As Nigel Farage weighs in behind Boris Johnson, Labour and the Lib Dems must urgently put their bitter disagreements to one side—and do a dealby Tom Clark / November 12, 2019 / Leave a comment
The first history lesson about political pacts is one to cheer Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. Namely, that secrecy is no problem. The 1903 deal done between Liberal chief whip, Herbert Gladstone, and Ramsay MacDonald of the then-new Labour Representation Committee was very much on the QT. Nobody knew that the deal was done, still less what favours were traded. But what was soon enough evident—in the subsequent 1906 general election—was that 60 per cent of the Labour candidates enjoyed a free run at the Tories, and furthermore that this made a big difference, because over 80 per cent of the 29 Labour MPs eventually elected were returned in seats where the Liberals had stood aside.
A thick fog surrounds yesterday’s sudden decision by the Brexit Party to stand aside in all of the 317 seats that the Conservatives won at the last election. We can’t entirely rule out Farage having had—as he claims—a sudden change of heart about how to do his bit for the Brexit cause, although you would want to keep an eye on post-election appointments to the House of Lords and British embassies before ruling it in. It might also be worth asking whether any Ukip or Conservative donors—including the Russian donors whose identities are allegedly buried in a report which the government is keeping under wraps until after the election—have pulled any strings.
But no matter. None of this murk means that Farage’s move won’t make a difference. And nor does the psephology. Pundits have called so many things wrongly in recent years that they now call nothing at all, instead popping up on the telly to meekly explain that everything is “lot more complicated than you think.” And so it was yesterday. Wise guys and girls lined up to insist that while Farage’s move may have sounded like a big win for Johnson, its real effect was unclear because Johnson’s hopes of a majority rested not on Tory- but Labour-held seats where the Brexit Party was continuing to stand, and potentially thwarting a Conservative breakthrough.
This analysis is woefully poor. For a start, there are still some tribally Labour Leave voters who would never defect to the Conservatives, but might just plump for the Brexit Party. So the effect of Farage’s force continuing to stand in a seat…