Published On: Fri, Nov 15th, 2019

The Brexit Party has repositioned, is selling something new, but its primary role continues to be to generate election turnout

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No one can deny that since Monday, when Nigel Farage dropped all previous objections to the Tories’ Withdrawal Agreement (or Article 50 treaty with the EU), the Brexit Party has taken a different tack in its campaigning. The redirection is pretty much encapsulated by a Farage tweet published the following day:

I put country before party yesterday and now will take the fight to Labour. 300 nominations have been signed off — time to get on the road!

“Put[ting] country before party” is a euphemism for calling on voters to directly endorse the Withdrawal Agreement Bill which the Tories will enact on being returned to office in the new parliament – and rest assured, this is what is going to happen. The Brexit Party’s fundamental reorientation, which appears to have escaped the notice of the battalions of political punditry that corporate-media has to offer, could be said to be being swept under the carpet this week; it is certainly being overshadowed with a lot of razzmatazz at events where at least one f-list TV celebrity has been announced as a candidate. Be that as it may, the new direction of attack, by the process of elimination, can only involve “tak[ing] the fight to Labour” because the Brexit Party, overnight and in a Damascene manner, have no dispute with the Tories. Apparently, from now on, the 300 remaining Brexit Party candidates will be engaged in a battle to save the country from a second referendum – a prospect, as FBEL has long explained, that has never had any great chance of being realised, and has merely been an instrument to cause consternation in Leave-voters as part of the Government’s grand project to engineer tolerance for the Article 50 treaty. And if one is supposed, by the use of the number 300, to think of the Spartans at Thermopylae, one would do better to think of the 700 Thespians who also fought there: the Brexit Party is a theatre to encourage turnout. Moreover, it is a brand of theatre that sells a panacea that turns out to be snake oil, and many suckers have been taken in. “The road” that Farage speaks of is the one by which his travelling troupe of exposure-seeking players will arrive at various venues to perform live infomercials – get your tickets now (presumably, not for free).

If the reader is appreciating a suggestion from the author that the Brexit Party is an actual racket where people have been defrauded out of money, let it be said that this would not constitute an area of his concern. He is not one of the 3000 people who, as the case appears to be, have paid £100 each as an application fee to be a candidate, and certainly not one of the 317 selected people who will not be having their money refunded now that they don’t get what they paid for simply because Farage had the arbitrary powers to say so. When asked about this by Eddie Mair on LBC, Farage, in his answers, gave the impression that everything was contractually watertight, and if being the owner of the complete Lovejoy DVD box-set has taught the author one thing, it is the principle of caveat emptor, or buyer beware. If Britons cultivated their sense of responsibility not to be stupid, there wouldn’t be an environment in which the likes of Farage could thrive.

So, for our purposes, the concern about the Brexit Party as a treacherous entity limits itself to how it, in ways that we are well used to from the legacy parties (which Farage claims to be different to), are wrong-footing people in return for votes. Undoubtedly, the reader will have gained an impression from corporate-media reportage of the coming general election that the Brexit Party is asking for electoral support because it is capable and on the verge of winning a number of seats in the Commons, after which it will try to keep Boris Johnson to some promises that Farage says he made (see the previous FBEL article). Well, the author proposes that the Brexit Party is wholly unable to win a single seat, and that votes for it will not make the blindest bit of difference – other than that by registering them, voters will have consented to the next Parliament, and will have endorsed Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill. This is how the Brexit Party is being deceitful (at least, it is a central component of the deceit).

There is a fact, or a piece of information that can be taken as fact, that provides an excellent launching pad for a “thought laboratory” with an objective of understanding the Brexit Party, and that fact is this: the Tories would never cut a deal so that there would be an election pact between them and Farage’s outfit. Now, today (Thursday, 14th November) does come news of an offer by the Conservatives whereby the Brexit Party would stand down all but 40 of its candidates in return for Tory “paper candidates” in what would be Labour-held constituencies. According to The Telegraph (before the story disappears behind its own paywall), “the Tories would carry out only minimal campaigning in order to give an advantage to Brexit Party rivals”. It appears that Farage has turned this down (for the time being) “because he was worried that the Conservative candidates would still attract votes.” The reader is asked to make a note of this particular election dynamic about which Farage is supposedly concerned, because it relates to the essential Brexit Party role of generating as much turnout as possible.

If this “eleventh hour deal” looks like the Tories acting to make Farage’s 317-seat sacrifice meaningful (and thus save him from criticism about capitulation, and accusations of behaving like Johnson’s battered wife), this is indeed what it would be. The Tories would have no interest in the Brexit Party sinking without a trace, and so some respect must be afforded. However, despite the indication that the Tories would look to restrict the scope where the Brexit Party could receive good support, it must be in the genuine, general interests of the Tory Part for broader Brexit Party participation in order to improve Tory chances against Labour. Indeed, while the Tories are making a deal of public noise about the Brexit Party disrupting their chances of gaining marginal seats, the truth is probably more like this: the vote that would be split in these cases would be a Labour/Brexit Party one.

However, the Tories must be seen to be offering bread crumbs where no sacrifice on their part would be required because of the design for the purpose of the 2019 election: to create a public perception where Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party, and the new Parliament and its executive element, appears to be strong and well supported. Faith in politics can be declared to have been restored (meaning “restor[ing people] into a state of having unflinching tolerance for the lying”). Most importantly, it will be said that Britain has almost unanimously declared support for the Article 50 treaty which will substitute for EU membership. A Brexit Party crutch, therefore, would be detrimental in achieving the desired effect.

And if we get through the deliberately created confusion to the bottom of the issue, if there ever had been a concern that the Tories could not achieve what the UK Government wanted them to do in office because of some deficiency that could have been avoided by a pact with the Brexit Party, then a pact is certainly what we would be seeing. So, with this in mind we must ask a question: if we supposed that the Brexit Party stated it would stand 600 candidates to create pressure on the Tories to come to terms, then why  would it bother when the goal was unachievable? Could it possibly be, then, given that the Brexit Party is a commercial enterprise by Farage’s own admission, that 600 candidates were put up in the expectation of being bought off to stand them down again?

In an astonishing coincidence, today (Thursday, 14th November) Farage has been accusing the Tories of trying to bribe Brexit Party candidates with “jobs”, and appears to claim that “eight ‘senior figures’ in his party, had been offered peerages to stand down”. It does occur that the Tories might well have thought this kind of approach entirely feasible, given that the Brexit Party has effectively served as a lower rung on the greasy pole were people have already purchased leverage by a bung of £100 (and who knows how much more)  – but the author would say this: we are always in danger of forgetting that essentially the concept of Brexit Party and the Tories making deals is like two actors (one paid to appear by the state, and the other taking the box-office receipts) deciding where they will stand in relation to each other on a theatre stage. The point is, this decision is not theirs to make: it’s the director’s job.

So, in an alternative explanation for why Farage, like the Grand Old Duke of York, marched 600 men to the top of the hill only to order a half to march back down, the author posits that what has been intended is a very effective propaganda operation. The author firmly believes that the support for the Brexit Party is and always has been over-rated and over inflated for the sake of a perception of a threat to the Tories, and that in fact the UK Government is unconcerned that the Brexit Party could create interference between the normal balance to be struck between Labour and the Conservatives at an election time. As such, the Brexit Party stand-down was a) about creating an impression of Tory strength by reducing Farage to a “unilateral Leave alliance”, and b) sending a message by demonstration to voters about how they should behave in the coming election. The idea that the Tories should come out of the election looking powerful has been introduced already, but the stand-down also telegraphs by symbolism (to a largely non-reading population) that the Tory approach to Brexit wins over the Brexit Party one. Moreover, because the stand-down is excused by talk of avoiding split voting, a central element of the message is one that tells would-have-been Brexit Party voters that they should cast their ballot for Johnson’s party.

Now, since writing an article where the idea in the last sentence of the previous paragraph was first offered in these pages, the author has gained a new appreciation about the impact of voters who would have supported the Brexit Party, but who will instead vote Tory. It occurred that in these particular 317 seats in question where there has been a stand-down, the Tories will not actually need additional votes other than that which can be mustered by the already existing core Tory support. So, looking at the landscape with this modified understanding, one can conclude with absolute certainty that the Brexit Party, at it very essence, is an operation to create an impression of the greatest amount of support for the next Boris Johnson executive.

First of all consider the 317 seats where the Brexit Party stood down candidates. Generally speaking, we might suppose that stalwart Tory support, when riled to maximum mobilisation, should on its own be enough to fend off challengers – and we can well imagine that simple political tribalism, even in these days of Remain versus Leave complications, would suffice to cause Tories to react like bees whose nest has been poked at by a bear. As such, the golden prize for UK Government, which is always the turnout, will be assured in these places.

On the other hand, in the places where the Brexit Party still contests seats,  the provincial Labour vote that might otherwise have been relied upon can no longer be guaranteed given a difference of opinion between it and Jeremy Corbyn, and therefore the smug pro-EU Islington tendency. In other words, in these Labour seats there would not be the same sense of urgency to participate, and no desire to assist the incumbent back to the Commons to continue sabotaging Brexit. And so it is in these seats that the Brexit Party would be useful for two things; firstly, the Brexit Party would be expected to generate participation from those disenchanted Labour voters who, without such an option being available, would not have voted. Secondly, with its support not being enough to pose a risk of actually winning any of these contests, in some places the Brexit Party might nevertheless just split the anti-Tory vote enough to get the Tory candidate over the finish line.

So, to bring this all together in a summary: in Tory-held seats, the Brexit Party has stood down to inspire additional numbers in the Tory count for bigger winning margins – although the Tory Party will be expected to win without this augmentation because of how its usual support will react in a tribal manner. And if the danger to the Tory incumbent is perceived to be enhanced because of Brexit (e.g. there is a so-called Remain alliance pitched against him), then all the better because it will trigger an escalated defence from people who could not tolerate having a Lib Dem or a Labour MP. In these seats, good turnout would be assured. As for the seats that the Brexit Party is still to contest, the turnout that may have suffered through Labour voter disgruntlement is to be maintained by the participation of the Brexit Party. Moreover, the Brexit Party might even enable surprise Tory victories. Most importantly of all, because Farage has excused Boris Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement, voters for the Brexit Party in these areas will be directly expressing support for the Article 50 treaty just as positively as if they had voted for the Tory Party itself.

Ultimately, of course, any vote in this coming general election will be to endorse the Withdrawal Agreement Bill that is coming in the next parliament, because to vote in an election, irrespective of to whom the support is given,  is always to vote for the winner†. The winner will be Boris Johnson. And on the day after the general election, yours truly will be writing an article with the headline “Day of the Dumb II; Britain votes for forever-EU undeadness”, in which it will be explained that Britons have no legs to stand, and had better not whine when they don’t like their situation in relation to the EU, and its reach into their supposed independent country, in terms of control of resources, unresponsive and damaging regulations, the alien source of legislation, the country’s inability to act in international affairs, and, of course, in terms of the continued colonisation which serves as a pretext for the superiority of the EU justice system.

 

† This also applies if one spoils a ballot paper. Putting one of these documents in a ballot box, irrespective of what is on it, is to contract with the Government. Unsurprisingly, instruction in how to “protest” in the way that still signals consent is already to be found in corporate-media. The following is from The Telegraph:

Angry Leave voters will spoil their ballot papers by writing ‘Brexit Party’ on them in seats where Nigel Farage has stood down his candidate, according to the lawyer who mediated failed electoral talks between Mr Farage and Boris Johnson.

 

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