THE focus has all been on the Brexit Party, this veritable phoenix arising from the ashes of UKIP and the suicidal Tories. ‘I’ve joined!’ emails from Conservative friends, colleagues and acquaintances keep dropping into my inbox, while its irrepressible leader Nigel Farage has spoken for the first time of his wider ambitions for his party – to stand at the next general election if MPs still haven’t taken Britain out of the EU. In an interview with the Sun, he pledged to use the Brussels poll as a ‘springboard’ to take the party into power in Westminster: ‘We want the European election to be the first step of a massive change that resteps entirely British politics and actually makes it look more like the country.’
MPs should be very afraid of what a Brexit Party which actually stands for Brexit can do to them. Mrs May and her sinking Tory craft have more immediate worries.
Next Thursday they face the local council elections – their first big electoral test since failing to put anything that looks like Brexit on the table, let alone delivering it on time. Two hundred and forty-eight English councils, six directly elected mayors in England, and all 11 councils in Northern Ireland are to be contested. Of the 8,300-plus seats up for grabs, half are Conservative-held. Will Conservative abstention lead to a clean sweep for Labour? Or will disgust at them, too, just lead to a low turn-out? My prediction is that Labour will do well despite Brexit. They are not associated with it in the same way nor as responsible. And their grassroots organisation is incomparably more active.
To say the polls will be a major test for Kim May’s broken party is an understatement. We have already reported the antipathy of local Tory councillors to campaigning at all, and who can blame them? For the number one issue they face on the doorstep is not the local hospital or GP service, but Brexit and how come after three years it hasn’t happened. Few of them believe that anything but a committed Brexiteer PM can fix it.
No wonder leadership contender Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, burnishing newly cleaned Brexit credentials, came out yesterday in favour of leaving with no deal if the alternative is remaining in the EU: ‘If there was a binary choice between no deal or no Brexit I would choose no deal because I think the democratic risk of no Brexit ultimately is higher than the economic risk of no deal.’ Could he really be paving the way for a no deal exit on October 31?
It looks as if Jeremy has got there. The penny has dropped.
Now all we have to wait for is Michael Gove to perform his lateral arabesque (volte face) and tell us, yes, he too has concluded that despite the possible shortage of Mars Bars, no deal is far the better option than no Brexit.
Maybe when he does, Mrs May will be well and truly stuffed. We can but live in hope and are counting the days.
Today is Day 23 . . .