Reform UK made waves in the North East Mayoral election falling just 10,000 votes of the Conservatives.

The party, led by Richard Tice, placed fourth in the mayoral race with more than 41,000 or 9% of the votes.

It comes as national polling puts Reform just three percentage points behind the Tory party and Tice said it was emerging as the ‘real opposition’ to Labour in parts of the country.

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Reform’s North East Mayoral candidate Paul Donaghy told the Echo: “I think we’re in a very good position. We haven’t had the financial backing the main parties have had. We’ve had literally zero budget to do this. So from where I’ve come from personally and where the party has come from, I think we’ve done incredibly well.

“If we had the backing the other parties have I think we would have really pushed a lot further.”

Mr Donaghy declared his placing second in Sunderland as “massive”. Reform beat independent Jamie Driscoll in the city where Brexit started in 2016 as the first to vote to leave the EU.

“I’m happy to come second in Sunderland,” he added. “I think that sends a massive message.

“We’ve got members from all over, from the left, from the right, from the centre – people who are just fed up with the main political parties. People who feel politically homeless are joining Reform.

“I’m really excited about the future for Reform, especially in Sunderland and for the North East.”

Donaghy did however lose his place as the only Reform councillor on Sunderland Council to the Labour Party. He was originally a Conservative before defecting to Reform.

Responding to the Reform UK candidate coming a close third to his Conservative counterpart in the South Blackpool by-election, Mr Tice told the BBC he was delighted his party had secured 17% of the vote.

He said: “What’s rapidly becoming clear… as more people hear about Reform is that we’re becoming the real opposition to the Labour Party in the North, in the Midlands, in Wales.

“We’re on the way up and it’s quite clear that the Tories are on the way down.”

Reform UK also pushed the Conservatives into third place in 16 town hall seats in Sunderland.

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A YouGov poll released on Thursday suggested Reform could scoop 15% of the vote share at a General Election, just three percentage points behind that for Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives.

The Tories have so far lost 280 council seats across the county (as of 4.30pm on Friday May 3) in local elections.

Mr Donaghy will be standing in the new Washington and Gateshead South seat at the next General Election.