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Brecon anti-Brexit pact should be taste of things to come

by Hugo Dixon | 05.07.2019

Plaid Cymru and the Greens are standing aside to let the Lib Dems get a clean shot at the Tories in the coming Brecon and Radnorshire by-election. Pity Labour isn’t doing the same.

With Boris Johnson likely to move into Downing Street, it’s important that pro-European parties take every seat they can from the Conservatives. If the Tories lose Brecon on August 1, their majority will be cut to three – even if Northern Ireland’s DUP supports them. It will then be easier to stop Johnson crashing out of the EU without a deal as he’s threatening.

Brecon may be ripe for the picking. Not only has the sitting MP has been recalled by his constituents for false expenses, but the Lib Dems held the seat for a long period until 2015. Although neither Plaid Cymru nor the Greens has been particularly strong in Brecon, the fact that they are not dividing the anti-Brexit vote should give the Lib Dems a boost.

This seat is much more promising for an anti-Brexit pact than the previous by-election in Peterborough. There, an attempt by the Lib Dems, Greens and Change UK to field a common candidate fell apart in part because it looked like only Labour, the Brexit Party and the Tories ever stood a chance of winning. Labour eventually squeaked through.

In Brecon, it would be even better if Labour was standing aside. In the 2017 general election, it came third with 7,335 votes, behind the Lib Dems on 12,043 and ahead of Plaid on 1,299. Those three parties together got more than the Tories’ 20,081.

But Labour is not yet an anti-Brexit party. Even if Jeremy Corbyn comes off the fence and says he’ll support staying in the EU in a referendum, the party is so tribal that it is hard to see it agreeing any electoral pacts.

That said, pro-European parties can and should do whatever they can even if Labour won’t play ball. This will be vital if, as seems increasingly possible, there is a general election before Brexit. In such a scenario, Nigel Farage has hinted about a devils’ pact between his Brexit Party and the Tories. 

There needs to be a rival angels’ pact, the core of which will have to be a deal between the Lib Dems and the Greens. Collectively, they are polling around 30% in the polls (see here and here) – making them the largest single force. If they came together, pro-European voters might be so enthusiastic that a Lib Dem/Green alliance would enjoy a further fillip in support.

But to get such a pact off the ground, the Lib Dems will have to be generous. They are, of course, the bigger party. But they will have to give as well as take. In 2017, the Greens stood down in 12 seats that the Lib Dems were hoping to win, while the Lib Dems reciprocated in only two. That was short-sighted.

With the nation’s future at stake, let’s hope pro-European politicians will find a way to build on the Brecon precedent.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

6 Responses to “Brecon anti-Brexit pact should be taste of things to come”

  • It is high time somebody starts to think about the 1.2 million BRITS who already live in the EU. It seems that the current government has no ideas about us. We are left to rot Wakeup UK .
    Nicholas Trask

  • It’s not clear how the LibDems could really be more generous. There are probably less than ten seats nationally where the LibDems standing down would give a realistic chance of the Greens winning. As a LibDem I’d support it, but I’m not sure the Greens would ever see an arrangement which aimed to maximise Remain wins as generous enough to them. Obviously, agreements with SNP and PC would be easier to decide.

    It’s also worth pointing out that agreements would be made by local parties. LibDem HQ could do little more than encourage co-operation.

  • Perhaps proportional representation could finally be considered from now on? When Joker Johnson has installed himself at No 10 and dares to call an election? Just to cut out any further chance of “the people” wrecking the nation again in the way it happened?

  • Labour has done this before in ’97 when they worked with the Lib Dems with both parties standing down to allow the independent candidate Martin Bell to take the Tatton seat from the sleazy Kneel Hamilton. (Spelling intentional)

  • Nicholas Trask : There are almost certainly considerably more than 1.2 million Brits living in the EU. That;s a conservative estimate largely based on figures compiled by individual countries and the true figure is probably nearer 2.5 million. While most require registration on arrival, this is not always enforced and e.g., in the case of France, non-existent. There are, for instance, an estimated 310,000 in Spain. This is ludicrous; the true figure is nearer a million. However, not all ex-pats have registered to vote in UK elections, not all want to, and those who have been away for 15 years STILL cannot vote. But nonetheless, we form a considerable body of pro-EU opinion (for the most part, the minute number who voted for Brexit are not permanently resident in an EU country and therefore do not share the same commitment).

  • You don’t mention that the Renew Party also stepped down in Brecon.
    Or that we were a central part of the attempt to push a unity remain candidate in Peterborough.
    All the major dailies included Renew in their reports on Peterborough.
    Is this an oversight or should we be concerned?