Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party might be less than two months old but its overwhelming victory in Britain’s awkward EU Parliamentary election was based on timeless political truths: listen, learn deliver.
First of all, it must be acknowledged that the elections were not so much awkward because of their political content or results but because they were not supposed to happen at all. Britain had been legally scheduled to leave the European Union on the 29th of March but due to outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May’s refusal to obey the legally binding timeline she herself voted for, this withdrawal was delayed first to the 12th of April and then to the 31st of October. Thus, an election that none of the major UK parties actually wanted had to occur because of May’s own blunders.
But while the established parties did not want to face an electoral challenge that predictably would go against the old guard, the newly created Brexit Party was willing, eager and clearly able to stand in the elections that effectively served as a “second referendum” on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
The results did not lie and nor does the electoral map.
The visual image is stark. The Brexit Party has painted just about all of England and most of Wales in its colours. In fact, the only electoral region in England not won by the Brexit party was London and even there, Farage’s new party beat Theresa May’s Conservatives. The image also proves that contrary to speculation (better described as liberal wishful thinking), the country has not collectively changed its mind since the Brexit referendum of 2016. The map below shows the parts of the UK that voted for Brexit in 2016 in blue and this corresponds almost exactly to the parts of Britain which voted for the Brexit Party in 2019 (as shown above).
What this means is that Brexit remains a democratic reality. Failing to acknowledged this reality is consequently not only undemocratic but it is a severe denial of actual fact. Just as Bill Clinton’s adviser James Carville once quipped that the the essence of Clinton’s victorious 1992 campaign was “the economy, stupid!”, so too is Brexit now about ‘the reality, stupid’!
The two main parties in Westminster which continue to deny this reality ended up losing badly. The ruling Conservatives of Theresa May came in a shockingly low fifth place overall while the Labour party that as recently as a month ago were favourites to win came in a dismal third behind the Brexit Party and the once moribund Liberal Democrats.
The reasons for this are simple. The Conservatives are rightly blamed for handling Brexit so poorly that everyone from Farage style Brexiteers to pro-EU holdouts have been resoundingly disappointed. For the opposition Labour Party, rather than capitalising on the Conservatives’ incompetence, a race to the bottom has occurred in which Labour are vying for the title of ‘most incompetent’ with the Conservatives. This proverbial two horse race remains very tight.
Labour’s awkward “strategy” is essentially that of Schrödinger’s Brexit. By being purposefully vague about the party’s Brexit policy, Labour has tried to have it both ways for too long.
But while Labour’s increasingly out of touch leadership believes that somehow it is possible to offer both Brexit and its antithesis simultaneously. The public have seen that the Parliamentary Labour party is effectively a liberal rather than a working class socialist party and as such it has long since severed its roots from the anti-EU traditions of Labour icons like Peter Shore, Tony Benn and Michael Foot. This has been the reality for decades ever since Tony Blair turned Labour into a pro-war liberal party in the 1990s. That being said, because Labour traditionalist and lifelong (until the last three years) Eurosceptic Jeremy Corbyn is in charge of the party, some were offered a sense of false hope. Now however, it is perfectly clear that Corbyn has either abandoned his principles or is otherwise being held captive by political forces that he is too weak or too afraid to control.
This itself explains why the Liberal Democrats came back from the dead to take second place. Whilst vastly less successful than The Brexit Party, unlike Labour and the Conservatives, at least the Liberals were honest about what they stood for. The Liberal Democrats made it quite clear that they wish to ignore the democratic vote of 2016 and reverse the entire Brexit process. This view proved to be unpopular but because the Liberals were more honest about this view than the majority of those running Labour or the Conservatives, they captured parts of the electorate who remain willing to stand against the implementation of a referendum that according to the letter and spirit of promises made in 2016, should have already been fully implemented. The Green Party came third in the UK overall for much the same reason.
Nigel Farage concluded his victorious evening by once again hinting that his future is in the hands of the existing political class. He stated that he is willing to work with those currently in power to negotiate a clean break Brexit – something that previous negotiators have been proved utterly incapable of doing. Alternatively, Farage has stated that if Brexit does not happen on the 31st of October, The Brexit Party is more than ready and willing to fight the next general election in a manner that shows no political mercy to any of the established parties.
Never before in British politics has a party just 6 weeks old won a national election.
If Britain does not leave the EU on October 31st, these results will be repeated at a general election.
History has been made. This is just the beginning.pic.twitter.com/J7xqwdwZin
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) May 26, 2019
History has shown that when Farage is ignored, he typically strikes back at the ballot box stronger than ever before. This is certainly the case this time and it will be so again if Brexit is betrayed in October of this year. The Brexit Party is Britain’s new mainstream, Britain’s new centre ground. The only problem is that the previous occupants of that centre ground refuse to move out of the way in accordance with the people’s will.
The Brexit Party’s campaign did not put a foot wrong in building a broad, inclusive, sensible and democratic coalition that approached negative developments with a proactive and ultimately positive approach. The results of the vote therefore will only be surprising to those who have made careers out of denying reality for the last three years.