks ago, was followed by much of the Westminster press pack to the old mining town of Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales for the launch of the party’s manifesto, which it calls its “contract” with voters.

“It’s radical [and] fresh thinking. It’s outside the box,” said the Reform leader as he published the document, which promised tax cuts of about £90 billion (€107 billion) and spending increases of £50 billion.


Later, financial analysts at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank said Reform’s numbers “don’t add up” and its calculations were out by “tens of billions of pounds” per year.

Reform’s pledges include abolishing income tax for people earning under £20,000, the scrapping of net-zero climate targets, and a promise to block all “non-essential” legal immigration to the UK. It also said it would scrap the BBC license fee, take Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights, and detain and deport illegal migrants and refugees.

It claimed it could fund much of its plan with £30 billion of savings by scrapping green targets while a further £35 billion could be raised by terminating interest payments to big banks that own UK government bonds.

“Even with the extremely optimistic assumptions about how much economic growth would increase, the sums in this manifesto do not add up,” said the IFS. “The package as a whole is problematic. Spending reductions would save less than stated and the tax cuts would cost more than stated, by a margin of tens of billions of pounds per year.”

Mr Farage said he chose Wales for the launch because its devolved government is run by Labour, which he claimed “wastes even more money than Conservative governments do”.

Wales, which voted in favour of Brexit, is also seen by Reform as a region where it can grow its influence. Merthyr Tydfil is the hub of the economically-deprived region known colloquially as “the Valleys”, with a concentration of voters in demographic groups similar to the profile of many Reform supporters in England – white and working class.

Mr Sunak campaigned in the midlands and north of England on Monday, where he insisted that the Tories can still win the election, despite being more than 20 points behind Labour in most polls. Meanwhile, Mr Starmer and Ms Reeves travelled to the port in Southampton – Mr Sunak’s hometown – where they held a question-and-answer session with dock workers.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is London Correspondent for The Irish Times