Farage has made a huge mistake
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BY TOM HARWOOD
The Brexit Party risked throwing away their mantle as Brexit Heroes yesterday as Nigel Farage announced the party will be contesting every seat in England, Scotland, and Wales unless Boris commits to yet another renegotiation. This drastic move could risk letting anti-democratic parties slip through the middle in hundreds of constituencies, and throw Brexit away altogether.
In the last few months alone, a split majority Leave vote in both Brecon and Peterborough delivered two Remain MPs. Now a party hovering around 10% in the polls could slice away the chances of the newly rejuvenated Tories winning crucial leave backing seats.
Nigel Farage could have left this election on a high – seeing his new party targeting just a few seats as some of his own MEPs have been urging. This would give the strongly polling and newly united Conservative Party a clean run at the seats that are needed to end the paralysis and deliver a majority government – the only kind that can deliver Brexit and the domestic reform that has to go alongside it.
Instead the Brexit Party leader appears to have thrown away his chance to have walked away into the sunset, thrown away the chance of cementing his place in history as a winner. Now his likely final election will not see him emerge in first place, but as a spluttering fourth. At the most generous end of the spectrum, the Brexit Party are likely to poll about as many votes (and seats) as UKIP did in 2015. It will be a sorry sight for the man who almost single-handedly made the referendum a reality and who, just as the result was slipping away, shocked the political system and the Conservative Party into finally delivering on its promises.
Having made a remarkable comeback and won an astonishing victory from scratch this year, having turned the tide on Brexit discourse and facilitated what most thought was impossible: a new clean Brexit deal, Farage is now in danger of throwing it all away. By describing Boris’ new deal as “not Brexit”, he is undermining his own credibility. He is setting himself up against titans of the Eurosceptic movement, from Bill Cash to Steve Baker.
Of course Boris’ deal makes compromises, as has been the fundamental nature of every deal in history. Most leavers are sympathetic to criticism of some aspects of the deal, from the financial settlement to the implementation period – but only a tiny fraction would take the absurd step to say it does not facilitate leaving the EU.
The deal clearly lays a credible path to achieving the comprehensive Canada style Free Trade Agreement that all Leavers want to see.
If he continues to attempt to claim that this new deal “is not Brexit”, Farage will be side-lining himself as a fringe figure among Leave voters, the overwhelming majority of whom disagree with him and wanted to see the deal pass.
This coming election will be unpredictable. Every vote matters. The entire exercise is too important to allow for Leaver infighting. That is the job of the hapless People’s Vote campaign and Lib Dem – Labour squabbles.
The Leave side had coalesced around Boris, and must continue to do so for the best chance of a diverging, deal making, free trading, global future. Sadly, the Brexit Party have made that harder today.
Tom Harwood is an award-winning journalist and commentator. Follow him on twitter: @tomhfh