Guido reckons Richard Tice has to fight the Hartlepool by-election, it is the first test for his newly named party which it surely can’t avoid. Sources close to the Reform Party leader say he is “actively considering the matter” of standing in the seat which he fought in the 2019 general election. Labour had a majority of 3,595. The Brexit Party in the constituency got 10,603 in 2019. The question for Tice is where will all those Brexit votes go?
If the Labour Party selects a rejoiner like former Stockton South MP Dr Paul Williams, they will be making a clear play for the non-Leave vote up against a weak local LibDem. Even though the seat was 70% for leave this might not be suicidal if the Leave legacy vote is divided. Tice put up a good show in 2019, will he be able to better that against a buoyant in the polls Tory party? Will the name ‘Reform UK’ be well known enough with low information voters by May? Will another issue entirely dominate the campaign?