SINCE the Brexit Party got started, the problem people have forecast is the difficulty in holding Left and Right Leave voters together. Well, based on my experience at the Brexit Party rally in Birmingham yesterday, the party is not seeing the problem here. The insight they have had is that the common-sense middle has been so vacated by the two main parties that they can walk right in and take it.
Brexiteer socialists and libertarians will be disappointed. But they are proportionally few in number. Polling by the political scientist Matthew Goodwin shows that most people want a fairly straight-down-the-middle brand of social conservativism. Listen to his excellent two-minute summary of this here.
— Matthew Goodwin (@GoodwinMJ) February 14, 2019
At the end of his piece, which was recorded a few months ago, Goodwin says: ‘Most people . . . value things like community and identity. When you look at the research, it shows that the views that most people feel are not being represented include getting tough on crime and lowering immigration, but also spending more on public services and doing more to regulate big business.That’s the space for a new party. The question is, who will fill it?’
I think we have our answer.
Yesterday the Brexit Party announced a £200billion regional investment fund. The party promised to invest in growth in the regions, rebuild the transport system outside London, reboot high streets, and invest in faster cheaper broadband for everyone. Sound like motherhood and apple pie? Perhaps it was the fact that the plan was fully funded that was promising. The party pledged to scrap HS2, keep the £39billion we may or may not owe to the EU, and slash the foreign aid budget by half. You can’t argue with the fact that doing these things creates a large fund to enable reprioritisation – that is real spending – elsewhere.
The party promised to cut business rates outside London and fund this via some kind of levy on the trade of internet giants. Is this currently parked in the too-hard basket for any good reason?
It promised to cancel interest on student loans and massively increase the number of trade apprentices. Very savvy to make an appeal to the youth vote. Apparently the former won’t cost anything in terms of ‘unbalancing the books’ because it’s already all written off anyway. If this is the case . . .
It set out plans for reform of our political system: exploring some kind of proportional representation, reviewing the postal vote, and ‘challenging the power of the unelected House of Lords’.
A bit of a veer towards crowd-pleasing with ‘making the civil service serve the public’ and ‘reforming the politically-biased BBC’s self-serving TV licence fee’. (Biggest cheer.)
The next set of announcements will be about law and order.
At this stage it is all fairly high level stuff. But it was the straight-down-the-middleness of it that was, dare I say, revolutionary; the focus on messages that will resonate with the broad mass of people up and down the country. Guess what they didn’t mention? The gender pay gap. You get my point.
Have a listen to the Matthew Goodwin clip I’ve recommended above which is based on continuing research about voter preferences. Tell me where the Brexit Party is missing a trick. It’s all sounding promising to me.