Pondering the political equation…

As a result of these calculations, a great deal of pressure via the media is being put on Nigel Farage and Richard Tice to pull back from standing Brexit Party candidates across the country. ‘Go and fight Labour seats with Remain-supporting MPs, but lay off seats where Tories might lose or could make gains,’ is the call.

Such a strategy might at first glance look good on paper, but it would actually be counter-productive to the Conservative desire to win an outright majority. Remember, the Conservatives must not only win seats but see Labour lose some. It helps the Conservatives for the Brexit Party to do well by taking as many of Labour’s Leave-supporting seats as possible – most especially where the Conservatives are very far behind.

From my personal experience as a one-time Conservative member for thirty years, who served two terms as a member of the Scottish Parliament and then fought and won a European Parliament seat in Labour’s heartland of the North East of England for the Brexit Party, I know there are many, many Labour voters who will never vote Conservative. They are not backwards at coming forward to tell me this. They will, however, consider however voting for the Brexit Party and in May they turned out in huge numbers to do so.

Labour voters and politicians also tell me privately that if Brexit Party candidates do not stand against Conservatives, it will be taken as proof that Farage’s new party is really the Tories in disguise and this will prevent Labour voters switching to them. It is therefore to be expected – and indeed in the Conservative Party’s own self-interest – that in the hundreds of safe Tory or Labour seats, the Brexit and Tory candidates fight each other.

Brian Monteith

Updated: 31st October 2019 — 6:36 pm


  1. I love this sort of Machiavellian calculations.

    Speaking of which, it occurred to me a few weeks ago that, once an election is safely on the way (approved by the Lords) Boris might turn around and reach an agreement with Farage. Would that be the Machiavellian thing to do? I think so, but am not sure.

  2. Surely the issue is that Mr. Farage has lambasted Boris’s deal as unacceptable — and has repeatedly claimed he wants a hard “No Deal” Brexit.

    If Mr. Farage and the Brexit Party now effectively become a stalking horse for the Tories, potentially resulting in a Tory majority, the Brexit Party will of course be seen as giving up on a “No Deal” Brexit. So what would be the point of a vote for Farage’s team?

    Sounds like ‘Put up or shut up’ time for The Brexit Party and hard core Brexiteers. To echo former PM Harold Wilson, “A week in politics is a long time”. It will be interesting to see which way Mr. Farage and his supporters jump.

  3. If both candidates are leavers, you don’t need to participate. If both are remainers, you definitely do. If one is a a remainer and one a leaver, then you need to look at which candidate the leaver voters would traditionally support. If they would normally support the leaver candidate, don’t split the vote. If they would normally support the remainer (e.g. labour safe seat with a remainer labour candidate, or Tory safe seat with a Tory remainer rebel and a Labour leaver), then split that vote.

    Remember, Boris doesn’t need a majority of Tories, he needs a majority of Leavers. Nigel too.

    And if you make it known that you’re as willing to support labour leavers as conservative ones, that should take the sting out of the accusation of being fake Tories.

  4. I agree with Nullius that the Tory’s modest internal purge of (some of) their worst Remoaners needs the complement of an external purge. In England and Wales, there are some Tory seats where the Brexit party should push hard for victory – and Boris should let the should-have-been-deselected candidate twist in the wind.

    In Northern Ireland, the DUP are the ones to vote for and I assume the Brexit party, like other mainland parties, will not stand.

    In Scotland, the nat-versus-non-nat issue makes it very hard for the Brexit party to break through. In the seat next to mine, Jo Swinton relied heavily on anti-nat voters crossing over from other parties to win in 2017 (and in her acceptance speech that night she said so). I’d say she was beatable but the question is whether to any effect other than to elect a nat – we’ll see what local polls suggest. The Tory next door in Stirling voted as May told him to, right to May’s end. His local party has some who made more Brexitty noises but the very best you can hope of him is that he’ll similarly vote as Boris tells him to – he does not seem the stuff of which great realignments are made. The shine is off the natz (they have been unimpressive in power) but not, I think, enough to make “who’s the not-the-nat candidate here?” give way to another question outside a borders or Moray Firth seat and quite possibly not there either. (Now we have an election, things may soon become clearer.)

    All of which is a long-winded way of saying Boris and Farage had better plan to get a healthy majority of realigning leavers from the England and Wales seats (DUP may help), and treat whatever Tory robustness they get north of the border as gravy.

  5. NiV — that assumes all Remainers are the same, as are all Leavers. Which is definitely not the case.

    For a long time, I have been unhappy about the effort to put all political differences into an over-simplified Right vs Left framework. There probably should be even more concern about pushing complex differences of opinion over the UK’s relationship with the EU into simple Remain vs Leave. The situation is more complicated.

    There are hard-core Leavers who want to walk away without a deal and go it alone.

    There are other Leavers who want to separate from the EU politically but with an amicable deal which continues to provide the UK with some of the trade and freedom of movement aspects.

    There are Remainers who want to continue many of the current arrangements but are opposed to any further European political integration.

    There are Remainers who sincerely believe in the supra-nationalist vision of “Ever Closer Union”.

    Many voters in the UK may find that none of the candidates in their specific constituency adequately represents their views on separation from the EU. That suggests tribal Party voting may remain a big factor for many citizens. There may also be a larger-then-usual non-participation by those dissatisfied with the offered choices.

    On top of this, there is the question of whether the widespread disgust with Parliament will give rise to an element of “Throw all the bums out!” voting against incumbents of any stripe.

  6. There are hard-core Leavers who want to walk away without a deal and go it alone. There are other Leavers who want to separate from the EU politically but with an amicable deal (Gavin Longmuir, 1st November 2019 at 8:00 pm)

    There are (almost) no leavers who actually want not to have a truly amicable deal. There are many leavers who assume that any deal offered today would be an unsubtle Trojan Horse and that only a deal negotiated after Brexitting on no deal could be trusted. Such a deal could be negotiated soon after leaving as far as they are concerned, though many assume it will not be solely because the EU will pout and sulk for a bit. They see the option of negotiating an amicable deal before we Brexit as having been so comprehensibly discredited by May and recent remoaner antics that it now cannot be done – the EU are in a mindset that only our leaving will cure (if it’s curable).

    In this destruction of trust, as in other ways, Brexit has become its own point. (Deals need trust, just as government needs trust.)

    Boris and Nigel therefore face a subtle messaging task as regards deals – but will be immensely helped by the late parliament having pinned to the remoaner cuse the responsibility for rejecting Boris’ deal.

  7. Niall: “Such a deal could be negotiated soon after leaving as far as they are concerned …”

    What has happened in the past can be a guide to expectations for the future. History suggests the word “soon” is not likely to have any place in future trade negotiations between the UK and the EU.

    The CETA trade deal between Canada and the EU took from May 2009 to September 2017 to negotiate and (provisionally) put in place — and that is a deal with Canada! Everyone loves the Canadians!

    Please note that the time to negotiate trade deals is not an argument against Brexit — simply a matter of calibrating expectations realistically.

    Incidentally, apparently Canadians are now complaining that since signing CETA, their exports to the EU have gone down and their imports have increased.

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