Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Dateline Peterborough: Our man with the Brexit Party


IT’S not every morning that one gets up knowing that one may be a small part of making history today. Having spent Saturday, which happened to be the 50th day of the Brexit Party’s existence, in Peterborough campaigning in the by-election being held today, (simultaneous declaration of interest and statement of the obvious: I’m a member of the Brexit Party), I’m off to help again.

In 50 days the party has acquired 120,000 registered supporters (in effect members), won the EU elections (in the process becoming the largest single party in the EU Parliament) and recruited 2,200 potential Westminster candidates. This would simply not be possible if it had not struck a chord with the electorate.

According to Wikipedia, that’s pretty much the same membership as the Tories and SNP, more than the Lib Dems, three times the number of Greens and three times the number of Momentum (the Labour Party’s shock troops, who may or may not be part of the Labour Party). It’s less than Labour, whose numbers are opaque, but it’s a hell of an achievement.

These aren’t just names on a website. The Brexit Party put out an email last Wednesday evening asking for people to come and help in Peterborough. At 9am on Saturday morning there were enough there to pretty much fill the 1,200-seat Broadway Theatre.

So who were these people? Those whom I met were of a range of ethnicities (sorry Jon Snow), about 30 per cent female and ranged in age from late twenties to the sixties. What did they do? Many ran their own firms (like 5.7million members of the public). Others I met included engineers, public servants and scientists. A couple of eccentrics, but for sure none of the ‘swivel-eyed loons’ that David Cameron so despised. (Bad call, Dave – many of the people were former Conservatives.)

In other words, the people who actually make this country work and generate the wealth that pays the tax. And they were committed. Many had driven hundreds of miles, from Abergavenny, Taunton, Northumberland, London and Kent. And nearly everywhere in between. This wasn’t a bussed-in rent-a-mob. Rather it was a group of exasperated, decent people who regard Parliament’s failure to deliver Brexit as an absolute betrayal. Being the people who make the UK work, rather than rant and rave, they intend to implement a solution, change politics by changing the people in Parliament.

So the Brexit Party offering as a replacement for the convicted criminal Fiona Onasanya is not (yet) a politician. He’s a local chap called Mike Greene, who appeared in the Channel 4 Secret Millionaire programme. Having left school with nothing he became a multi-millionaire and, more recently, organiser of local charities and benefit groups. He understands business, trade, education, housing and much more, not because he has read a book about it at university, but because he has done it. He speaks movingly and convincingly.

On the streets leafleting and canvassing there was no hostility. One young lady called out ‘Careful what you wish for Brexit’ but that was about it. On the doorstep no one was abusive, even those who intended to vote for other parties.

If the Brexit Party does well tonight it may have hit on a formula to break the gridlock of the two and a half party system that has produced the professional politicians whose performance has been pitiful. As one person on Saturday said to me: ‘If they can’t do something simple, albeit difficult, like leave the EU how on earth are they going to be able to do anything about climate change – which is complicated?’

UK politics is broken. Tomorrow we will know whether the Brexit Party has a potential solution.

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here.

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