How Reform UK won over so many Gen Z men (2024)

How Reform UK won over so many Gen Z men (2)

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While the majority of young people plan to vote Green or Labour this week, support for Nigel Farage’s right-wing party is surging among 18- to 24-year-old men

TextSerena Smith

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As growing numbers of Gen Z enter the electorate, it’s becoming ever clearer that young people’s political beliefs are difficult to pin down. While most right-wing rags still depict us as finger-wagging puriteens who squander all our money on oat milk and Ryanair flights, the reality is – obviously – a little more complicated than that.

It is true that the majority of young people are progressive, with one poll estimating that 49 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds are planning to vote Labour on July 4. Unsurprisingly, the same poll estimates that just 5 per cent are set to vote Conservative. What is shocking is that around 12 per cent back Reform, meaning Nigel Farage’s right-wing party is more popular than the Tories among the young. Our own poll, published today, found the Greens to be the most popular on 40 per cent, with Reform coming fourth (still beating the Tories) on 3.4 per cent.

Support for Reform has surged among young people over the past few weeks, in part thanks to the party’s impressive TikTok presence. While the Labour Party has 207,000 followers on the app – the most of any major political party – Reform aren’t far behind with their 200,000 followers. The Tories, by contrast, have a pitiful 68,0000. Followers aside, it’s been reported that videos on the Reform TikTok account have the best rates of engagement and views out of all parties. According to the Guardian, Farage’s posts have “garnered more interactions per video than Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s Zarah Sultana and the Greens’ Carla Denyer put together.” (It’s worth acknowledging, however, that the BBC have suggested that bots could be driving the party’s social media success.)

But Reform’s mounting popularity among Gen Z isn’t merely down to a savvy social media campaign, bots or no bots. For the last 14 years, the concerns of young people have been kicked into the long grass and we’re now at a point where well-paid, secure, and fulfilling jobs are like gold dust – even if you’ve slogged away at a degree for three years – and winning one of those million-pound Omaze houses seems like the most realistic way of getting on the property ladder. While many young people recognise these issues have stemmed from years of Tory neglect, others have been taken in by Reform’s rhetoric which largely blames immigration.

“People have very legitimate anxieties about the state of their communities,” says Dr Dan Evans, a sociologist at Swansea University and author of A Nation of Shopkeepers: The Unstoppable Rise of the Petty Bourgeoisie. “So when Farage says there’s going to be less immigration, chances are people will think ‘well, that means more frontline services are going to be freed up and I might get higher wages’.” He adds that Keir Starmer’s uninspiring policies are essentially just offering more “managed decline”, while Farage has positioned himself as the candidate offering something radically different. “So many people are being funnelled towards right-wing populists like Farage because the left are so useless at the moment.”

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Evans adds that he isn’t surprised Farage has found a small but significant fanbase among the young in particular. “The stuff about ‘Generation Left’ was always wrong,” he says. “This idea that youth are innately left-wing is just rubbish. I think a lot of young people are just upset and desperate for a change – for a time that was offered by Corbyn, but now change is coming in the form of a snake oil salesman like Farage.”

This tracks with what is happening across the West as young people grow increasingly disillusioned with moderate politics. Youth support for Donald Trump is beginning to pick up in the US; Germans under 25 lent the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party 16 per cent of their vote in the European elections; Geert Wilders coasted to power in the Netherlands last year with the help of the youth vote; and most recently, young people were more likely to vote for Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party than the centrist coalition in the first round of the French election. Until recently, it looked unlikely that Gen Z in the UK would follow suit after experiencing living standards nosedive over the course of the last 14 years of Tory rule. But Farage has a unique ability to tap into alienation and win over the disenfranchised – and he’s succeeding, as evidenced by surging youth support for Reform since he replaced Richard Tice as party leader.

Notably, a separate YouGov poll highlights that young men are much more likely to support Reform than young women, a trend which Evans puts down to Farage’s persona. “He’s a bit of a bloke,” Evans says, explaining that his meticulously crafted image as a ‘man of the people’ has attracted voters who are instinctively repelled by slicker political leaders like Rishi Sunak and Starmer – despite the fact that Farage went to one of the most expensive private schools in the UK and worked as a City trader before entering politics. “You see him posing with women, drinking pints on TikTok, smoking. He’s jovial, he’s jocular, he’s patriotic. There’s definitely an element of him being a bit of a masculine ‘lad’, in a similar way to Boris Johnson.” Evans adds that Farage likely appeals to the growing numbers of young men who are attracted to resurgent “British nationalism” as he is so unabashed about his own patriotism.

Dr Jilly Kay, Senior Lecturer in Communication and Media at Loughborough University, affirms Evans’ point that many are drawn to Reform’s clear-cut messaging in today’s turbulent political climate and adds that this is especially true for young men who feel unsure of their place in 21st-century society. “Some young men are attracted to Reform partly because they seem to offer concrete solutions in a world of disorder and uncertainty,” she explains.

“Many men are angry and resentful that the things they felt were promised to them – upward social mobility, economic and social power – have not materialised” – Dr Jilly Kay

It’s worth reiterating that Farage isn’t appealing to all Gen Z men – according to YouGov, both Labour and the Greens are more popular than Reform among 18- to 24-year-old men. Farage’s party attracts a very specific breed of young man: a materially aspirant, socially conservative member of the petty bourgeoisie who lives outside a major city – or ‘Deano’. “It’s mainly the lower-middle classes that are voting for right-wing populism,” Dr Evans explains. “It’s people living in new build estates, Barratt Britain, people working in call centres. That’s what the UK looks like now, but the left still don’t really understand it or understand what motivates these people. But Margaret Thatcher understood it, and Farage definitely understands it.”

“Back in the 80s Thatcher identified this class as key to basically getting into power,” he continues. “Thatcher’s ideology is rooted in these bourgeois values about thrift, hard work, a dislike of state bureaucracy, a strong dislike of the working class – who they see as being lazy – and also a dislike of the professional middle-classes, who they similarly see as being lazy and useless. This is the class that she came from – she was a grocer’s daughter.” Today, Evans explains, this demographic has been ignored and alienated by “briefcase politicians” like Starmer and Sunak, leaving the door open for Farage to woo them.

There’s also considerable overlap between these young, male Reform supporters and fans of Andrew Tate, the misogynistic influencer currently awaiting trial in Romania on charges of rape and human trafficking (charges which he denies). Farage has allowed himself to be aligned with Tate: notably, in February he described Tate as a “very important voice” for young men during an appearance on a podcast. “There is a well-established and deep affinity between right-wing politics and misogyny,” Dr Kay says, adding that the recent resurgence of misogyny can only be fully understood by acknowledging rising economic precarity and social atomisation. “In these increasingly unstable conditions, many men are angry and resentful that the things they felt were promised to them – upward social mobility, economic and social power – have not materialised.”

She adds that parties like Reform can have “potent” appeal for young men who feel “powerless and adrift”, and stresses that this widespread alienation must be addressed if we want to see an end to misogyny and hate. “Many people point to the need for more and better education – which certainly can play a role here – but I also think that we need to look at material conditions and how these can be made fairer and more equal for all people,” she says. “This is not to excuse misogyny or right-wing rhetoric, but simply to recognise that it flourishes in conditions of inequality and insecurity.”

It can feel tempting to sneer at young Reform voters for being so small-minded, so naïve, so insular. But these people share many concerns with those of us on the left, from house prices to job security to Levelling Up to the NHS. If we’re serious about strangling Reform in its cradle, we shouldn’t pour scorn on those taken in by Farage’s populist rhetoric: we should strive to tackle these issues at the root and re-engage the swathes of disillusioned young people who are being driven into the arms of these extreme parties.

Thankfully, Reform is unlikely to gain much political power in the upcoming election, so we needn’t worry about their repugnant ideas becoming reality any time soon. But the party’s burgeoning popularity hints at a more pressing issue: young people are so desperate for any semblance of real change that they’ll vote for human hand grenades like Farage just to inject some dynamism into our broken two-party system. Now, it’s up to politicians on the left to counter Reform and come up with a fair, progressive – but equally radical – vision of Britain that can unite us all.

FeatureNigel Faragegeneral-election-2024politicalLabourConservativesright-wing

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How Reform UK won over so many Gen Z men (2024)

FAQs

What are Reform UK trying to do? ›

Farage's six-week campaign focused largely on freezing immigration and stopping small boats of refugees and migrants from crossing the English Channel to reach Britain from mainland Europe. Rather than a traditional manifesto, his party released a “contract with the people.”

Who is behind Reform UK? ›

Nigel Farage, a driving force behind Britain's Brexit movement and a confidant of former US President Donald Trump, has been elected to parliament for the first time, as his upstart right-wing Reform UK party looks to shake up the country's politics.

Is Nigel Farage involved in Reform UK? ›

With his Reform UK party poised to do better than expected according to an exit poll, Farage now has the chance to use the British parliament as his platform and is set on making his Reform UK party Britain's true opposition.

How many members has Reform UK got? ›

And while his party might not have matched the initial expectations of the exit poll which predicted a total tally of 13 seats, there will be four others alongside Mr Farage, pacing the corridors of power bearing the light blue of Reform UK.

Is Reform UK left or right? ›

Reform UK is a right-wing populist political party and registered private limited company in the United Kingdom.

What were the 5 reforms? ›

These reforms included promoting temperance, creating public school systems, improving the treatment of prisoners, the insane, and the poor, abolishing slavery, and gaining equal rights for women.

Does Reform UK support Brexit? ›

In all four seats won by Reform, more than 70% of people voted for Brexit. Reform UKs five MPs are: Nigel Farage, who won 21,225 votes - earning a 8,405 majority. Richard Tice, the Reform UK chairman, who overturned a 27,402 Tory majority to win Boston and Skegness, beating the incumbent MP by 2,010 votes.

Which party is right wing in the UK? ›

Conservative Party - A centre-right to right wing party which promotes British conservatism. Labour Party - A centre-left party which promotes social democracy and democratic socialism. Liberal Democrats - A centrist party which promotes liberalism and federalism.

Who started the reform in England? ›

The English Reformation was a gradual process begun by King Henry VIII (1509-1547) and continued, in various ways, by his three children and successors Edward VI (1547-1553), Mary Tudor (1553-1558), and Elizabeth I (1558-1603).

Is Nigel Farage Labour or conservative? ›

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage MP
Political partyReform UK (2019–present)
Other political affiliationsConservative (1978–1992) Anti-Federalist League (1992–1993) UKIP (1993–2018) Independent (2018–2019)
SpousesGráinne Hayes ​ ​ ( m. 1988; div. 1997)​ Kirsten Mehr ​ ​ ( m. 1999, separated)​
Domestic partnerLaure Ferrari
61 more rows

What was the democratic Reform in Britain? ›

It was known as the Great Reform Act, which basically gave the vote to middle class men, leaving working men disappointed. The Reform Act became law in response to years of criticism of the electoral system from those outside and inside Parliament. Elections in Britain were neither fair nor representative.

Did David Bull win the seat? ›

In March 2021, Bull was announced as the Reform UK candidate for the City and East constituency in the 2021 London Assembly election. He came fifth.

How many British people could vote after the implementation of Reform Act? ›

Voter registration was lacking, and many boroughs were rarely contested in elections. It is estimated that immediately before the 1832 Reform Act, 400,000 English subjects (people who lived in the country) were entitled to vote, and that after passage, the number rose to 650,000, an increase of more than 60%.

Who won the prime minister of the UK? ›

Sir Keir Starmer is the UK's new prime minister, after his Labour Party swept to power in a landslide general election victory.

Did the Tories win any seats in Scotland? ›

The Conservatives have retained their three seats across the south of Scotland at the general election. It was a long night at the count in Dumfries with declarations not coming until after 09:30 - among the latest in the whole of the UK.

What did the reform movement want? ›

Reforms on many issues — temperance, abolition, prison reform, women's rights, missionary work in the West — fomented groups dedicated to social improvements. Often these efforts had their roots in Protestant churches.

What did the British Reform Act do? ›

It was known as the Great Reform Act, which basically gave the vote to middle class men, leaving working men disappointed. The Reform Act became law in response to years of criticism of the electoral system from those outside and inside Parliament. Elections in Britain were neither fair nor representative.

What motivated reforms in Britain? ›

In the 19th century, Parliament made reforms to improve the lives of men, women and children in the poorer sections of society. Reformers within Parliament joined forces with campaigners outside in pressing for reform.

What is the law reform in the UK? ›

The Law Commission reviews areas of the law that have become unduly complicated, outdated or unfair. Following a process of research and consultation, the Commission makes recommendations for reform of the law to Government.

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