THIS weekend brought more news about how Remain parties and high profile Remainers plan to work together, come a general election, to maximise the chances of a Remain majority in our next Parliament.
The Times reported that leading Remainer Dominic Grieve, who was relieved of the Tory whip after voting against the government, plans to contest his seat, Beaconsfield, as an independent. It said that the Lib Dem candidate, Rob Castell, has agreed to stand down. The Times predicted that campaigners for a second referendum will pressure the Greens to do the same and urge Labour Remainers to ‘hold their noses’ and vote for Grieve.
You couldn’t get a better example than Beaconsfield to explore the political landscape that has emerged since the 2016 EU referendum, as well as the potential impact of split or aligned votes for Leavers and Remainers.
Beaconsfield voted 51:49 to remain in the EU in the referendum. In the 2017 general election, Grieve held the seat for the Conservatives with a massive majority. He won 36,559 votes, more than 20,000 ahead of second-placed Labour on 12,016. The Lib Dems limped in third on 4,448. With this massive Tory advantage, and an electorate split evenly on Leave/Remain, surely the seat will remain safe for the Tories when Grieve is replaced by a dynamic Leave-supporting Tory candidate?
Be careful. Chris Hanretty, professor of politics at Royal Holloway, University of London, has produced estimates of the May 2019 EU elections by constituency. His analysis shows that the Conservative Party vote collapsed in Beaconsfield. He suggests that frustrated Leavers flocked to the Brexit Party, which came first in these elections. The Lib Dems came a not too distant second. It was the Conservatives’ turn to scrape into third place. Overall, the vote straggled over four Remain parties (Lib Dem, Labour, CHUK, Green) and three Leave parties (Brexit, Conservatives, UKIP). It’s pretty clear that if one side can pull this straggle together, they’ll win.
At this stage in Beaconsfield, Grieve and the Remainers are five steps ahead. As happened in Peterborough. And Brecon and Radnorshire.
I have written previously for TCW on the need for Leavers to form a People’s #LeaveAlliance. If Boris and Nigel can’t or won’t put their heads together, Leavers must. Beaconsfield makes that abundantly clear.
Yes, it will be hard to organise, as there are more than 17million of us. But we must try. Since writing my article, I can report that more than one LeaveAlliance group is up and running. We’re working hard on pulling data together and producing analysis to show which seats Leave could win at a next general election if we work together. It also highlights those that we could lose if we work against each other. We hope to have figures available soon.
In most constituencies which are winnable for Leave, it is obvious who Leavers should support. But we will win them only if our votes are aligned. This is where a People’s #LeaveAlliance can hope to have some impact. There are other constituencies where it is not obvious who Leavers should support. You might count Beaconsfield as one of those. (I don’t – I would call it for the Conservatives, if they can get an aligned Leave vote behind them.) These are the seats where it would be so much better if the Conservative Party and Brexit Party could come to some agreement. Alternatively, we just have to hope that the seats where Leave parties may end up fighting each other to the death prove to be few in number.
Meanwhile, we Leavers ‘must beat on, like boats against the current’, eyes firmly on the future and the prize.