‘Nigel Farage must be scrutinised to reveal Reform for the frauds they’re’

This week, something seismic might happen in politics: the Tories could fall to third place in opinion polls.

I can’t recall ever seeing this before in a General Election – but then I can’t remember a Conservative campaign worse than this one. We didn’t know it at the time but the sight of Rishi Sunak standing in the rain in Downing Street was the high point. It has gone downhill from there and this week fell off the cliffs of northern France.

Hopefully, this turn of events will now prompt something else which doesn’t happen anything like enough: some proper media scrutiny of a certain Nigel Paul Farage. Like his friend Trump, and other right-wing populists globally, former banker Farage is from a privileged background and strikes a carefully cultivated pose as a friend of the working class.

He plays his man-down-the-pub persona quite well, repeating the kind of casual comments you hear at a bar. He is less good at detail, as we saw this week. On Tuesday, Farage gave his first big interview as Reform leader to the Today show. It didn’t go well.

Under questioning, he had to re-write his party’s immigration policy on air. “I don’t think it’s practical,” he said of the plan to send refugees to British overseas territories. And he vowed to change his party’s website, which apparently he can, without any reference to his party’s members, as that is how he made himself leader. Remember those heady referendum days when Farage was our self-proclaimed champion of democracy?

I am not sure in what other democracy it is acceptable for a political party to be run as a private company where the “majority shareholder” can simply declare himself leader. Don’t forget, these are the people who endlessly criticised the EU for a supposed lack of democracy, yet think it’s fine to run what is now one of our main parties as a personal fiefdom.

The danger for all of us is that it’s not just his own party Farage wants to run like a private company. On Friday, in the TV debate, he said he wants to do the same with the NHS. This populist politician holds some unpopular positions. On the NHS, he is out of step with the public. They’ve seen what running other essential services like private firms gave us: raw sewage on beaches and in rivers. They do not want the NHS to go the same way. Farage’s claim that no amount of money can fix it is simply untrue.

In 2010, when Labour left office, the NHS had its lowest waiting lists, highest public satisfaction and was judged to be the world’s best-performing health system. The mission of the next Labour government must be to make it so again – and expose Farage and Reform for the frauds they are.