Monday, July 15, 2024
HomeElection WatchDavid v Goliath: A Reform candidate’s report from the front line

David v Goliath: A Reform candidate’s report from the front line


IT SEEMS the gloves are coming off in Swansea West, where I am standing as parliamentary candidate for Reform UK against left-wing uber-apparatchik Torsten Bell.

An article on the website (part-funded by the Labour Welsh Government so no conflict of interest there) has chosen to highlight that I live some distance from Swansea, just as I stated on my candidacy form. Where the scribbler of this comment piece got it wrong is that it’s impossible for Reform to ‘parachute’ a candidate into a safe seat because, as a new party, we have no safe seats despite the rapidly increasing numbers of supporters, including in Swansea West.

It is true that I live even further from Swansea than Torsten Bell but the difference between us is that I am planning to relocate to the area. Not for form’s sake but because I want to represent the place I will live in. The place Bell by contrast wants to live in, I strongly suspect, is 10 Downing Street – the ‘safe’ Swansea West his route there, relying on a historically vast Labour vote to win power.

He might find he has a bit of a problem with that, however. He, like his former master, Ed Miliband, is a big fan of Net Zero, which is about to destroy nearly 3,000 jobs at the Tata steel works in nearby Port Talbot as a result of the company’s ‘green’ restructuring plans – which Labour should love. Tata, however, a couple of weeks ago, revealed quite hypocritical calls from the Labour Party asking them to delay this until after the upcoming general election. Tata refused. They are pressing on with shutting off blast furnaces, moving to a ‘greener’ form of production, using an electric arc furnace (a cool £1.25billion investment) which Net Zero Labour should be praising them for – never mind there is no guaranteed electricity for it – except it needs far, far fewer workers. Many of those who will lose their jobs live in Swansea. Never mind that only a blast furnace can convert iron ore to steel – such technical matters aren’t taught on the “elite” PPE course. Mere Chemistry won’t impede Torsten’s progress.

At a recent climate hustings in Swansea Mr Bell smoothly glossed over this catastrophe for the local economy (and indeed for national security) while impossibly promising a carbon-free grid by 2030. There was no chance for me to attack Labour’s self-serving and shameless hypocrisy in asking Tata to delay the decision. The format of the event precluded me challenging him, and his minder team prudently escorted him away to join an ‘urgent Zoom’ before the meeting ended.

What he didn’t reveal to his Swansea audience – maybe not to the Tata bosses either – is that delivering the Labour carbon-free grid by 2030 needs either five Sizewell Cs or the doubling of the capacity of the UK’s wind generation (which doesn’t contribute to the grid on windless days) within the next five years, which is more than optimistic despite the millions in subsidies. Nor did he state (if he knows any of these facts) that the UK hasn’t commissioned a single nuclear power station in 30 years and it’s taken 20 years to build the current capacity. The bottom line is that the Labour green policy is expensive and wasteful drivel. 

Whichever way politicians choose to go on increasing the necessary energy capacity – nuclear or windfarm – both options require vast amounts of steel, yet the closure of the Port Talbot blast furnaces means the UK cannot make primary steel and its transition. The proposal is ludicrous, yet none of the mainstream media seems (yet) to be attacking it. GB News and Jeremy Clarkson are the exception – but the MSM hate them almost as much as they hate Reform. Tata should take note.

I don’t have the budget to commission polls in Swansea West. The Labour Party machine is swinging in behind Bell, no wonder with all this potential egg on his face and the ire of the Swansea voters well aware of this double betrayal. Labour having just completed the Police Commissioner elections (Reform doesn’t believe in them) are well-honed, albeit tired. The other main parties are in similar condition. By contrast we started building the Swansea West Reform Party from scratch when Reform was formed with me playing David to the Labour Goliath.

It doesn’t feel like it, though. Since June 1 Reform’s Swansea membership has doubled in size and our team have hand-delivered more than 10,000 leaflets so far. In an Indian restaurant the owner told me he, his family and friends were all voting Reform. In an Irish pub the security guys and many of the twentysomething customers told me they would too. And yes, they were all registered to vote.

The restaurant people told me they were utterly sick of Labour – the Senedd has been dominated by them since it was founded. Despite the additional Barnett funding health, education and other public services are all worse in Wales than in the rest of the UK. The Welsh have had 30 years of Starmageddon and they don’t like it.

As Plaid Cymru have been in partnership with them for much of that time, the nationalist stock is pretty low. The LibDems and the Tories have their faithful, but the established parties are dying. One Swansea ward (Uplands) formed their own party for the local elections and won all the seats. That chimes with what the restaurateur also said: he’s fed up with professional politicians who live in the SW1 bubble.

I’m not one of them, my career having covered the Army, finance, IT, defence, manufacturing, green energy and real estate. As a CEO I’ve built companies from scratch, had some collapse and have saved others. Currently I’m an HGV driver who writes a bit. Torsten Bell is the archetypal pro: Oxford (PPE), Treasury, SPAD, Westminster think-tank and now (almost) MP. Next stop Downing Street.

Labour’s lunatic policies have given me some serious slingstones but it’s the Senedd and professional politicians who might be the undoing of Bell’s ambition. I don’t think the polls are tracking correctly and on this (and only this) George Galloway agrees with me. His canvassing and door-knocking is showing 50 per cent support for Reform in some wards in Rochdale. 

If Bell’s polling is showing anything like the same it would explain a feeling I got when we met. For all his likely majority, his brilliance and his powerful team, he’s worried – if not frightened. He should be, once the already restive voters cotton on to Labour’s double dealing and Net Zero trashing of their jobs. No, they may well not deliver him his hoped-for massive majority.

Heck, he might even lose.

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here. He is the Reform Parliamentary Candidate for Swansea West.

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