It must be difficult for someone with an apparently sizeable ego to go to sleep at night in the knowledge that someone else’s efforts helped secure victory for a Brexit campaign that one likes to think one masterminded. The two people in question are Dominic Cummings, architect over the underwhelming “Vote Leave” campaign and Nigel Farage, the then leader of UKIP, public face of the Leave.EU campaign and subsequent founder and leader of The Brexit Party.
Vote Leave was a campaign designed to attract middle class voters to the cause of Brexit and insofar as that was the aim, Dominic Cummings was incredibly vocal about his hatred for Nigel Farage. Whilst it is typically liberals and leftists who heap scorn upon Farage, Cummings’s statements about Farage from 2016 were as nasty as anything that Farage’s liberal opposition have ever come up with.
But whilst Cummings attempted to persuade otherwise middle of the road votes to support Brexit, Farage took his Leave.EU campaign to the heart of England, to the post-industrial working class towns and cities that had been left behind by elitist Labour cosmopolitanism and the palaeolithic Tory obsession with the Shires. Farage offered something for both Bennite Labour voting Brexiteers and for conservative (with a notable small ‘c’) Brexiteers – each united by their patriotism and their belief in democracy. Seeing as the demographic that Farage appealed to voted overwhelmingly for Brexit whilst the demographic that Cummings appealed do overwhelmingly did not – it is fair to say that Farage’s campaign was more successful than that of Cummings.
Beyond this, whilst Farage has always campaigned for a clean break Brexit with the aim to sign a future FTA with the EU, Cummings himself is on recording talking about a gradual Brexit process that could take years to achieve. For all intents and purposes, in 2016, Cummings was a “soft Brexiteer” and that is being charitable. Some might call him the original pied piper of BRINO (Brexit in name only).
But that was 2016 and this is 2019. Today’s reality is that that Britain needs a general election to break the impassable Parliamentary deadlock. What’s more is that whilst it seems fairly certain that in the event of an election, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives will come out as the largest party, it is also received wisdom that in the absence of an electoral pact with Farage’s Brexit Party, the result will be a hung parliament that could potentially lead to the formation of an anti-Brexit government by elements of the Labour Party along with the Liberal Democrats, SNP, PC and Greens.
The blindingly obvious solution is an electoral pact between the Tories and Brexit party – one that I have continually compared to the 1918 “coupon election” held just over a century ago. Farage and his party are completely behind such a pact as are many members of the European Research Group – the most pro-Brexit wing and in many respects, the most highly influential wing of the Conservative party.
As Nigel Farage himself stated in a recent interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil, Farage is aware that Cummings does not like him. In spite of this Farage remains steadfast in his belief that both parties should unite on a win-win basis for the good of the country. Thus far, Farage’s magnanimous and pragmatic offer have been rebuffed by statements from low and mid-level Conservatives who have gone out of their way to insult Farage as someone “not fit” to be in government. This has been said in spite of the fact that Farage has no desire for a ministerial position – he merely wants his party to help secure a parliamentary majority that will get a clean break Brexit over the line.
In spite of Boris Johnson often invoking rhetoric about Brexit that sounds somewhat like that of the Brexit Party, even if he means it (and that is a big ‘if’), the Conservative brand is tarnished incredibly badly in the the Midlands, south Wales and especially in the north of England. These places are the heartlands of Brexit, the former heartlands of the Labour party and are presently the heartlands of the Brexit Party. Most notably, this has not changed since Boris Johnson replaced the clearly anti-Brexit Theresa May and it has not changed since Labour has become an overtly pro-EU party in spite of Jeremy Corbyn’s past beliefs.
The answer therefore is clear. With the Liberal Democrats threatening to obliterate the Conservatives in and around EU loving London, a Brexit Party – Conservative pact is the only thing that can guarantee a pro-Brexit majority in the House of Commons. If Johnson tries to do it alone, he could potentially pull off a majority but if he doesn’t, he could destroy Brexit, his party and his career simultaneously.
Dominic Cummings is the roadblock that is prohibiting Boris Johnson from picking up the phone and calling Nigel Farage. As such, Cummings is more dangerous to the cause of Brexit that Brexit’s most overt and therefore honest opponents.