Nigel Farage has urged Boris Johnson to embrace a Tory-Brexit Party election pact, with the Tories standing aside in working-class constituencies where Farage’s party is poised to unseat Labour, and Farage’s party standing aside in constituencies more favourable to the Tories.
The former UKIP supremo and veteran MEP made the proposition during an interview with The Times, in the wake of the Tories losing the seat of Brecon and Radnorshire in a by-election as a result of the Welsh separatist Plaid Cymru party and far-left Green Party standing aside so the Liberal Democrats could eke out a victory for an explicitly Remain candidate.
With the combined Tory and Brexit Party vote outstripping the majority this ad hoc “Remain alliance” won, Mr Farage was blamed by some Leave supporters for the Brecon result — but pointed out that in the Peterborough by-election it was the Tories who cost the Brexit Party the seat, and urged Boris Johnson to reconsider his opposition to a strategic electoral pact.
“Just look at Peterborough, where the Conservatives split our vote,” he said, indicating that the Brexit Party would not have been pipped to the post by Labour — in somewhat dubious circumstances — if the Tories had stood aside for their man as a “Leave alliance” candidate.
“If the judgment is we cost the Tories in Brecon, exactly the same applies to us in Peterborough,” Farage insisted.
UK Government Majority Reduced to One After Defeat in By-Election https://t.co/mmiUWHzJ61
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 2, 2019
Officially, the Tory stance is now much more explicitly supportive of Brexit — deal or no deal — than it was under Remain voter Theresa May, and the party’s poll results have improved as a result, seemingly at the expense of Farage’s party.
“The reason [Boris Johnson is] up in the polls is because Joe Public think he’s going to deliver a no-deal Brexit,” Farage told The Times.
“The fantasy is that we leave on the 31st of October and Boris lives up to what he promised. But I don’t see it,” he added — perturbed by Johnson’s recent hints that Britain could stay in the EU’s Customs Union, Single Market, and associated Free Movement regime for two years.
Farage’s fear is that Johnson’s apparent embrace of no-deal is merely “a negotiating tool”, he explained, saying: “I think it was a means of winning the [Tory] leadership. It’s a means of trying to suppress the Brexit Party vote. I just don’t think it’s sincere.”
It is true that, when Theresa May brought her withdrawal treaty before the House of Commons for a third time, complete with the contentious backstop, Johnson voted for it, and as Prime Minister he has put Michael Gove and Stephen Barclay, who both backed Mrs May’s deal from the beginning and all the way to the end, in charge of no-deal planning — while senior Brexiteers like Steve Baker consistently supported no-deal have been left languishing on the backbenches.
In the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, the pro-Remain alliance got 43.5% of the vote and won and the un-allied Conservative and Brexit parties got 49.5% and lost. There’s a lesson there…
— Toby Young (@toadmeister) August 2, 2019
“The Brexit Party only exists because the Conservatives failed to deliver on March 29th,” Farage reminded his interviewer, predicting that, without an outright majority in the House of Commons and many Remain MPs in his own party ready to try and block no-deal, the chances of Johnson also proving unable to deliver and being forced to call a general election are high.
In those circumstances, Farage said, it would only be sensible for the Tories to stand aside in constituencies like Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford — very winnable for Farage’s party, given it voted 69 per cent for Leave but is stuck with Labour arch-Remainer Yvette Cooper as its MP, but stony ground for Johnson’s party due to broad anti-Tory sentiment locally.
“The Tories won’t win there ever and clearly if the Tories split our vote we won’t win,” Farage explained.
“On current form, I have little faith in Boris delivering on October 31st. That means we’re here to stay.”