ONLY six months ago it felt as though leaving the European Union was slipping from our grasp. Along with much else besides.
Theresa May was the Prime Minister. Her Withdrawal Agreement appeared to be the best that would ever be on offer. The Conservative Party seemed to be losing its way more broadly, with never-ending politically correct pronouncements on issues like ethnicity, pay gaps, or gender self-identification.
When a Left-wing journalist on Twitter misrepresented a highly-respected Conservative, Sir Roger Scruton, the Minister of Housing, James Brokenshire, sacked Sir Roger without even the pretence of due process. Conservatism in the UK seemed to have lost its way, irretrievably.
Then something electrifying happened. The Brexit Party was formed. Its explicit purpose was not just to get the UK out of the European Union, but to transform and re-energise our politics. It started by doing things differently, immediately. But no sooner were its first candidates for the 2019 EU elections announced then the ‘offence archaeology’ of digging into their past lives began.
Claire Fox had a hardly-hidden past as a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Anne Widdecombe had never been quiet about her views on abortion. Succumbing to Twitterati pressure, would the Brexit Party throw them under a bus? Would it apologise to the self-appointed Thought Police for daring to trust people who have had past lives and controversial thoughts? I was not hopeful.
So the party’s stunning silence was glorious. Its refusal to bend to identity politics felt like a long-awaited breakthrough. Its willingness to bend its ear to Hartlepool not Hampstead, to common sense not political correctness, felt like hope and openness and a wider dialogue had re-entered British politics.
That is why I campaigned for the Brexit Party at the Peterborough by-election in June. I had never experienced anything like it. The organisation was phenomenal. At headquarters, ward maps were up on the wall. Highlighters were poised, waiting to cross off areas that had been visited.
Canvassing sheets at the ready, masses of supporters queued to receive their campaigning instructions. Strangers met in the queue and then set off together around Peterborough, four to a car, introductions made on the way. Enthusiasm and engagement in our democracy were in the air. Leavers were upbeat for the first time in three years.
Then, of course, the Brexit Party lost the Peterborough by-election to Labour – by some 800 votes. We didn’t win at a time when the enthusiasm of Brexit Party supporters from across the country was entirely focused on … one seat.
So surely the question needs to be asked: With the Brexit Party campaigning across 600 seats, will it win any? Will it come a close second in two or three, or ten or 20? And if it gets no seats, will the momentum be lost, and will the Brexit Party fade away? Will it take with it the pressure that has been placed on the Conservatives to listen to Hartlepool as much as to Hampstead? Not a happy thought either for Brexiteers or for instinctive social conservatives.
In the coming election, it is, of course, up to the Brexit Party to decide its strategy. However, as Brexiteers and Leavers we, the voters, can also decide ours. Over the last few months there has been much talk of a ‘People’s Leave Alliance’ bringing Leavers together – whether they support the Conservative Party or the Brexit Party – to maximise the chances of a Leave-supporting majority parliament after December 12. I wrote about this idea, #LeaveAlliance, here for TCW.
Then this week we learned that the Lib Dems, the Greens and Plaid Cymru have pipped us at the post. They are not just thinking the same way, but have signed off a ‘Unite to Remain’ Alliance that will impact 60 seats.
Since I argued the case for a Leave Alliance, to be organised from the grassroots if the parties would not do it themselves, TCW readers have been in touch – and The Leave Alliance project was born.
Working together, we have produced data which we hope will help Brexiteers get involved in this election campaign in a way which maximises the chances of a Leave majority parliament.
It meant our looking at the seats where the Brexit Party has the most chances of winning. These are where a high percentage voted to leave the European Union in 2016. They are the seats where this was followed by a high vote for the Brexit Party in the EU elections in 2019. Importantly, they are also the seats where the Conservatives are perceived to have a low chance of winning.
In constituencies with all these characteristics, we believe that, doorstep by doorstep, it should be possible to persuade Leavers why their best vote is for the Brexit Party. It isn’t an easy task, with the Conservatives so far ahead in the polls and their persuasive Get Brexit Done campaign.
However, we have identified 20 seats which provide a good match with these characteristics (of course, it might be possible to take one of these seats out, put another one in. There is no one perfect method). We have set up a website that explains what we have done and lists the seats … . Please share the link.
Imagine if, in a small number of carefully-identified seats, Leavers could create a (winning) Peterborough Effect again? Imagine if we could combine our efforts to maximise the chances of some Brexit Party candidates making it into Parliament? For that is what is needed to maintain the pressure on the Conservatives to deliver the best possible Brexit. Also to focus their minds away from Twitter mobs and identity politics and back to wider issues and the whole country.