Wakefield local elections 2021: 'Populist' Reform UK claims it is 'more than just an anti-lockdown' movement
Reform UK insists it is "more than just an anti-lockdown party" as it fights for what would be its first ever seats on Wakefield Council.
The party, which has been rebranded from its predecessor The Brexit Party, is led nationally by Richard Tice, following the resignation of Nigel Farage earlier this year.
Having switched its line of attack from Euroscepticism to lockdown scepticism and calls for Covid restrictions to be lifted, Reform UK is now painting itself as "a genuine third option" on the ballot paper next to Labour and the Conservatives.
Local spokesman Waj Ali, who is one of two Reform UK candidates standing in the Wakefield district, said the party was targeting voters who are fed up with mainstream politicians.
He also insisted the organisation had a longer-term vision beyond Covid.
Mr Ali said: "We are a populist party but we have a manifesto, we have an agenda, we’ve an accountability pledge and we’ve a climate pledge.
"We’re more than just an anti-lockdown party. We’re known as Reform because we want to be integrated into the system where it’s not just a Tory-Labour fight.
"We’re a genuine third option and we will stay relevant.
"People don’t trust the main parties. You need to have a fresh approach.
"I believe if we get our councillors elected in the Wakefield district, we’ll do a hell of a job in creating an Opposition and in a few years time we hope we get enough numbers to challenge this Labour council.
"The Labour and Tory approach is ‘vote for us because we’re Labour and the Tories’."
Mr Ali attacked the Conservative government's handling of the pandemic, but denied the suggestion that Reform UK's approach to coronavirus was irresponsible or would result in more deaths.
He explained: "We’re saying no Covid passports and bring back liberty. Norway and Sweden have learnt how to live with this.
"I’m not a Covid denier, but how many millions of pounds have been spent on contracts for friends of Tory politicians or their nextdoor neighbours?"
"This is taxpayers' money. It could have been handled better and it still could be handled better.
"Something has to give. If you keep locking people up, they will rebel.
"Since the 2019 election no levelling up for the North has taken place. We were told the Houses of Parliament would be coming to York and that businesses would be coming here. Nothing's materialised."
Mr Ali says that the Conservatives "aren't an opposition" in Wakefield because "they agree with everything Labour is doing".
Labour he says, have "not done a good job locally".
He added: "Unfortunately, in Wakefield, they’ve killed the markets.
"We've got white elephants all around the district. The Hepworth Gallery is a vanity project. Labour is almost a vanity project in itself.
"They bought the Cineworld retail park. That (money) could have saved hundreds of livelihoods within the district.
"Instead of increasing spending on school budgets, they’re wasting this money on these vanity projects."
"It's the local authority’s job to focus on the real, practical needs of our residents.
"I’m hoping they see through the Labour facade that’s been going on for decades now."
This article is part of a series of profile pieces about the political parties and independent candidates standing in the local elections in Wakefield. Each profile will be published on our websites in turn in the run-up to polling day.
Reform UK candidates standing for Wakefield Council
Altofts and Whitwood - John Thomas
Hemsworth - Waj Ali
View the names of all candidates standing in your area here.Local Democracy Reporting Service