Nigel Farage must do the right thing to secure Brexit

Nigel Farage needs to see the real picture. With the Brexit Party still standing in various vital Tory target seats in the North, Wales and in SNP-Conservative marginals in Scotland, Remainers may simply cling on to control in Brexit-voting areas with neither the Tories nor the Brexit Party gaining enough support to oust them. This could yet cost us a Brexit supporting majority in Parliament

by Joshua Mackenzie-Lawrie on 14 November 2019 12:43

Monday saw Nigel Farage announce a considerable climb down -- the Brexit Party will no longer stand in 317 seats where the Conservative Party won in the 2017 Election.

This is no doubt very welcome news for the Conservatives where in large areas of the South, South West and South Wales, the Brexit Party threatened to split the Brexiteer vote and allow the Liberal Democrats through the middle in Remain-voting constituencies. For example in Wokingham, Conservative Eurosceptic, Sir John Redwood, is under threat from Conservative defector and newly converted LibDem Dr Phillip Lee.

In his announcement Farage argued Boris Johnson had in some way ‘caved in to his demands’ during a video screened on Sunday evening. This is not true, but could be interpreted as giving the Brexit Party an easy path to climb down from their original position.

Originally the Brexit Party had demanded the Tories stand down in over 100 seats (a demand Farage reiterated again this week), and abandon the Withdrawal Agreement entirely. Of course, none of this has happened. Farage has instead chosen a halfway house in order to save face – and may make more concessions before the candidates’ registrations close at 5pm today.

While this new arrangement clearly has some benefits, it doesn’t really solve the problem of a possible ‘Hung Parliament’. For the Conservative Party to achieve a majority and push to deliver Brexit, they need to gain seats, not just stay at the 317 won at the last election as this would not be a majority – and they are likely to also lose some.

With the Brexit Party still standing in various vital Tory target seats in the North, Wales and in SNP-Conservative marginals in Scotland, Remainers may simply cling on to control in Brexit-voting areas with neither the Tories nor the Brexit Party gaining enough support to oust them.

In many of these seats we saw this exact scenario play out during the 2015 General Election when UKIP was at its electoral peak -- just shy of where the Brexit Party sits in the polls at the moment.

During the 2015 election, UKIP fell short of winning in every seat except one, where Douglas Carswell (a former Conservative MP who had defected to UKIP) held onto his seat and had an excellent relationship with his local constituents. This historical lack of electoral success seems to show the possible path of the Brexit Party, and may be why Nigel Farage has chosen not to stand in this upcoming election.

The Conservatives won a majority in 2015, however the scenario was very different, with David Cameron targeting many seats held by the Liberal Democrats, and with the North largely not being a major battleground. This is drastically different compared to the current political landscape.

Should the Brexiteer vote in the North be split, yes, the Conservatives could maintain their current position of being the largest party in Parliament by holding seats they already have. However, there would still not be the majority needed to ensure Brexit and the vital changes needed to the Political Declaration or any future Free Trade Deal with the EU.

These are changes which must be included in the new Conservative Party election manifesto. The public must be able to trust those we elect to carry out what they promise at elections and if the Conservatives get a majority, they should expect all their MPs to back the promises made on Brexit – and other important promises made during the election campaign.

In reality Nigel Farage’s decision to stand down candidates in Conservative-held constituencies clearly enables the Brexit Party to have some deniability should the Conservatives fall short of a majority. However, it still does not prevent the possibility of a ‘Hung Parliament’ or letting Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party into No 10 by the back door. After all there is no guarantee Conservatives will hold onto all the 317 seats they won in 2017.

A far better strategy would be for the Brexit Party to concentrate their effective campaigning messages in a targeted range of seats where the Conservatives are unlikely to win, particularly in the North, as well as in areas where UKIP came just shy of victory in the 2015 General Election. This way we can ensure a Conservative majority, coupled with a sizable Brexit Party contingent to hold Boris Johnson to account.

We must be clear, for a real Brexit to be delivered and vital changes secured in the final negotiations with the EU, as the Prime Minister suggested on Sunday, a Conservative majority must be assured. A minority Government holds no real power in negotiations like these, particularly where we are dealing with dug-in Europhile bureaucrats.

Nigel Farage’s compromise doesn’t change the political reality. There is still unnecessary conflict between Brexiteers in over 250 seats where Conservatives will be standing against the Brexit Party facing ‘Unite to Remain’, as well as the SNP in Scotland.

Winning a majority of Conservative MP’s in Parliament will be the key to delivering a pro-Brexit majority, and if the Brexit Party succeeds in winning seats and some Labour Leave MPs get some too, we will be well on the way to ensuring a Leave majority to really enable us to Get Britain Out of the EU as soon as possible.

Joshua Mackenzie-Lawrie is a Senior Research Executive at the cross-party, grassroots campaign Get Britain Out

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