Brexit Party Torn on Whether to Run Everywhere or Focus on 20-30 Labour Leave Seats


Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is torn on whether to run everwhere to present voters with a clean, no-deal Brexit option or only target a handful of Labour Leave seats.

Mr Farage, who opposes the deal negotiated with the EU by Boris Johnson as a rehash of Theresa May’s withdrawal treaty which betrays Northern Ireland, has repeatedly urged the prime minister to strike an election pact with the Brexit Party.

This would see the Brexit Party stand aside in constituencies where the Tories are the incumbents or second-place challengers, while the Tories would stand down in a small number of traditionally anti-Tory seats in the Leave-voting Labour heartlands.

Farage has even offered a unilateral undertaking not to stand against Tories who commit to back a no-deal Brexit, and not to seek a government ministry in a formal coalition. But the prime minister has so far been resolute in his refusal to countenance a so-called Leave alliance and vowed that the Tories would stand everywhere.

(This is not strictly true, however, as they will not stand in Northern Ireland, where they will leave the field clear for the Brexit-supporting, socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party.)

The Tories’ refusal to come to the table is leaving Farage in a difficult position. He has to consider whether to stand everywhere in the absence of a pact, as he has previously threatened, or agree to stand aside in Tory-leaning seats unilaterally — even as the Tories split the Leave vote in areas where his party stands the most realistic challenge of ousting Labour.

“[Farage has] got a big decision to take, whether to be strategic about it,” mused Brexit-backing business tycoon Arron Banks, who co-founded the Leave.EU campaign with Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice, in comments reported by the left-wing Guardian.

“What I was saying was, be strategic. Where it makes sense to stand, stand. Where it doesn’t, don’t,” Banks added — although he is not personally involved in the management of the Brexit Party.

“I think it is important for us to be sensible. I think we ought to be targeted in terms of the number of seats that we decide to address,” said Brexit Party MEP and former British Chambers of Commerce chief John Longworth in recent comments to The Times.

“I can imagine that might be 20 or 30. They would be entirely winnable then if you poured all your resources into them. You probably would not get any more if you concentrated on the 600. But you would also get a better result for Brexit too,” he added, indicating that he favours the unilateral step-aside option, and hoping against hope that the Brexit Party can break through despite the Tories continuing to soak up a rump of Leave voters in their target seats.

Tory MP Nigel Evans made his party’s line on the Brexit Party clear in comments to the MailOnline. Mr Evans said: “It would be madness for Farage to put resources into seats where [Tory] Brexiteer MPs [could] lose to Lib Dems or Labour Remain MPs.” Although this equally applies to the Tories putting resources into seats like Peterborough, where the Brexit Party is in second place to the Remain parties.

Some Conservatives do appear to recognise the danger of the Tories splitting the Leave vote in Labours seats which they are highly unlikely to win — and the Brexit Party splitting the Leave vote elsewhere in retaliation — particularly if some or all of the anti-Brexit left-wing parties do come to an arrangement not to stand against each other.

“Given that it is clear that the Remain Alliance will almost certainly have a pact, it is sensible that we come to an accommodation — in both our interests,” one told the MailOnline.

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