The announcement by Nigel Farage, the leader of The Brexit Party (TBP), that they would not stand in 317 Conservative Party held seats, will be viewed with bewilderment by many.
It is a significant boost for the Conservative Party, with seemingly nothing offered in return to TBP.
There appear to have been pressures put on Nigel Farage from a variety of moneyed organisations and individuals, and he seems to have caved into these.
Some of these pressures came from key figures in TBP and there have been rumours for some time, that they might undertake some form of retreat on the number of seats contested.
Indeed, numerous TBP candidates were told to defer putting their nomination forms in.
Alongside this, the continuous overtures he made to the Conservative Party did not help the sense of uncertainty which was building up with TBP supporters about what was going on.
Many potential supporters held back from offering to help TBP candidates because they were uncertain about the direction of the party’s election strategy.
This announcement by Nigel Farage has only confirmed such fears.
How much was Nigel Farage trusted
To add to all of this, it is important to bear in mind that many Brexit supporters do not actually trust Nigel Farage and feel he has always put his own interests above those of achieving Brexit.
The fact that Nigel Farage decided not to stand himself in this Election, only served to add to the warning signs about his seriousness in fielding 600 candidates who could actually form an alternative or coalition government.
Then further worries built up when the main television media offered party leaders’ debates which TBP were excluded from, and it appeared that Nigel Farage did little to contest this decision.
On Remembrance Day – TBP discarded candidates – dumped like dispensable foot soldiers in a strategic battle
As for this Election, at such short notice, it will be a difficult task indeed for UKIP to fill this gaping hole left by TBP. There will certainly be hundreds of very unhappy TBP candidates, who had already committed time, money and effort into their own individual campaigns, only to be let down at the final hour. Ironic, on Remembrance Day, to make this announcement.
Who will remember them? These committed people who stood up for their country and for service to TBP, who were discarded and forgotten? Just foot soldiers to be sacrificed in a game of strategic power?
What about this decision by Nigel Farage? Because of the structure of TBP, it is very difficult for him as the party leader not to get what he decides on. Undoubtedly he will have discussed this with others, but the bottom line is his party’s constitution allows very limited democratic control. TBP leader has huge powers with limited checks and balances. It is a huge disadvantage for TBP over other political parties.
Sensible negotiation is worthy – capitulation is not
Most seasoned political observers would see it as logical for TBP to try some electoral pact negotiations with other parties, especially with the first past the post electoral system we have for Parliamentary elections. At first, it seemed that TBP was going to seek clean break Brexit commitments from candidates of all political parties. That was logical and fair. Then it moved on to what was seen as blatant begging to the Conservative party. There were supposed “red lines,” which then were quickly abandoned, one after another. Finally, Nigel Farage completely caved into the Conservatives, achieving absolutely nothing for TBP.
It is clear that he should never be invited to join any Brexit negotiating team, as his skills in that area seem somewhat lacking!
There is nothing wrong with sensible electoral pacts.
The LibDems, the Greens and Plaid Cymru have agreed on one involving 67 seats in England and Wales. The objective is to have “Remain” supporting MP’s elected in those constituencies. It is a logical and well thought out pact from their point of view.
The point is that Nigel Farage has done nothing of the sort in respect of having “Leave” supporting MP’s elected.” He has unilaterally withdrawn 3017 TBP candidates.
It is unprecedented in British electoral history.
Most Conservative MPs were Remainers.
Most of them may have voted for Boris Johnson’s so-called “deal,” but that does not make them Leavers. It does not guarantee how they will vote in any future Parliamentary Brexit debate.
It does not even stop them going into coalition with the Libdems again ( not at all impossible), if that suits the Conservative party after the election.
Being so closely linked to the Conservative party could damage TBP
This decision by Nigel Farage will be seen as TBP acting as a sort of attack wing of the Conservative party, and not a party in its own independent right.
They will be seen as favouring the Conservatives in philosophy, which is not necessarily a good thing, because achieving Brexit should be seen as one which transcends party political boundaries.
They will also be seen as abandoning any political ambition to be a major political party in the UK, which will disappoint many who wanted real change in British politics.
It will also be seen as support for the domestic and foreign policies of the Conservative government, many of which are very unpopular with the British public.
There are many such policies of the Labour and LibDem parties which the Brexit supporting public finds attractive.
This is a General Election for five years about all issues and not just Brexit.
In Labor-held seats, this pro-Conservative announcement may actually go against TBP candidates. They could previously argue that they were no more against Labour than Conservative, but no longer.
In these areas, the Conservative candidates will still be standing, so it likely that this decision will increase their votes and decrease those of TBP.
This decision does not make strategic sense for a party that wants to be part of the future British political scene.
It is ironic that Nigel Farage stated that one reason for his decision was that he did not want a hung Parliament, yet one his key MEPs, Ann Widdecombe, said she hoped for a hung Parliament where TBP held the balance of power. Nigel Farage also argued that the British public voted for a Canada style free trade deal. They did nothing of the sort. They voted to leave the EU, full stop.
The other political parties are having a field day with this announcement.
It will be damaging to TBP as they will be perceived as not being ambitious to aim for significant political power. It is a major blow to the Brexit movement.
It is interesting that in his speech, Nigel Farage re-iterated all the key disadvantages of the Boris Johnson “deal,” and then proceeded to support this “deal” by backing the Conservatives.
The time to make effective deals is when you have MP’s in Parliament, not before and not make it more difficult to obtain such MP’s.
Genuine Brexit supporters will feel very let down by TBP withdrawing from half the British constituencies. Recently, there has been one “Brexit” public figure after another disappointing us and “letting the side down.” With TBP, people have given numerous donations. Would they have done so if they had known what would happen? What is happening with their money?
At times like this, it is worthwhile remembering Kipling’s words from his famous patriotic poem, “If.” Especially these lines:
“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone
And so hold on when there’s nothing in you
Except the will which says to them “Hold On.”