IT IS hardly surprising if many of the ‘stood down’ Brexit Party candidates feel sore and bemused. The words gall and wormwood spring to mind. Darren Selkus’s powerful, near-Shakespearean, howl of anguish which we published yesterday must and should be biting into the souls of Nigel Farage and Richard Tice.
Yet how could they have warned their extraordinary volunteer army – these decent men and women untarnished by the rotten state of the main parties, conjured out of obscurity into the political light – of what was to befall them?
But if I have one criticism of Farage’s otherwise statesmanlike ceding of ground in response to Boris’s promise of an end date, it is this: a good leader must always acknowledge his men. A tribute was owed to these souls who in a matter of months, with their grassroots activity and dedication, have changed the face of British politics. Farage should have assured them, and those of us who are now without a candidate we can vote for, that it is not the end of their or his mission – a tactical retreat in the country’s best interests, yes, but by no means a surrender.
Though he’d cried ‘a plague on both your houses’ one election was never going to drain the swamp. That is the brutal reality. But to those who delight in asserting that the Brexit Party would not (and will not) win one seat, a view I have never shared, it’s to miss a big point. The very significant total national vote that having a candidate stand in every seat would have almost certainly garnered (had this not succeeded in pressuring Boris to commit to a December 2020 end plus an unaligned free trade deal) could not have been ignored.
As it is, Farage has been all but blackmailed by the Tories out of ever being able to prove the full extent of this Brexit and political protest vote, no doubt to the great relief of the Conservatives (and Labour).
And it is certainly galling for BP candidates in continuity Remain Tory seats, in those ‘huge and taken for granted majority’ Tory seats (like Darren Selkus’s) and even in marginal Tory seats, to have to stand down. It is also deeply depressing – if not alienating – for voters like me whose only choice now is to cast their vote for a Tory Remainer or not at all. Yes, I would have risked ‘splitting’ the vote.
If this husk of a Conservative Party and their media mouthpieces do not appreciate the full depth of that feeling, if they don’t now show some graciousness, as a party they really do deserve to die; even to have Corbyn inflicted on them. It is after all the constant Leftward drift of Tory politics that has allowed mad McDonnell’s new Red Book. Unfortunately it’s not just Tories who’ll take the punishment, but all of us.
Hence Farage’s magnanimous decision. He looked tired and worn – no wonder, after the last weeks’ non-stop assault on him by the Tory establishment and their mainstream media supporters, revealed in all their blinkered entitlement. Melanie Phillips noted it here. Farage endured yet another week of it. Between a rock and hard place, he made the only decision he could.
But now he should not budge one inch further. The volley of demands that immediately hailed down on him to do more and stand down further candidates is reason enough. It demonstrates once more the gulf that exists between the Westminster elite and the average Brit; the insensitivity to public despair and disenchantment with the main parties. It shows they’ve learned nothing, that they have no grace, and no understanding of reciprocity.
I cannot be the only person to think that people are entitled to their vote, not to a party stitch up, or be the only person to find direct requests, as from Conservative Home, telling BP candidates why they should stand down to be condescending and bullying.
What a contrast with the graciousness and humility of those Brexit candidates who, unprompted, came to their own decisions.
Sadly I am standing down as the @brexitparty_uk PPC for Hemel Hempstead. It has been an extraordinary couple of months and a real honour to have had this experience. Thanks to all those who have supported me 🙏. I will push support for all our remaining PPCs.
— Shai Ahmed (@ShaiAhmedUK) November 11, 2019
What a contrast with the decency and integrity of Jeremy Maddocks (Chelsea and Fulham) and Cornwall’s Dawn Westcott, who yesterday told me:
I’ve been humbled by the attitude of a great number of the Brexit Party PPCs, genuinely looking to put country before party and think it indicates a refreshing evolution in politics. I hope this can find its way into the political class, going forwards.
Will we find such civility amongst the career-oriented parachuted-in Cameroonian Tory candidates of whom we are hearing more and more? How many of these politician wannabes, I wonder, could do what Darren Selkus did and build up a grassroots party organisation from scratch?
All this is why Nigel Farage must not give way anymore, however hard Patrick O’Flynn and others press him to stand more candidates aside. Some are even demanding the Brexit Party stand down in those Leave-voting but Labour-held seats to give the Tories a clear run (at coming second, presumably).
Not an inch more. Not until the Conservative Party take a long hard look at themselves, starting with that crass announcement of the Tory candidate who will stand against Richard Tice in Hartlepool coming straight after Farage’s speech.
Why did not Party HQ follow the example of the lead contender for the seat, Ralph Ward-Jackson, who immediately withdrew his nomination following the Farage announcement?
The trouble is that whatever may be going on behind the scenes, all that we (would be Brexit Party voters) can see is a Tory Party immediately and ruthlessly banking the Farage concession, yet declining to reciprocate in Leave-voting but Labour-held seats, which they’ve no chance of winning anyway because the Tory brand is so toxic.
It does not bode well. Nor did last night’s FT’s Brexit briefing that dropped into my in-tray, already anticipating Johnson’s limbering up to betray Farage. It will soon be July 2020, it reminded us, the point at which Johnson has to decide whether to extend the transition period for at least another year.
‘. . (and) the worst-kept secret in Westminster is that Mr Johnson will do all that he can to avoid no deal . . . But if he wins a convincing majority, he will have the political capital to extend and talk, extend and talk.’
That equals betrayal. And who knows then how the grievance will express itself? I would not be in Farage’s shoes for the world. So much rests on this one remarkable man – and his next move. I hope he has the Trump rule book to hand.
Quite simply he has done the decent thing and now it’s the Tories turn. Or they can face the consequences.