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Is the Media Helping Richard Tice Sanitise Far-Right Responses to Immigration?

Adam Barnett wonders why the Reform Party and its leader are treated as mainstream when they’re not

Reform Party Leader Richard Tice outside the BBC after appearing on Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg. Photo: ZUMA Press, Inc/Alamy

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Life is good for Richard Tice. The leader of Reform UK has it all: money, power, a beautiful girlfriend, and his own TV show. So why is he so angry?

It’s a question not asked by the media. In TV interviews, Tice is never grilled, but merely warmed by the light of the camera. Now Reform UK is polling at ten per cent, the party is being “taken seriously”. What that means in practice is not more scrutiny, but more attention — and the sanitization of a party of the far-right.

When the Office for National Statistics released new immigration data in November, showing a record 672,000 net migration in the year to June, Tice was invited on to the BBC and Sky News to offer his response.

In the same month, Tice was the subject of a respectful profile in the centre-left New Statesman. Nigel Farage, Tice’s friend and Reform UK’s honourary president, was beamed into seven million homes on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

Tice’s partner, Talk TV journalist Isabel Oakshott, appeared on the BBC’s ‘Question Time’, where she expounded Reform’s unique policy of “net zero immigration” and defended Farage’s grumble in the jungle. ” Tice was back on the BBC himself earlier this month, talking migration on Newsnight.

How has Tice used this newfound media interest? “These huge mass immigration numbers are changing the nature of our country”, he mused on the BBC’s ‘Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday’: “It’s making us poorer financially and it’s making us poorer culturally.” Culturally?

“I think that sense of Britishness”, he went on, “who we are, our heritage, our history, our Christian values and ethos.” Over on Sky News’ ‘Sunday with Sophy Ridge’, Tice called for a “one in, one out” system of “net zero immigration” (there it is again), and claimed Labour and the Conservatives represent “two different forms of socialism”.

In all of these media slots, Tice was presented as a tough but serious voice on migration and a thorn in the side of Rishi Sunak. With his nice suit and polished media style, one could mistake Tice for a Conservative backbencher — a minority figure, but safely part of mainstream politics. Yet a glance at Tice’s social media, and his output as a host on GB News, reveals a different picture.


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The Mask Slips…

It’s on GB News that you’ll see a hot fury at the state of modern Britain. In videos on Twitter (currently X), Tice glares out of the screen, eyes wide, finger jabbing. Against a Union Jack backdrop, Tice barks about the UK’s “con-socialist” government, “climate change nonsense”, and “open borders” immigration.

On GB News — a channel owned by millionaire hedge funder Paul Marshall and Dubai-based investment firm Legatum Group — Tice often responds to the mildest challenge from guests or interviewers by yelling as if he’s been physically wounded.

When given free rein on GB News, he talks like this: “People want action, they want this stopped. Up and down this country, communities are having their lives, their high streets, blighted, by having these young men of military age being dumped into their communities, and there is a huge amount of suffering, of sadly resentment growing, people feel it’s unfair.”

It’s a bit rich to warn of growing public “resentment” when that’s so clearly your bread and butter. But the key phrase here is “young men of military age” — it smacks of race-baiting and incitement one suspects he would not have tried on the BBC.

When you add Reform’s pledge to “declare a national emergency” over people crossing the Channel in small boats, and its revival of Farage’s “breaking point” poster from the EU referendum, the picture sharpens. (It’s worth recalling that Tice helped to poison the Brexit campaign by co-founding Farage’s Leave.EU with Aaron Banks.)

If Tice is ever too cryptic, Reform’s co-deputy leader Ben Habib will spell it out for you. In a Daily Express article in August, Habib took up the US right’s holy war against Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies: “They are promoting people from different ethnic minorities, religious backgrounds and sexual preferences even if doing so would be to the detriment of their organisations and the exclusion of the ethnic majority.” Yikes. Habib goes on to call these alleged policies “an extreme form of socialism”.

Chatting migration on GB News the other day, Habib said: “We’re effectively being required, as the dominant culture in the country, to take the knee to these ethnic minority cultures, and ethnic religions.”

Note the term “take the knee”, which again borrows from the race politics of the United States, turning NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racism into a symbol of white humiliation.

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Repeating the Farage Mistake

None of this should be a surprise from a party founded by ‘I’m a Celeb’ star Nigel Farage, who made a career out of racist scare stories, from his “Romanian crime wave”, migrants with HIV exploiting the NHS, to Muslim rapists attacking British women.

It doesn’t take much digging to find these quotes, which are not easily squared with Reform’s image as a normal party with reasonable concerns about immigration. The same goes for Reform’s claim to push for “common sense” on net zero climate targets, when its leader praises CO2 emissions as “plant food”, and as DeSmog has reported, all Reform’s donors this year are either climate deniers or have business in fossil fuels.

As for being an “anti-elitist” party on the side of ordinary people, how does this fit with its policies to crack down on non-existent electoral fraud by postal votes (another US import), to “abolish inheritance tax for all estates under £2 million, 98% of estates”, or to scrap the windfall tax on oil and gas companies? All of these are easy to find in the party’s manifesto, along with the false claim that “the vast majority of [asylum] claimants are economic migrants or from Albania under the oversight of their criminal gangs”.

But the good manners of British politics have the effect of sanitizing anyone, however crackpotted, who has some claim to legitimacy, whether that’s a job at a think tank or media outlet — or in Reform’s case, a bump in the polls.

Having nurtured the careers of every demagogue and chancer from Boris Johnson to Nigel Farage, hacks are almost eager to repeat their mistake. The media’s learning curve is long, and it bends toward potential fascists.

It’s also an indictment of the post-Brexit ecosystem, which has moved so far to the right that Reform’s racist demagogy and paranoid red-baiting can pass as normal conservative politics.

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Changing the Terms of the Debate

In a country where the Government is keeping refugees in a prison ship, and trying to break international law to deport them to Rwanda, the Faragists are both a cause and an effect. Having scared the Conservatives into moving to the right, they shout from the wings and raise their demands.

The mistake was to grant their first premise, so that the question isn’t “Should we crack down on immigration?” but “Have we gone far enough to do so?” As British schoolchildren are taught in history lessons, you can’t appease the far-right. But that hasn’t stopped the British government from trying, and they’ve painted themselves into a corner with nowhere else to go.

Reform can’t be ignored. The issue is not whether its politicians and fans should be “platformed”, but how. If we’re going to be told Reform UK is electorally important, it’s beyond time its spokespeople were asked some proper questions.

For example, does Tice agree with his deputy’s babble about socialist plots against Britain’s “ethnic majority”? Why should anyone buy Tice’s pose as a champion of working people when he is paid by hedge funds and campaigns for dirty air, voter suppression and tax cuts for the rich? And what the hell does migrants being “of military age” have to do with immigration’s effect on housing and public services? 

It’s not clear whether Richard Tice is an angry man or just plays one on TV. But given his far-right agenda, perhaps it’s time journalists gave him something to be angry about. 

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