NIGEL Farage has encountered considerable flak for his refusal to stand the Brexit Party down from contesting hundreds of seats in the forthcoming election, thereby risking splitting the Leave vote and allowing a Remain majority, and perhaps even a Jeremy Corbyn government, into power. It’s his pride, he’s a Donald Trump shill, or even, according to Dan Hannan, he no longer wants Brexit at all!
In fact, and tragically, Farage is almost certainly right: one should never trust the Tories to deliver. It is frankly depressing to write yet again on this dismal subject, but the aftermath of Brexit proved what conservatives have still fully to accept: that the Tories have no principles beyond personal and group survival. Career first, party second, country last.
Career first: post referendum, Michael Gove ruthlessly stabbed Boris Johnson in the back, torpedoing his leadership campaign and ushering in the three dismal years of the equally ambitious but hapless Theresa May. Now we have yet another hyper-ambitious, ideology-free Tory in charge: are we really sure that Boris won’t fold to an even greater extent than he already has done in the years of hard negotiation with the EU that lie ahead?
Party second: the bulk of Tory MPs voted to keep May on as leader even though it was clear she was not up to the job and was leading the country to absolute disaster. It was only pressure from the Brexit Party and the fear of losing their seats that forced her removal from office, just as it was only pressure from UKIP that forced the Tories to grant a referendum on ‘Europe’ in the first place.
Country last: a strong case can be made that the behaviour of the Tory party since Brexit is morally worse than in the time of appeasement during the 1930s. It is plainly ridiculous and offensive to claim that the EU equates to the horrors of Nazism, but nonetheless there were plenty of reasons to believe that Chamberlain’s policy was the right one in the context of the times. No moral reason whatsoever can give justification for the bulk of the Parliamentary party voting for Theresa May’s appalling deal, described by Yanis Varoufakis as the ‘kind a nation signs after defeat in war’.
Yes, there were and are honourable exceptions, but let us not pretend that, but for a quirk of arithmetic in Parliament, thanks to the Tories we would now be a colony of Brussels.
It is often said of the Tory Party that it wants only power, but that is true only in the same sense that a bodybuilder wants muscles: not for any practical purpose but for the social status it affords. In the 1960s and 70s Tory pusillanimity led to the ‘socialist rachet’ effect, where the economy drifted ever leftwards whoever was in charge. At some point the radical Left, which is truly interested in the use of power, worked out that whether or not it was in office was not all that important, provided it could manoeuvre itself into a position from where it could intimidate the Tories into following its agenda. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall this tactic has worked brilliantly for the Left, leading to the complete transformation of society via political correctness, a process to which the Tories have fully signed up. The cultural damage is now so extensive that it has weakened the economy to the point that the zero-sum game of traditional economic Marxism looks attractive to millions: hence the rise of Corbynism and the prospect that for the first time in its history Britain may have a truly Marxist government. The justified concern of those who want Brexit and a return to a more genuinely conservative society is that the Tories will follow their time-honoured tactic of presenting themselves as a less extreme version than the alternative, but weakly giving in over Brexit and everything else in the years ahead.
Battle-hardened campaigner that he is, Farage plainly understands all this better than anyone else. He accepts that he will never get his clean Brexit, but he wants to bully the Tories into negotiating a free trade deal with the EU that does not leave us trapped in a semi-colonial relationship through the device of the ‘level playing field’ relationships alluded to in the Political Declaration, enforced in perpetuity via a new international treaty.
It may still turn out to be hardly the Brexit we wanted, but it must be just enough slowly to extricate us from the EU’s grip in the years ahead.
It is a high-stakes game, certainly, but one Farage must win.