When the nominations closed on Thursday 14th November, 3415 candidates had put nominations in (compared with 3,303 in 2017, and 3,971 in 2015).
The lead up to the commencement of this Election has been largely about the Brexit issue, the options offered by the political parties, and the electoral choices available to the voting public. Up until last Monday, the leave supporting electorate were going to be offered the choice to vote for 600 odd candidates of The Brexit Party (TBP).
On Armistice Day, Nigel Farage ironically and infamously surrendered 317 of his candidates from standing against Conservative held seats. This has meant that, taking other factors into account, TBP is fielding just 267 candidates in this Election. The result is that 383 seats will not have a candidate from TBP.
The Brexit Party can no longer offer to be a majority government
However, the consequence is that even if all of TBP candidates were elected, they could not now form a majority government. This is significant because the Libdems, who are fielding 631 candidates, can still claim to be aiming to form a government. So can the Conservatives and Labour (with 635 and 631 candidates respectively). Nigel Farage has given his reasons for pulling so many candidates, but has he made a tactical blunder?
The late notice of the withdrawal of TBP candidates made it very difficult for them to organise to stand as Independents on a pro-Brexit banner or to approach a clean break Brexit part such as UKIP. In fact there are only 206 Independents standing in this Election, as opposed to 187 in 2017, and not many are running on a clean break Brexit platform. So Nigel Farage’s decision did not just affect TBP candidates, it affected other potential candidates who would have stood if they had known there was going to be a vacancy for a clean break Brexit candidate. This decision did stir the ailing UKIP into action though, and through last minute actions they have fielded 44 candidates (compared with 378 in 2017).
How much damage the decision to stand down in favour of 317 Conservatives will cause TBP is an unknown factor.The teams of those TBP candidates originally standing will be highly irritated and some will decide not to help their colleagues in neighbouring areas. That is the nature of politics and personalities. Such a culling of Parliamentary candidates is certainly unprecedented in British electoral history.
TBP- from aspiration to less ambition?
Going back to when TBP were formed, they seemed to be on the crest of a wave. At that time, Theresa May was the Prime Minister and the Conservatives were way down in the polls. The Conservatives suffered in the local Council elections electorally, and in the EU elections they were trounced by TBP.
Since then Boris Johnson has become Prime Minister and the Conservatives have achieved a remarkable comeback in the opinion polls. The only aspect of a Conservative Brexit policy which has changed has been a slight adjustment in what was Theresa May’s “deal,” which has become rehashed with a Boris stamp. There is little which is improved, but aspects which are worse, such as the division of the United Kingdom with the separate arrangements for Northern Ireland.
It appears that Nigel Farage made his own withdrawal agreement on pulling candidates on the basis of some vague promises Boris apparently committed to in respect of the future Brexit arrangements, asking to trust Boris and the Conservatives, after many months of saying they couldn’t be trusted.
The ironic aspect of Nigel Farage’s actions is that now many in TBP members do not trust him, with some quoted as saying his political career is dead. It is perplexing that he has put TBP in this position, one of maybe not being trusted, when one of their key planks has been to oppose the untrustworthy, dishonest and corrupt Westminster politicians.
Nigel Farage has shown he cannot make deals
There have been a number of electoral deals or pacts in this Election, throughout the UK, from Northern Ireland right through to the other Home countries. If these are studied they all make electoral sense for the political parties concerned and they all gain in one way or another, both for their parties and for their main causes.
In Nigel Farage’s case, he has done a blanket deal with absolutely nothing in return. He basically blinked first. He has risked his party being labelled as a support wing of one party, the Conservatives, totally unnecessarily. He could have achieved the same if he had at least done some targeting, and not stood down against the more blatant of the Conservative candidates.
At one time, the aspiration was so high in TBP that they were motivated to achieve major political change, and to become the major political force in the country. It was not impossible. However, with one swoop of the hand, Nigel Farage has dashed those hopes and dreams, and many people feel let down.
What is the best way forward for voters?
Get the traditional British grit and resolve to support all TBP candidates and indeed candidates such as Independents and UKIP who will support a clean break Brexit. If there are reliable Conservative candidates or indeed any Labour candidates, back them, but aim to have genuine Brexit supporting MP’s.
If TBP can manage to get a significant number of MP’s elected, it will make a significant difference, especially if there is a hung Parliament. There is no reason why TBP cannot aspire to be in a coalition government, and this time, set the terms and insist they are met. With Richard Tice as TBP Parliamentary leader this is possible.
Other election issues a factor
This election is highly unpredictable because a part of it will be fought on domestic and foreign policy issues.
At present, it seems that it is the Labour party which is coming across as the party of new ideas and popular policies. TBP and the Conservative party will have to sharpen up to win on these issues. TBP has a better understanding of issues such as immigration and foreign policy, but there is much work to be done.
It would be tactically sensible, bearing in mind that TBP are fighting mainly Labour held seats, to take on board the more popular Labour policies such as free prescription charges, something the rest of the UK already has anyway.
It may also help TBP that they are fighting a reduced number of seats, simply because they were stretched logistically and organisationally, and this will enable them to target resources.