LAURENCE Fox became a political brand a year ago after challenging the woke bullies on BBC TV’s Question Time. In late September, he was bounced into revealing his plans for the Reclaim Party by incorrect reports that he was partnering with Nigel Farage.
One journalist wrote off the Reclaim Party as hypocritically divisive. Interviews with ITV News and Times Radio turned into character assassinations. By his account, I was first to ask about his politics.
First I asked, why couldn’t he remain an influencer? Fox has more than 250,000 followers on Twitter, and is active on it, but he worries about becoming the ‘pub bore’ who is always banging on about politics but doing nothing about it. He wants more than to influence followers: he wants to influence governance, which won’t happen without a party, he says.
He describes himself as combative, but a reformed egotist, humbled by what he needs to learn. ‘Because I am so passionate about it, every meeting I have is amazing.’ The first time I interviewed him, he had just finished a briefing on the Equality Act. He is taking lessons, literally, from ‘people who know better,’ although he is cagey about whom. After the second interview, I summarised his style as ‘suggestive and humble’.
Some of his advisers are comics, to inject humour into his political messaging. He often sounds idealistic in a selfless sense: ideals compel sacrifice; politics is a public service; he feels a ‘duty’ to represent those without influence but similarly victimised. He wants a better Britain for his kids. The struggle might last a couple generations.
Fox describes being approached over the summer by two financial backers, in sequence. The first asked him what he wanted to do with his politics, at a time when Fox was pondering some sort of online discussion forum. The second backer (formerly a supporter of the Brexit Party) suggested a new party. Laurence went for a walk with his father (actor James Fox) and his choice was confirmed.
He admits that Nigel Farage was one of many politicians with whom he lunched over the summer. Admiration is mutual, but Fox couldn’t see room for himself in the ‘Farage show’.
Fox admits to talking with the Conservative Party about becoming a prospective parliamentary candidate, but claims practical and philosophical objections. Practically, he doesn’t want to wait two years for the Conservative Party to process his candidacy. Philosophically, he doubts the party’s conservativism. He points to expansion of hate crimes and protected characteristics, de-policing of petty crimes, policy contradictions, and adoption of the slogan ‘Build Back Better’ (used by the World Economic Forum and America’s Democratic Party).
Fox defines conservatism as a preference to conserve. He keeps applying this conservation to culture, on which more in a moment. He describes himself as a cultural conservative and a social liberal. He defines liberalism as ‘freedom to make your own decisions, not to have someone else force you to make a decision’ or an identity. He sounds classical liberal whenever he rails against ‘authoritarianism’ in general and constraints on speech in particular. He sounds libertarian when he reduces government responsibilities to ‘staying out of the way of everything except what we want government to do,’ specifically policing by consent, infrastructure, and security.
Fox also describes himself as ‘progressive’, which needs some unpacking. Fox uses the word to mean being open to reasoned discussion about change. He praises progressives for gains in ‘tolerance’ and ‘equality,’ but sounds classical liberal every time he goes there. Before taking on the woke, Fox had worked out for himself his support for equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcomes. When pressed, Fox identifies with the ‘protective progressiveness’ of the early 20th century (when food standards, for instance, were regulated).
His explicit opposition to authoritarianism, identity politics, social justice warfare, critical race theory and postmodernism excludes him from current progressivism. He criticises the ‘regressive’ direction taken by current progressivism, and the ‘illiberal’ direction taken by progressive liberal oxymorons. He says he voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto in 2017, before realising Corbyn’s character. He was excited by Keir Starmer’s takeover, before Starmer took the knee and doubled down on whatever the Conservative government said.
Fox realizes that the Reclaim Party’s differentiation is ‘cultural’. He thinks no other party is really engaging in the culture wars (although he takes credit for provoking the Conservative Party to reaffirm the law on non-partisan education).
His party’s website was launched with a tag line of three words: Reason, Reform, Progress. (This was deleted in mid-December.) Fox wants reason, tolerance, ‘manners,’ ‘fairness,’ and ‘common sense’ to be taught in schools generally. He wants British history to be taught as a compulsory subject up to GSCE level. (He points out ‘there is no intersectionality’ in a British identity.) He would abolish Black History Month, given that other identities don’t have their own months. He would overturn hate crimes legislation and the Equality Act (which enables more inequalities than it solves). He wants to defund organisations for partisan and ‘toxic’ ideologies, specifically critical race theory, identity politics, de-platforming, unconscious bias training, race quotas, and statue-toppling. Fox describes the BBC as ‘too far gone’ (yes, he would cancel the licence fee). He often returns to his desire to ‘reclaim language’, to ‘reclaim our ability to have a conversation and robustly disagree with each other and not fear for your job’.
The first time I talked with Fox, he was signing the final round of paperwork from the Electoral Commission (November 13). He hopes to launch Reclaim this month, and is committed to fighting the local elections in May, even if his launch is late.
He is reluctant to specify his manifesto. He is still researching what should be in it. His best developed policies are on freedom of speech and education (Calvin Robinson is his only adviser to go public).
Moreover, he complains that the Brexit/Reform UK Party stole a policy idea he voiced in the first week of November. Both the Reclaim Party and Reform UK are anti-lockdown, pro-Barrington Declaration, anti-woke, and pro-free speech. Fox differentiates Reform UK as focused on opposing lockdown (and takes a dig at Farage initially supporting lockdown).
Fox is open to co-operation ‘in the national interest’. He foresees himself leveraging his personal brand, while Reform UK leverages its legacy organisational competencies. As of mid-November, the Brexit Party had more than 100,000 registered supporters, and more than 3,000 volunteers to be candidates in the local elections, while Reclaim already had 25,000 registered supporters, including 1,000 candidates.
Fox says he would stand as a candidate only ‘where we can really make an impact and demonstrate to the voting public what we would do on a broader campaign’. The ‘where’ would involve some acute cultural issue, he says. (I wonder about Scotland, given his loathing for the SNP’s bill to extend hate speech into private homes.) Intriguingly, he claims to be in discussion with former members of the Scottish Parliament, but declines to name them. He’s been in talks with Conservative MPs for longer, particularly the younger, more frustrated MPs, he says. He is open to their defection, although he has not pursued this.
Unlike Reform UK, Fox plans not to contest the Scottish and Welsh legislatures. Each takes a minority of proportional representatives, where a small party would be advantaged, but Fox isn’t sure PR is the best way to elect legislators.
He is prioritising the 40 police and crime commissioners, whom he accuses of putting virtue-signalling before crime-fighting. Additionally, they are elected by supplementary voting (voters mark their first and second choices), which gives small parties a better chance than first-past-the-post.
Fox is cautious about setting objectives for the local elections, but talks about ‘small victories’ and incremental gains. He aims to reverse the ‘Marxist march through our institutions’, setting a target year of 2025 for the BBC and the police and crime commissioners, and 2040 for our educational institutions. He suspects his other objectives might outlast him. On the other hand, he would be happy if the mainstream parties were to adopt his manifesto.
He is confident that he can persuade voters to switch by power of speech alone. (He quips: ‘I made a pretty big impact in about 40 minutes in January.’) He is mindful of a media boycott, but thinks it can be solved inter-personally and technologically. He doesn’t rely on his Twitterati, given his expectation that Twitter will ban him eventually. Instead, he plans his own online video channel (I suggested the title ‘Laurence Fox News’).
Independently, Fox told me he looks forward to the next person who calls him a racist, so he can sue, with the bonus that ‘everybody will have to pay attention then’.
Fox already has the self-efficacy, ego, passion, brand awareness and money to be a politician. He just needs the right people around him to do some real damage in May.