Today has already been very strange in many ways, and as I write it’s only just coming up to 5.30 pm GMT. Do we really know everything about The Brexit Party’s decision?
In an astonishing volte face likely to dilute his credibility irreversibly, Nigel Farage today announced that his Brexit Party will not stand in any of the 317 seats held by the Conservatives. As far as I’ve been able to establish at this point, he is receiving nothing as a quid pro quo in constituencies where the Tories have a low chance of taking over from Labour or the LibDems.
The move is a more formal but very similar decision to the one he took to give ‘a clear field’ to Theresa May in the 2017 election. And as we all know, that really went well.
It leaves millions of angry Conservative voters with no way to Send a Message (SAM) to express their anger at Brexit betrayal among close to 100 Tory MPs. It leaves 317 TBP candidates beached and bewildered. And it suggests very strongly that Farage has been given some very strong assurances about the eventual Brexit-cum-Brino we are likely to get.
But what might they be?
Boris Johnson has issued a press release saying he is “very pleased” at the TBP decision. No doubt he is…..although call me wacky, my own analysis is that, on the face of it, the decision is unlikely to make that much difference to the final result.
But is there a hidden face?
The YouGov poll whose fieldwork finished two days ago gives us the latest reading on this, so far one of most boring elections I can remember. Its ongoing tracker study has just about the biggest sample around (in excess of 10,000 respondents per wave) and its now very hard to see how Boris could botch this one:
Both the Greens and the Libdems have lost share of electoral intentions, and even though the Brexit Party has gained a little from its disastrous 6% score, it is still lower than many would have hoped at around 11%. The Tories seem to have hit a wall at around 37%, Labour at 27%. People keep telling me “There’s a long way to go yet”, but actually from tomorrow there are just 30 days left. In private, Swinson’s Yellow Peril admits it will only pick up some nine seats at best; and try as I may, with Labour polling poorly in many of its northern strongholds, that’s where we should assume that Farage will now be free to redouble his efforts.
Again – perhaps controversially – I think the very ‘deal’ TBP has done today might well turn many of its enthusiasts off.
But has Nigel really recieved nothing in return?
Pollsters are not good these days at revealing the level of Don’t Knows: at 18% the last time I looked, the number is significant. In 2017, a large proportion of them simply didn’t vote. As for this time, we’ll see: as of today, I can’t see any factor sweeping those undecided voters in any one direction.
Unless that drive were to take place on the ground without fanfare.
What we may never see, of course, is evidence of why Nigel Farage took this decision.
The week before last, the UKIP site Kipper posted a piece that intrigued me. The author pointed out that – despite having the opportunity to enact in law the Parliamentary majority for proceeding with his Withdrawal Bill – Boris Johnson chose instead to move for a General Election, which he duly obtained.
Immediately following that outcome, the House of Commons saw, over a 72 hour period, the biggest standing-down of MPs in modern history. Almost all of them were Remain diehards. Many were women who blubbed into the open arms of liberal media about how they were “leaving politics because of the House and online violent threats and misogony to which they’d been subjected”. But most of them were Party deserters and Remainers: to me, their rationale seemed hollow.
The vast majority of those quitting were running away from the massacre they were doomed to suffer in a General Election; and also, one suspects, because they felt they’d been outmaneouvred by Team Boris.
The Kipper article suggested that Johnson would get his election majority….and then choose to start getting heavy with Brussels on the detail of those elements in the WA regarded by Tory ERG and other Brexiteers as unacceptable diktats.
The result might then be leaving with No Deal on January 31st….or at the very least, threatening the EU with that outcome.
Such would explain why the likes of Steve Baker, others in the ERG, and Dominic Raab seem to have gone along with a WA2 possibly even worse than WA1.
Does it also perhaps explain why Nigel Farage was willing to cave today? Has he been brought into the loop?
Only time will tell. But a little birdie tells me that Conservative activists in TBP-contested seats will be allowed to canvass for the Faragistas.