Published On: Sat, Aug 3rd, 2019

At Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, least voter participation since 1922; Remain extremists gaslight a nation

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After the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election, which came about under circumstances more implausible than those which generated the recent same such vote in Peterborough, the elephant in the room of interpretive analysis is a much lower turnout than should be expected from the constituency. This is not surprising, since the message of Brecon and Radnorshire is supposed to be one of popular resistance to Brexit. Moreover, here at FBEL, in an article written in the wake of the Newport West by-election of April, 2019, it was pointed out that, in terms of what was Establishment-approved interpretation of results (and against the evidence Orwellian-style), low turnout was not to be appreciated as being a defining feature of Fake Brexit era politics, and shouldn’t be expected to be one. Hence, perhaps this is why an off-message tweet despatched from the FBEL account – which happened to get missed by a suspected shadow-banning algorithm (that kicks in at sensitive times to hide “harmful” tweets from hashtagged keyword threads) and thus attracted an unusually large amount of attention – drew comment from a verified blue-ticked Twitter user (whoever he was). This response would argue that the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election turnout was “the highest… in a by-election in more than 20 years and much higher than the average by-election turnout of around 42%”. It was backed up by a contribution from an evident fan-boy of said blue-tick user “admir…[ing his] attempt to educate”, but ultimately expressing doubt of “the worth of engaging with people who deliberately misrepresent stats in this fashion[,] William”.

The reader will no doubt be eager to know what it was that made the author so unworthy of William’s condescendence: nothing more serious than comparing chalk with chalk, and not with cheese. The fact and statistic that was so utterly damaging to desired anti-Brexit appearances that it provoked the Twitter-verified to dole out correction (to those unworthy of it) is this: the turnout at Brecon and Radnorshire, at 59.7%, was the lowest in the seat’s history, and represented nearly 10,000 less people casting a vote in contrast with the 2017 General Election.

The reason why the percentage figure is so catastrophically significant is that, since 1922, Brecon and Radnorshire has never delivered a turnout less than 70% (even the 69.5 of 2005 can be rounded up). The constituency routinely saw turnouts of 80%-plus until 1997: it is a place that, as a rule, turns out to vote (and this is perhaps why it was picked on for this exercise, but we’ll come to that later).

Additionally, the catastrophic significance of 10,000 people not turning out at Brecon and Radnorshire is that this number represents three-quarters (more or less) of those who actually voted for the winning candidate, the Liberal Democrat, Jane Dodds (a child-protection social worker, as one might expect). Moreover, Dodds’ 13,826 votes represented 43.5% of the turnout, but only 26% of the constituency’s registered electorate. Indeed, for all the blood and treasure that the Liberal Democrats expended fighting the campaign – aided by the Green Party and Plaid Cymru, which did not field candidates – Dodds crossed the finish line with only a margin of 1425 that separated her from the Tory candidate.

To summarise then, the Lib Dem victory represented a coordinated and concerted effort by anti-Brexit forces, but which, nevertheless, could not 1) yield a significant margin of victory over the runner up that, in the public imagination as constructed by Government, at least, is supposed to represent Brexit; 2) garner more than 50% of the support of the turnout (therefore, the remainder, which was by definition “pro-Brexit”, did†); 3) motivate much more than a quarter of the entire electorate to signal support for remaining in the EUǂ.

And yet despite all this failure, behold the boasting and crowing that took place in the aftermath:

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem MP for Kingston and Surbiton, called it “a huge result”, adding: “The Brecon and Radnorshire byelection was the front line of the stop Brexit campaign. This is going to make Boris Johnson’s job that much more difficult, and for those of us who are desperate to stop Brexit it’s a crucial moment.”

The leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price, said: “The people of Brecon and Radnorshire have spoken. It’s now time that people throughout these islands are heard, too, in a final say referendum.

“But if the prime minister is intent on a general election, he should know that Plaid Cymru and the other pro-remain parties are committed to cooperating so that we beat Brexit once and for all.”

Dodds, in her acceptance speech, was no less hubristic:

My very first act as your MP when I arrive in Westminster will be to find Mr Boris Johnson, wherever he’s hiding, and tell him loud and clear: stop playing with the futures of our communities and rule out a no-deal Brexit.


It is all quite astonishing stuff. Not only is it the language of a position that is extremist and in essence treasonous or, perhaps to be more precise, hostile (i.e. being desirous of spoiling and frustrating the majority will of the British people, and to do so in favour of a foreign power), but it also magnifies what is the perspective of a tiny minority into being indicative and expressive of a greater movement – a movement of a size that actually doesn’t exist. After all, what else did Davey do when talking about the by-election as a “frontline” but indicate it was a hub around which another wave of psychological manipulation was centred. Indeed, the immediate follow up, based on what the author saw today where he lives, looks likely to have been a day where many a town centre up and down the land hosted a gaggle of emboldened EU-flag waving extremists to present rule by unelected foreign technocrats as if it was a concept widely beloved. Indeed, and without a shadow of a doubt, an exercise to present support for remaining in the EU as being on a par – at least – with the majority will to leave has been on-going for some time, and it was written about for the first time at FBEL in the article, Wanting to remain in the EU is extremist minority viewpoint – and other things not to be learnt from the election.

But there are two prongs to this assault on Brexit, and the second was visible in corporate-media analysis of the by-election: it amounts to seeding the concept that the result of the Brecon and Radnorshire result would adversely affect Boris Johnson’s ability to deliver Brexit – and please note, this doesn’t have to be the truth, it is just what people are required to believe.

Yesterday’s vote makes it slightly more difficult for Boris Johnson to push his “do or die” Brexit through parliament, which may, paradoxically, make a general election after October more likely.

The above is the opinion of John Rentoul writing for the Independent. And it is clear what effect this sort of prediction is supposed to have on a Leave-voter who is also expected to develop a strong impression that an alliance for Remain is growing powerful at the ballot box: support Boris Johnson’s Fake Brexit, or else facilitate a situation whereby people who will not deliver Brexit at all achieve executive power.

The FBEL reader should recognise it: naught but a continuation of the project to have Leave-voters tolerate the Article 50 deal: the Fake Brexit. As such, it is all smoke and mirrors. Britain should have left the EU on 29th March, and remains a member only by “fiat legislation” – or arbitrary ruling that has no legitimacy. People who want Britain to leave the EU should no longer be wasting time and effort with political parties who are promising jam tomorrow. Efforts should be targeted at pressuring British Government to restore the default exit that should have been. The reaping of the whirlwind is already overdue – and yet it is in this context that the Lib Dems would presume to “stop Brexit”. It is in this context, more importantly, that the British Government would gladly take Jane Dodds’ advice and rule out a no-deal Brexit: lest we forget that because the public face of the anti-British extremism mainly manifests in the Lib Dems, it is nonetheless institutional.

The real war – the one beyond the theatre of British party politics and the one that individuals who want Brexit must inevitably join to enforce it – is why there is evident sensitivity about the turnout at Brecon and Radnorshire. The BBC and The Times (respectively) mentioned it once (each), but they think they got away with it:

The turnout was 59.6%, down from 74.6% at the general election, but it is the highest for a by-election since Winchester in 1997.

The turnout was 59.6 per cent, down from 74.6 per cent at the last general election. However, it is the highest for a by-election since Winchester in 1997.

Turnout was down‡, and dramatically so, in a by-election in a constituency that by tradition goes out to vote. [And if we want to be perceptive, we might suspect that the constituency was deliberately selected for a demonstration election (of the type discussed in the FBEL article on June’s Peterborough by-election) precisely because of the tradition for good turnout (in the hope of maintaining an impression of high engagement in the political process): for surely only idiots believe that the previous MP, Chris Davies, would endanger his position by submitting fake expenses invoices for office decor worth a paltry £700 (the crime that caused the recall petition against him)].

It doesn’t matter what happened in other by-elections: the only time that fewer people in Brecon and Radnorshire consented to rule by Westminster was in 1922. A hundred years later, in 2019, there is clearly a disdain for the ruling elite just as if it had, in its current incarnation, sent hundreds of thousands to their deaths: at a time when an entire nation is supposed to be fascinated with Westminster and intrigue that is presented as being critical for the future of the nation, the signs actually point to people rejecting it, and not Brexit.



† Indeed, in its post-election treatment, the BBC published analysis by Prof. Laura McAllister, from the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University…

who said the result should not be read as a “resounding victory” for Remain.

She pointed out that the three Brexit-supporting parties had 2-3,000 votes more than the Remain alliance.


ǂ Brecon and Radnorshire voted to leave the EU by 52 per cent in 2016 (according to Rentoul)

‡ It must be noted that the Brexit Party presence at this election inspired participation from 6% of the electorate. These people would have made a more significant impact by not bothering (but then, the Brexit Party was created for provoking redirected behaviour of the disillusioned back into engagment with the system that has never offered remedies).

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