November 13, 2019 by Paul Goldsmith
The election system in this country means Nigel Farage has little choice but to stand down candidates to get Brexit over the line. But it isn’t a defeat. He, and they, have already won.
So Nigel Farage has announced, with a heavy heart, that he is standing down Brexit Party candidates in all 317 Conservative Party held seats. This was against his better judgement, but he decided it was necessary when convinced that a Tory majority government is the only way to get Brexit delivered and he didn’t want his party to stop that happening.
However, Farage still insists on standing candidates in every Labour Party seat and seats that others hold. This, I predict, may not last long, and I can see Farage standing candidates down in all seats in which the Conservatives could win without the Brexit Party standing. It makes sense. As Farage himself pointed out, in a Tory – Lib Dem marginal in Cornwall the Brexit Party would take votes from the Tories and the Liberal Democrats would win. As someone will today be pointing out to Farage, the Conservatives need to WIN seats to get a majority, and they can’t do that against Labour if the Brexit Party is standing (although it is reported that 80% of Labour campaign money is in seats THEY are trying to win, meaning the seats they are defending might be more open).
This is why those people calling this a ‘humiliating climbdown’ or even a ‘defeat’ for Farage have missed the point. The First-Past-the-Post election system is only used in this country in the Westminster General Election. It is an election system which is extremely unfair on small parties. This means that the December 12th election sees Nigel Farage in a position where the ONLY way to get what he wants is going to ultimately be to almost completely withdraw his party from the fray. But this isn’t a defeat. It’s because he, and the Brexit Party, have already had their victory.
Consider this: In May of this year the Brexit Party won the European Parliament elections. They got 30.5% of the vote and 39% of the seats available. The Conservative Party had a complete embarrassment, getting 8.8% of the vote and 5% of the seats. This convinced MPs and party members that Theresa May had to go, and sure enough she resigned a month later. During the Conservative Party leadership election that followed, the competition was about who could talk toughest on Brexit, and it was clear that the Brexit Party’s presence was one of the reasons Boris Johnson was elevated to PM. He in turn, along with Dominic Cummings, went to the furthest extent of the law (and further) to get Brexit delivered by October 31st, making it quite obvious that, given a proper mandate, they would complete that job by January 31st with a different Parliament. The Brexit Party said they would change politics. They achieved that.
So, like UKIP in 2015, the Brexit Party’s victory in the EU elections forced the Conservative Party into a position where they had no choice but to deliver what the Brexit Party wanted. Even though the Brexit deal is by no means perfect in Farage’s opinion, enough of his MEPs and funders thought it was the best they could hope for. So stepping away in most if not all constituencies the Conservatives might win is the best way to get the result they want.
Some might argue that there is no point in the Brexit Party’s existence as a political party if they are not going to compete properly at a General Election. Some might argue that they are just a pressure group. But the problem is not the Brexit Party, it is the electoral system, which is not a fair or level playing field. If the Brexit Party want to really change politics, they need to campaign to get the electoral system changed. It will not be easy.