Countering extremes

A JL Partners poll of 16-17-year-olds suggests that almost one in four would vote for Reform UK. Reform is standing candidates in most seats at the General election, including its recently announced leader, Nigel Farage, who is standing for election to Westminster for the ninth time.

The party standing on a platform of zero net migration and the scrapping of net zero targets are a “start-up”, according to Farage, who is leading the party for the second time.

However, this claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Reform was originally incorporated five and a half years ago as the Brexit Party and contested the EU elections in 2019 under the leadership of Farage, who became a director of The Brexit Party Limited in March of the same year. This history is crucial for understanding the party’s evolution. In January 2021, it was renamed and rebranded as Reform UK, with the limited company also renamed Reform UK Party Limited.

The party has been dogged by claims of racism and bigotry, with several candidates having the support of the party withdrawn following evidence of unsavoury views becoming public.

Farage claims the party isn’t racist, pointing towards individuals from ethnic minorities who support his party. Still, it is fair to say the party attracts people whose views would be considered racist.

Support for parties at both extremes of the political spectrum has grown, with the centre ground being abandoned by many; evidence of this can be seen in the recent EU and French general elections.

Donald Trump, who was supported vigorously by Farage in his previous presidential campaigns, has been seen as a champion for the right, campaigning on an anti-immigration and climate sceptic platform. He refused to accept the result of the 2000 presidential election, which was seen as a critical factor behind the Capitol riots of January 2001.

So why are people attracted to these ideologies? Believing the climate emergency, particularly the man-made element, to be a hoax. Thinking that the National Health Service is struggling to cope with demand, that GP appointments are difficult to obtain, and that parents can’t place their children in their preferred schools due to uncontrolled immigration.

It is overly simplistic to attribute the pressures on the NHS solely to immigration. The NHS faces broader systemic challenges, including funding constraints, an ageing population, and increasing medical treatments and technology costs.

Parts of Wales see hospitals operating under immense pressure with extended waiting lists, yet many are in areas where the number of people coming into Wales from outside the UK is very small. A lack of social care provision leads to hospitals being unable to discharge patients back into the community. A shortage of available beds leads to blockages in the system, hence delays in accident and emergency departments.

The UK public views immigration positively when considering immigrants coming to the UK to work or study; these two groups make up most of the people coming to the UK from abroad.

Where people’s views become negative in the majority relates to illegal immigration, people coming in boats or stowing away in vehicles to cross the channel.

The public could be forgiven for thinking that most immigrants coming to the UK are doing so illegally based on the much-publicised statements of the Conservatives, Reform and, to a lesser extent, Labour. In 2023, of the 1.2 million coming to the UK, around 4% claimed asylum.

Immigration constantly comes up in vox pops as an issue, and polling places it fourth in the list of topics people prioritise when considering how they vote, with only health, the economy, and the cost of living ahead of it.

People’s trust in politicians is at an all-time low, and we are facing a critical juncture in Wales as we prepare for a new government in Westminster and with Senedd elections less than two years away.

16–17-year-olds can vote in Senedd elections, and today’s 14–15-year-olds will vote on Thursday, May 7th, 2026.

Young people are amongst a cohort of Welsh voters who need an independent, trusted, unbiased and politically neutral source of news and information to help them make sense of the Wales they live in.

That’s why Talking Wales is so important.

Do you agree?

Register your interest here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *