The question is whether moderates can capitalise on itby Jonathan Lis / November 12, 2019 / Leave a comment
Nigel Farage’s announcement on Monday about the Brexit Party’s withdrawal from 317 Tory-held seats was, on the face of it, very good news for Boris Johnson. In those seats (and potentially more) there will now only be one mainstream Leave-supporting party, whereas before there were two. By contrast, in some seats there could be three or four candidates from mainstream parties supporting a referendum or revocation, splitting the votes of Remainers.
But politics is also full of unintended consequences. Farage’s move could prove the Christmas gift Remainers needed.
First, let us be clear. The announcement was bad news for Farage. Never mind the peerage he says he was offered and turned down: his credibility has been shattered. He took the fight to Johnson, demanding the prime minister scrap his withdrawal agreement, failed to secure that demand, and capitulated anyway. As recently as Friday, Farage tweeted that Johnson’s deal “will not stand up to scrutiny.” As Johnson’s predecessor might have said: nothing has changed. Farage is now effectively backing Johnson’s deal, and will share the blame for it when Brexit is inevitably exposed and falls apart.
The announcement was bad news, too, for the most committed Leave voters. Until a few months ago around a quarter of the electorate wanted no deal at all. Millions of voters hate Johnson’s deal or want no deal, and are fuming about the new economic barriers inside the UK and the broken do-or-die pledge to leave on 31st October. Farage had the chance to claim them. Now he has left them homeless. Even one of his own MEPs has complained that she will have nobody to vote for on 12th December.
Many pundits have speculated that Farage’s tacit endorsement of the Brexit deal will in fact reassure Leave voters about voting Conservative—an important boost for the party that has effectively become the Brexit Party anyway.
So far, so good for the Tories. Where, then, does this story become good for Remain? In fact the announcement presents a huge opportunity for Labour and the Lib Dems, if they choose to capitalise on it.
First, the Brexit Party is definitely standing in hundreds of Labour and Lib Dem seats. In those seats voters will already have more than one choice of Remain candidate. Now they will have a choice of Brexiter…