Nigel Farage pledges to run for PM in 2029 as Reform manifesto slated by economists

Nigel Farage has parked his tank firmly on Rishi Sunak’s lawn with a manifesto designed to win over disgruntled Tory supporters and an extraordinary prediction he will be prime minister after the 2029 election.

Launching Reform UK’s so-called “contract with the people”, the arch-Brexiteer appealed directly to right-wing voters with policies including a freeze on non-essential immigration, scrapping net zero targets and pulling Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

His controversial pledges came as one prospective candidate was forced to stand down over historical comments urging people to vote BNP, while another described Adolf Hitler as “brilliant”.

Jack Aaron, who is standing against defence secretary Grant Shapps in Welwyn Hatfield, made comments online praising Hitler’s “brilliant tactics”, while Syrian president Bashar-al Assad was “gentle by nature”.

While right-wingers revelled in Reform UK’s wishlist of pledges, economists and experts ripped it apart for its fantasy economics and dangerous high-carbon anti-net zero policies.

Sam Fankhauser, professor of climate economics and policy at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, told The Independent: “Reform UK would like Britain to be a high-carbon island in a low-carbon world, missing out on 21st-century technology, innovation and growth. Our own research shows that the UK can meet its 2030 net zero targets with just six to eight billion pounds of additional public sector investment a year – a small price to pay for a liveable planet.”

Meanwhile, the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) concluded that Reform’s sums “do not add up”.

Reform UK chairman Richard Tice (left) and party leader Nigel Farage launch ‘Our Contract with You’ in Merthyr Tydfil on Monday (PA)
Reform UK chairman Richard Tice (left) and party leader Nigel Farage launch ‘Our Contract with You’ in Merthyr Tydfil on Monday (PA)

IFS deputy director Carl Emmerson said the party’s planned spending cuts, such as its £50bn crackdown on “wasteful government spending”, would save less than stated, while the proposed tax cuts would cost tens of billions of pounds more.

He added: “Even with the extremely optimistic assumptions about how much economic growth would increase, the sums in this manifesto do not add up. While Reform’s manifesto gives a clear sense of priority, a government could only implement parts of this package, or would need to find other ways to help pay for it, which would mean losers not specified.”

The impact of Mr Farage on the campaign was underlined again as a Redfield and Wilton poll put Reform level with the Tories on 18 per cent, both well behind Labour on 43 per cent.

But it all came as anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain said Labour could stop Mr Farage in his tracks with a potential victory in Clacton if the electorate votes tactically.

Speaking ahead of the launch, the Reform leader said he was “launching a crusade to defend British values” and that the location was chosen “because it shows everyone exactly what happens to a country when Labour is in charge”.

In a sign that Reform’s policy document was not a serious programme for government, Mr Farage opened the event in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales, with an admission: “I’m not going to pretend we’re going to win.”

Instead, he announced that the policies were issues his party planned to pursue in his self-appointed role as the “opposition to Labour” as part of a campaign to ensure he is prime minister after the 2029 election.

Mr Farage lashed out at the soaring tax burden, touting £90bn per year worth of tax cuts for voters and a shake-up that would take 7 million people out of paying tax on their earnings altogether.

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The manifesto launch comes just days after Reform overtook the Tories for the first time in a national poll. It is still expected to win just one seat, with Mr Farage standing in Clacton, but threatens to deprive the Tories of majorities in tens of seats across the country.

In a sign of increasing panic over the rise of Reform in the polls, a Conservative Party spokesperson responded to the manifesto launch by saying a vote for Reform “risks delivering an unaccountable Labour majority”.

They added: “That would hand Keir Starmer a blank cheque to raise your taxes, take no action on illegal immigration, and even rejoin the EU, with no way to stop him.”

And the Tories warned that if Labour got in, it would remain in power for a generation.

Nigel Farage was criticised for spending more in the Reform UK manifesto than Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-Budget (PA Archive)
Nigel Farage was criticised for spending more in the Reform UK manifesto than Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-Budget (PA Archive)

Reform said its manifesto pledges would cost £141bn to implement, setting out proposals to save £146bn to fund them.

Tax expert Dan Neidle immediately noted that at least £38bn of Reform’s tax cuts were unfunded, about twice the unfunded cost of Liz Truss’s disastrous 2022 mini-Budget.

But Mr Farage insisted the document showed “radical, fresh, outside-the-box thinking”.

He said: “It’s not what you’re going to get from the current Labour and Conservative parties who are virtually indistinguishable, frankly, from each other.

“Is this radical fresh thinking on economics? Yes. Is it radical fresh thinking on constitutional change? Yes. Is it a very radical change in the way our education system is currently bringing up our young children? Yes.”

And, in a sign of Mr Farage’s package appealing to traditional Tory backers, the usually Conservative-supporting Taxpayers’ Alliance said the manifesto offered Brits “real relief”.

Mr Farage addressed criticism of the cost of the package by saying the party would merely be campaigning for the measures over five years as the voice of opposition to an expected Labour government.

The manifesto also delved into the so-called culture wars, promising a ban on “transgender ideology” in schools with “gender questioning, social transitioning and pronoun swapping” prohibited.

Nigel Farage signs a copy of his party’s manifesto following its launch in Merthyr Tydfil (PA Wire)
Nigel Farage signs a copy of his party’s manifesto following its launch in Merthyr Tydfil (PA Wire)

It also proposed a “patriotic curriculum”, which would include pairing the teaching of Britain’s history of slavery or European imperialism, with a non-European occurrence to “ensure balance”.

Reform promised to make St George’s Day and St David’s Day public holidays, pledged a Free Speech Bill to “stop left-wing bias and politically correct ideology” and said it would scrap the TV licence, which funds the BBC. It also vowed to fast-track North Sea oil and gas licences.

Mr Farage added that Reform wants to “simplify” the UK’s tax system, which it says totals more than 21,000 pages, while Hong Kong’s is 500 pages.

The party is also proposing to lift the minimum profit threshold to £100,000 and reduce the main corporation tax rate from 25 per cent to 15 per cent in three years, which it says would “free” 1.2 million businesses.

Elsewhere, it promises to abolish business rates for small and medium businesses by introducing an “online delivery tax” of 4 per cent for large companies.

Mr Farage’s party also pledges to cut fuel duty by 20p per litre, scrap VAT on energy bills, scrap stamp duty on sales below £750,000 and ditch income tax for those earning less than £20,000.

The document also states that inheritance tax would be scrapped for 98 per cent of all estates.