Nigel Farage’s ‘Anti-Establishment’ Party Is Being Funded by the Establishment

So much for ‘man of the people’.

by Sam Bright

26 June 2024

Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK. Hannah McKay/Reuters

Former City trader Nigel Farage makes a big deal of his supposedly anti-elite credentials. The Reform UK leader, educated at one of London’s poshest private schools (Dulwich College), regularly urges journalists to get out of their metropolitan bubble and reflect the views – as he claims to do – of “real people”.

However, during the election campaign, Reform hasn’t been funded by these “real people”. Rather, while millionaire Farage claims to be leading a revolt against the elite, he’s being funded by old Etonians, property moguls, and people who have made small fortunes in the Square Mile.

Richard Tice.

Richard Tice. Yara Nardi/Reuters

Reform’s chairman Richard Tice, usurped by Farage as the party’s leader in early June, has been the party’s largest single source of funding in recent years. 

Since the 2019 general election, Tice has propped up Reform to the tune of several million quid in the form of loans and donations, and has donated £500,000 during the election campaign so far. 

Tice is a son of privilege, having been educated at the private Uppingham School in Rutland before working for the property firm founded by his grandfather, Bernard Sunley, and eventually becoming its joint CEO. 

“I always knew what I wanted to do in terms of work,” Tice recently told The Telegraph. “I always wanted to go into the property industry. It was steeped in the family blood, so to speak.”

He now runs the property investment firm Quidnet Capital, based in Mayfair, which claims to have acquired and managed assets worth £500m since its inception in 2010. 

Robin Birley.

Eton-educated Robin Birley is the son of Lady Annabel Goldsmith, a socialite and the descendant of the Marquess of Londonderry. Birley donated £25,000 to Reform on 6 June.

Birley owns 5 Hertford Street in Mayfair, described as one of London’s “most exclusive” private members’ clubs. The club – whose members wander around “in smoking jackets, velvet slippers and signet rings” – is frequented by a number of rightwing politicians, including Farage, Boris Johnson, and major Brexit donor Arron Banks. 

According to Gentleman’s Journal, Farage, Banks and Johnson have been part of the club since “day one”. On one night in December 2022, David Cameron, Prince William and Farage were all spotted there in “just a few short hours”.

In May 2019, protesters gathered outside 5 Hertford Street after it announced it was outsourcing management of its kitchen porters to a private company, putting staff at risk of reduced pay and zero-hours contracts with no sick or holiday pay. 

Richard Smith.

A short stroll from 5 Hertford Street through St James’s Park in prime central London will take you to Westminster, where another of Farage’s donors owns a notorious Georgian townhouse, 55 Tufton Street

This building has served as a hub for an assortment of radical, opaque rightwing think tanks that basically wrote Liz Truss’s disastrous economic agenda. The address is currently home to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the UK’s leading climate science denial group. 

Richard Smith’s company, which supplies electronic systems to the aviation industry, donated £50,000 to Reform on 5 June – two days after Farage used his power as Reform’s majority shareholder to take over as party leader. 

Holly Valance.

Holly Valance and husband Nick Candy. Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Once an actress and a singer, Holly Valance now spends her time fundraising for hard-right politicians. 

Married to the billionaire luxury property developer Nick Candy, Valance donated £50,000 to Reform on 10 June and has been credited with helping convicted criminal Donald Trump to raise millions for his re-election bid. 

Valance has said that her top political priority is helping Britain to leave the European Convention on Human Rights. 

Fitriani Hay.

The biggest donor to Liz Truss’s 2022 Tory leadership campaign, Fitriani Hay has switched her colours in this election, giving £50,000 to Farage’s operation. 

Hay is apparently “well-known … in top-class [horse] racing circles”, described as “one of the world’s leading owners and breeders”.

Her husband, James Hay, was worth £325m according to the 2019 Sunday Times rich list. He worked for the oil and gas giant BP for 27 years from 1975 to 2002, eventually serving as a senior executive at the major polluter. 

Reform is standing on an overtly anti-climate platform, calling for the UK’s 2050 net zero target to be “scrapped” and for the UK to issue a new wave of oil and gas licences.

David Lilley.

An experienced mining and metals trader, David Lilley is the CEO of the investment fund Drakewood Capital. 

His senior team is drawn from the likes of the notorious private equity firm Carlyle, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, and the “vampire kangaroo” asset manager Macquarie

Lilley was previously a founding partner of Red Kite Capital Management alongside major Tory donor and peer Lord Michael Farmer.

Sam Bright is DeSmog’s UK deputy editor, and the author of Fortress London: Why We Need to Save the Country from Its Capital.

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