Can you hear it? It’s almost here! No, I’m not talking about Brexit on March 31st April 12th October 31st January 31st, I’m talking about the metal motorcade of party battle-buses ferrying the leaders of the UK’s political parties from region to region across the UK.
This election is different to the last. In 2017, Theresa May, since assuming office held up to a 25% lead in the national polls. However, her god-awful campaign, stuffed to the seams with “strong and stable”, U-turns, and dullness could make the mighty Change UK’s European election campaign seem flamboyant and over-the-top. Jeremy Corbyn, well he pulled a blinder didn’t he? May’s poll lead evaporated as quickly as it takes for a Momentum member to tweet something anti-Semitic. Tim Farron and the Liberal Democrats were seen as a gay sex obsessed, ‘Remain’ fringe, with many ‘Remain’ voters choosing Labour, the only party posing a realistic threat to the Conservative party.
But, like the ghost at the feast, there is a significant absence. I can hear his gravelly laugh, his voice that bounces like a wheel of Swiss cheese tumbling down a hill. I can see his pint, his cigarette, and his tweed. Of course, I am talking about ‘Mr Brexit’, Nigel Farage.
UKIP collapsed in 2017. Farage and almost his entire front bench left UKIP creating a power vacuum for the alt-right, led by Gerard Batten and Dick Braine. However, like a phoenix arising from the flames, Farage has transferred his support into a new, more mainstream, more cross-party movement: The Brexit Party. In the first few weeks of its existence, the party had already overtaken the Conservatives, UKIP, Greens, Liberal Democrats, the formidable Change UK, and swiped an election win from under Corbyn’s nose.
With the sound of victory still ringing in his ears, Farage and the Brexit Party turned their attention to the inevitable general election. Farage declared that the party would stand in over 600 seats against both Conservatives and Labour, his crowds cheered, his poll numbers increased. But then...
Boris Johnson was elected Prime Minister. Theresa May was wafted out the Conservative Party like a fart out of a frock and replaced by a figure recognised and respected by Brexiteers. Boris was making all the right noises for Farage: prorogation, no deal preparation and second referendum condemnation. Farage even spoke of a ‘Leave Alliance’ with Boris to help him secure a Conservative majority at the upcoming election. However, once Boris returned to Brussels to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement (something his political rivals said was not possible), Farage flipped over the proverbial table sending the bowls of strawberries and cream hurtling towards the wall. The honeymoon period was dead.
Now, this is where I believe Farage is being completely unrealistic. After Boris returned with his new, renegotiated Brexit deal he had the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Mark Francois, Steve Baker, Suella Braverman and Sir Bill Cash voting FOR the deal. Simply, if these people are willing to support this deal, sacrifice their careers built on hard Euroscepticism, then you must concede that this is Brexit. These MPs would happily see a no deal, but they believe the deal is worthy of their support.
When #GE19 was announced, and after Corbyn was finally talked down from the ledge, Farage initially stated that he would contest all seats in Great Britain. Eventually, after realising that this would do the very thing many within his party dismissed (split the vote), he backed down and stated that the Brexit Party would not stand in the 317 seats the Conservatives won in 2017.
Farage has made half of the correct choice, but needs to go further: He needs to pull Brexit Party candidates out of Labour seats with majorities of 5% or less and head to areas of Britain which will never vote Conservative (Castleford, Hartlepool) to soak up Brexit votes. If a Conservative majority is only 9 seats away, you need to gain seats in order to secure it. Brexit Party candidates in easily winnable Labour areas such as Ashfield or Bishop Auckland will just allow Labour MPs to be elected (all be it with reduced shares of the vote) and not actually result in net gains for the Conservatives.
All I have to say is, Nigel, you have done 50% of the work to secure a Conservative majority, go the extra distance. Look at who is supporting Boris’ deal. Look ahead. Understand that you won Brexit… Don’t throw it away.