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Talk of Farage-Tory pact means pro-Europeans must unite

by Hugo Dixon | 14.05.2019

Labour’s fence-sitting and divisions among pro-European parties have been unfortunate in the European elections. They would be catastrophic if there is a general election.

There is a real danger that Nigel Farge’s Brexit Party will form a pact with a new hard-Brexit Tory leader. If the forces opposed to Brexit and/or in favour of a new referendum are in disarray, the hardliners will win such an election. These demagogues will then impose not just a destructive form of Brexit on our country but much more misery besides.

If Theresa May is kicked out, as seems likely, her successor will be an extreme Brexiter. Tory party members, who have the final say, will not back anybody who is seen as soft. But this Parliament will not let us crash out of the EU with no deal. So unless some sort of national unity government can be formed, we could be heading for a general election.

Pact of the devil

A Tory party at war with itself would normally be slaughtered in such an election. But what if it is led by a populist such Boris Johnson who agrees a pact with Farage?

This can no longer be viewed as fanciful. Farage said yesterday he would “do a deal with the devil” to get a hard Brexit. Crispin Blunt, the Tory MP, responded by telling BBC’s Newsnight that ousting May would inevitably lead to an election and that “the Conservatives are almost certainly going to have to go into some kind of electoral arrangement with the Brexit Party.” He suggested Farage’s party should stand in the seats the Tories don’t hold.

Such a devilish deal can be defeated. But not if Jeremy Corbyn continues with his mealy-mouthed Brexit policy and the other parties fight one another.

Many pro-European voters are aghast at the divisions within our camp in the European elections and the failure of the Lib Dems, Greens and Change UK to put up a single champion in next month’s Peterborough by-election.

They should not be too worried – yet. After all, the priority in the European elections is to get as many votes for pro-referendum parties as possible. A good crop of MEPs would be a bonus. But the MEPs will have no say on whether we can stop Brexit – and, if we fail to do so, they will lose their seats anyway.

Meanwhile, the Labour candidate in Peterborough is expected to toe the party line. So if she wins and Corbyn whips again in favour of a confirmatory referendum, her vote can almost certainly be counted upon.

Pro-Europeans must unite

But a general election is a totally different beast from both the European elections and by-elections. What will matter is which constellation of forces can form a government – and what its Brexit policy will be.

The priority will be to get Corbyn off the fence, as he will be best placed to lead such a government. This is why it is good that Labour voters are deserting the party for the Lib Dems and Greens in the European elections. One poll yesterday put Labour on just 16% – just one point ahead of the Lib Dems.

Many of Corbyn’s MPs were up in arms last night about how his fudged policy is losing them votes. Hopefully, he will get the message before any general election.

But it will also be important for the Lib Dems, Greens and Change UK not to fight one another – and ideally for them not to fight Labour either if it comes out with an unequivocal pro-referendum policy. If the Tories and Farage reach a pact, the forces opposing them must come together too.

Even without a Tory/Farage pact, the Lib Dems, Greens and Change UK should work together in a future election – especially if Corbyn sticks with his mealy-mouthed approach. That way, they will be able to form a powerful bloc in Parliament which could hold the balance of power and help determine the course of Brexit.

We could be into a Tory leadership election in weeks and a general election in the autumn. There is no time to lose. The planning for a pro-European alliance needs to start now.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

7 Responses to “Talk of Farage-Tory pact means pro-Europeans must unite”

  • What if a Peoples Vote merely confirmed the national wish to leave thr EU ? Laugh – I suspect my pants would never dry !

  • Besides being gutted by the Corbyn/ Momentum betrayal of progressive British voters who don’t need a foreign “enemy” to feel at peace with their own fellow Brits, the splintering of the remain groups into factions and so made themselves into a bunch of noisy Jack Russell terriers is another painful reality. Brexit and the way the hard right was able to grasp power undoubtedly made mince-meat of the remain groups and politically speaking facilitated the occurrence in 2016. I still see no effective concerted effort to push Farage and the likes back into the drains where they belong. Like the brexiteers, who had no plan about what to do and where to go after June 2016, the remain groups have no effective and concerted plan to tackle the still effective Brexit threat. The Labour shenanigans are just one symptom of this typical progressive trait to virtually immediately split up in smaller ideologically tainted units and become disorganized, unable to get anything done.

  • What is noticeable in this Euro election campaign is how most of the party leaders seem to shy away from a direct confrontation with Farage. Heidi Allen challenged him to a live debate (which he declined in a characteristically rude manner), but there has been scarcely a word about him from May or Corbyn. I know, there is an argument that any publicity is good publicity, but its clear he’s ahead in the opinion polls and cannot be ignored.
    Why don’t May or Corbyn go for him and spell out exactly what he stands for, and what consequences his type of No Deal would bring for the economy and public services?
    The problem is both are pre-occupied with their own situations and thereby end up semi-appeasing Farage. The result is hardliners, especially in the Cons party, draw strength from that and things can only move from bad to worse. It is vital that politicians like Farage are directly confronted, not appeased. We have lessons from history which show what happens if we do the latter.

  • To confront Farage, the Remain camp needs a charismatic and articulate spokesman who is enough of an outspoken character to steal some of the limelight away from the snake oil salesman. They need good PR and funding backup too, to be a match for the unlimited dark money behind Farage. Who could it be?

  • This is a European election, not a second or third referendum on Brexit. It should therefore be possible, as in other countries, for pro-Europeans to stand in competition with each other, according to beliefs, values and policies. There should be room for Liberals, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats. If people are stupid enough to vote for a party without policies, why should the rest of us forego any semblance of normal mainstream politics? Perhaps, in the absence of action from the electoral commission, we should agree, between ourselves, to do this as a ‘one off’ in this election, but I’m not convinced that we should set this precedent in order to avoid a hard brexit. It might be better to defeat Farage by voting for the deal on the basis of a confirmatory public vote before the elections.

  • I have just seen how much the different parties are spending on these Euro elections, and what stands out is how derisory the Conservatives’ spending is.
    Its almost like those in charge of their Election strategy want them to fail.