Brecon is a beacon, but there’s no excuse for complacency

by Hugo Dixon | 02.08.2019

Hats off to the Greens and Plaid Cymru for stepping down in Brecon and Radnorshire to let the Lib Dems win the by-election in this Tory seat. This is the first of hopefully many victories for the so-called Remain alliance. 

It shows that when pro-European parties work together rather than fight each other, they can cause Brexiters lots of damage. This is an important lesson if there’s a general election later this year. Boris Johnson’s majority is now down to just one. It is increasingly likely MPs will stop him crashing out of the EU without a deal – and that might trigger an election.

But we must not kid ourselves. The Conservatives came very close to holding onto the Welsh seat. If they had squeezed the Brexit Party vote, they would have won. What’s more, Labour was not part of the Remain alliance. Although its vote was savaged – with presumably lots of its pro-European supporters voting tactically for the Lib Dems – it still managed to get just over 5%. If its support had held up, again the Tories would have won.

Here are the numbers.

So much depends on how the pro-European and pro-Brexit votes split – and how much people vote tactically. In Brecon, these factors worked to the advantage of pro-Europeans. They had a pact between four parties – the Lib Dems, Greens, Plaid and Renew. There was no pact of the devils between the Tories and the Brexit Party.

The one good thing to come out of Dominic Cummings’ appointment as Boris Johnson’s most powerful official is that Nigel Farage loathes him. So the hard Brexit forces may stay divided.

But we should not count on this. Even if there’s no formal arrangement between the Conservatives and the Brexit Party, there may be some informal pact – potentially brokered by Donald Trump, who likes both Johnson and Farage. 

Alternatively, the new prime minister may squeeze the Brexit Party’s vote further without any deal. Johnson’s cocktail of hard Brexit and lashings of populism may give him a bigger “Boris bounce” in the opinion polls than the one he is already enjoying.

Meanwhile, the Remain alliance isn’t fully developed. The Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid need to stand down for each other in every winnable seat across England and Wales. And they will need to offer a safe harbour for Conservative MPs who are prepared to stand as independents if Johnson is determined to crash out of the EU.

Somehow Labour also has to be involved. Even if it won’t be part of a formal pact, a Remain alliance and Labour shouldn’t fight hard where they have no chance of winning. And pro-European voters will need to be smart and choose the candidate in each seat who can best stop Brexit.

Achieving all this will be hard. Tribalism is strong in politics. But the nation’s future is at stake. Brecon is a beacon of hope. Let’s build on it.

10 Responses to “Brecon is a beacon, but there’s no excuse for complacency”

  • That would be a coalition of chaos. Difficult to see what they could agree on beyond the most basic “we want Brexit” but without agreeing what Brexit is.

  • Peter is being a little simplistic. While the figures indicate an overall victory for leavers, this was a bye-election, not part of a national election, so local factors should be taken into consideration. What is noticeable is that there was no Boris-bounce here. And the Brexit t party suffered at the hands of the conservatives. If Labour had stepped aside, the LD share of the vote would have been even higher. I hope this is the start of a LD revival; through all this murk, they are the only ones who have stayed consistent in their message of Remain. Which shows an honesty lacking in the other parties. As long as Corbyn continues to waver, the LD’s will do well.

  • Good article! More of these bits of expertise please. Remain voters need to be shown that tribalism kills the country under a first past the post voting system.

  • And “Peter”, in true Brexiteer style, didn’t read the article properly again; it merely yet properly showed that this LD gain in co-operation is a start of the path toward stopping Brexit. The reasonable people finally seeing reason. Also, not every conservative is going to let Johnson crash out of the EU; I even wonder if someone like Hunt would. And Labour, glory be, gets another load of punishment. Lovely; the country shows signs of having had enough and voting with their feet!

  • Does Lib Dem Jo Swinson hate Corbyn? Is the feeling mutual? How can any of the parties be playing politics with the Brexit dragon at the door?

    Now links between Lynton Crosby’s firm, CTF, and Blubbo have been exposed along with their dishonest methods of operation how can Labour (Corbyn) sit umming and ahhing? He needs to take a position and stick to it. He may be leader of the official opposition but what a sad affair that party is these days.

    John McDonnell, Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry (among others) should be allowed to contribute to the Party’s policies, make positive statements and not have them contradicted (by Corbyn) the following day!

    The idea that Labour might outright win the next election puts Corbyn firmly in the Ga Ga land category. If he keeps waffling about policies and to be vague about the exit issue is to push him further into the land of the unelectable. How on earth can he even think that Labour could renegotiate May’s deal let alone voice these thoughts in public? The EU said NO, NO, NO! Get it Corbyn?

    He should be on a Labour version of a Battlebus shouting pro EU from the rooftops! Working with other parties and take on the spirit of PR for the next election. Labour is no longer King of the Heap and he must accept that.

    As for the antisemitism issue and jumping through Benji’s hoops, look at this.


    Or better yet, withdraw A50

  • The election campaign is already in place with a £100 million propaganda campaign to sell Brexit, on top of enthusiastic endorsement from most of the press and media. That is a huge amount of money, with that sort of money you can persuade people to believe almost anything.

    To combat that offensive and expose all the lies, we would need a £100 million Remain campaign and a pro-European media network expanded at least fivefold. Realistically therefore I fear we are totally outgunned. The rot has gone so deep that Macron may be right that we are a danger to the rest of the EU.

    My main hope now is that the EU will survive and strengthen, and that I am reborn as a Frenchman.

  • @Peter,
    If we are playing statistics I believe the referendum result in B&R was 53% leave, so a swing of over 2% to remain.

    Enough to win a future referendum if repeated across the country!