WHAT a staggering act of betrayal. A week before the country goes to the polls, four Brexit Party MEPs – John Longworth, Lance Forman, Annunziata Rees-Mogg and Lucy Harris – have quit and endorsed Boris Johnson.
Their joint resignation letter to Nigel Farage – short and to the point – speaks for itself. They write: ‘Your efforts, over the years, have been instrumental both in obtaining a referendum and, more recently, with the establishment and electoral success of The Brexit Party, in ensuring there was a change of PM: two important moments in history and in the Brexit story.’
Talk about damning with faint praise. Securing a referendum and three years later getting rid of Theresa May, who was blocking Brexit, were merely ‘important’? Is that it? Whichever of this band of four decided to use this word to insult Farage should be ashamed.
It is unclear what the quartet hope to achieve by torpedoing the Brexit Party campaign at this juncture. They claim that Brexit is in peril if people don’t vote Tory. But Farage having already stood down candidates in 317 seats, the Brexit Party poses almost no threat to the Tories any longer. The polls, as far as they can be trusted, point to a Tory win. The markets are convinced of this as well.
Ironically, then, all that Longworth and Co have done is to provide Farage’s enemies – including the Labour Party – with ammunition. More than that, they have actively weakened the chances of a good Brexit Party candidate such as Richard Tice, who has ploughed significant amounts of time and trouble (and money) into the Brexit cause. Until now, Tice had a fighting chance of being returned as the MP for Hartlepool. As Farage has argued many times, there are certain seats in Britain, like Hartlepool, which will never vote Tory. But they would vote for the Brexit Party. What’s the betting Labour retain Hartlepool next week because of this stunt? Longworth and his cohorts clearly prefer Labour over the Brexit Party.
I’m struck also by the timing of this betrayal, coming on the morning Farage was to record an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil and the day on which Tice was on Question Time. They would also have known about this. They detonated the bombs with maximum damage in mind.It is hard to think of a more blatant act of political sabotage.
So why have they done it?
It is clear that John Longworth has not been happy with the Brexit Party for some time. His daughter also used to work for the party but was released from her duties for reasons which aren’t clear. Does this have anything to do with Daddy’s spiteful decision?
It is not difficult to see why Lance Forman was willing to sign up to this gang, given that he is a longstanding friend of Boris Johnson and has campaigned with Michael Gove. His hotline to Tory Central Office has been kept warm.
As for Lucy Harris, I am told that she is the girlfriend of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s chief of staff. Might Rees-Mogg’s pen-pusher have been instrumental in persuading Miss Harris to resign the Brexit Party whip?
That leaves Annunziata Rees-Mogg. She owes the Brexit Party a considerable amount. Twice a failed Tory candidate, she had become an obscure figure until she was fished out of the backwaters this spring by joining the Brexit Party. Given her lively personality – some say she is a bit of a party girl – she was happy to be its pin-up. But just like her show-off brother, who voted for Theresa May’s deal at the third time of asking, she has buckled at a crucial moment. People in the Brexit Party have shown goodwill to Miss Rees-Mogg and this is how she has repaid them.
Today’s politics is riddled with hacks and placemen. Let’s see where this group end up. I reckon at least one of them will be in the House of Lords (an institution the Brexit Party wants to abolish) before you know it. I can think of no better place for any of them.