NIGEL Farage has offered Boris Johnson a pact with his Brexit Party – to work together to “smash” Labour and finally deliver our EU exit.
The Eurosceptic leader said that the current deadlock in Parliament means he’s going to have to deliver an election to get us out, but that would require Boris to team up with him.
TAP – The Brexit Party would require the Conservatives to back out of 50 to 100 Northern seats, and Brexit avoid hurting Conservative Brexiteer MPs by standing against them. There is logic in this concept. But can Johnson manage to arrange this?
Those who favour a deal between the Brexit Party and the Conservatives have been encouraged by another opinion poll, this one just for Conservative Party members. It found that 46 per cent of Conservative Party members would be “happy” if Nigel Farage became the Conservative leader. Large numbers of Conservative Party members quietly voted for the Brexit Party in the Euro Elections. That does suggest some blurring of the divide between the two parties.
The dilemma for Eurosceptics of vote splitting is not new. The existence of the Referendum Party in the 1997 General Election doubtless helped Tony Blair’s Labour Party to win a landslide victory on the scale they achieved. Subsequently, UKIP was a significant electoral force in certain places – though it would be wrong to assume all its votes have come from the Conservatives.
My friend Paul Bristow is as staunch a Eurosceptic as you could find. He stood in Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East in the 2010 General Election. He lost to Labour by 1,677 votes. The UKIP candidate against Paul got 1,881. In the recent Peterborough by-election Paul stood as the Conservative candidate, but Leavers were split between him and the Brexit Party. Labour narrowly won.
Amidst all this muddle there is a clear and present danger of a Labour Government. Not just any Labour Government but a Jeremy Corbyn Labour Government.
But tempting though it might be, a Brexit pact is not a realistic possibility. The Conservatives will fight every seat. If we have an early election the Brexit Party might unilaterally decide to give a few Conservative MPs a free ride – as it might some Labour MPs. I would be surprised, for instance, if Kate Hoey faces a Brexit Party opponent in Vauxhall.
Both the Conservative leadership contenders have ruled out any electoral pacts. If that pledge was to be broken those easy calculations of electoral gains would not materialise.
For a start, voters would rightly see it as opportunistic. The Conservatives brand as a mainstream and responsible party would be shattered – as for that matter would the Brexit Party’s anti-establishment street cred. Within the Conservative Party there would be a huge backlash. Some Conservatives regard Farage as an ally – for others, he is utterly toxic.
As it happens, I suspect the Conservative Party will cope pretty well without such desperate manoeuvring. If Boris Johnson is thwarted by the House of Commons from delivering Brexit then the clear message of the ensuing election campaign will be that to finally bring it about a proper Conservative majority is essential. In that scenario the Brexit Party would be more likely to gain votes – possibly even seats – from Labour. Wigan, Dudley, Stoke, Sunderland – traditional Labour territory could provide some upsets.
Furthermore, opposition MPs are by no means united in wishing to force an early election. My hunch is that the odds are against. If that is so, then Brexit will have taken place by the next election – whether as a “no deal” clean break or with some limited free trade deal with the EU. In that scenario it is hard to see what future the Brexit Party has – at least without a name change.
The upshot is that notion of an Brexit Party/Conservative electoral pact is fantasy. The good news is that it is not needed. These are volatile times. With a self-confident and determined new Prime Minister the Conservatives can bring us out of the EU. Having done so it will be able to see off the Corbyn threat whenever the subsequent General Election materialises.
NEW AMBASSADOR TO WASHINGTON – Liam Fox?
Liam Fox, 57, Britain’s secretary of state for trade and industry, is a prominent pro-Brexit figure. After the resignation of Kim Darroch over leaked cables describing President Trump as “inept,” the next ambassador will need a deep understanding of British trade and the contacts book to jump start negotiations on a post-Brexit transatlantic deal.
As the government’s most senior trade minister he is front and center of the economic debate about how Britain positions itself after Brexit, following a career shaped by his connections with the U.S. With the chances of a pro-Brexit businessman being chosen receding amid recriminations over who leaked the Darroch cables, Fox might emerge as a compromise choice for Boris Johnson, poised to become the new prime minister.
Chief Political Correspondent Byron York on the expanded Washington Examiner magazine
Fox, a doctor, comes with solid right-wing credentials, combined with an unusual Tory background: He is a Catholic from the sort of Scottish town that produced generations of socialists. Then there is his reputation as a gregarious party host — exactly the quality of a natural Washington ambassador.
Before he married fellow doctor Jesme Baird in 2005, Fox had a reputation as a socialite. When he was linked to Imbruglia, Fox said he hoped the relationship would end “all sorts of smears” that he “must be a playboy or a wild man or gay”.
While the ambassadorial position would technically be a step down from running a government department and he has told friends he is hopeful of a cabinet job in the Johnson administration, Fox would be well placed to rebuild relations with Trump.