The Brexit Party steps aside

Farage’s decision will wound the Remainer alliance, but it could wound him too.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill

Topics Brexit Politics UK

Make no mistake: this General Election is a Brexit election. Any politician who says otherwise (hello, Corbynistas) is being wilfully disingenuous. From the Liberal Democrats’ utterly illiberal and undemocratic rallying cry of ‘Stop Brexit’, to Labour’s promise to hold a second referendum and in the process make null and void the millions of votes cast in the first referendum, to the Tories’s drab, managerial slogan of ‘Get Brexit Done’, the political class is well aware that the defiant, destabilising Brexit revolt remains the big issue, and arguably the only issue, in British public life. And voters are aware of this too.

And now, into this mix, into this Brexit Election, comes the news that the Brexit Party is standing down its candidates in more than 300 constituencies. This could be a game-changer.

Nigel Farage has said that the BP is withdrawing its candidates from all constituencies that were won by the Tories in 2017 – 317 seats in total. He says he’s doing this to prevent the much talked-about and fretted-over split in the Brexit vote and to lessen the chances of there being another Remainer parliament that would hold a second referendum.

The news has been welcomed by Tory bigwigs and others. But Farage’s decision is not uncomplicatedly good. Many Leavers who were worried about the splitting of the Brexit vote will be breathing a sigh of relief. But this move is also humiliating for the Brexit Party. This party has spent weeks insisting that it stands for real Brexit against Boris Johnson’s sellout BRINO (Brexit In Name Only) and saying it will stand across the country because principles count for more than pragmatism. Having now backtracked on this, it can’t be surprised if people ask: ‘What happened to those principles, then?’

But in the round, outside of the narrow concern of the Brexit Party’s own reputation, this decision is interesting, and it could be beneficial to what some of us consider to be the key task of this election: isolating the highly anti-democratic Remainer wing of the establishment.

In spiked’s view, the aim of voters who care about democracy, who care deeply about that hard-won liberty that gives ordinary people power and influence over our rulers, should be to give a thoroughly bloody nose to the Remainer elites who have spent three-and-a-half years defying the people’s will and insulting the largest electoral bloc in British history.

With their contempt for our democratic rights, and their censorious instinct to demonise Brexit as a fascist-like scourge, these people are a menace to public life and to the founding principles of modern democracy. Sidelining them by filling parliament with Leavers – whether those Leavers are Tories, Labourites, Brexit Party candidates or independents – is the most urgent business for democrats right now.

The BP’s decision could help to facilitate this urgent business. It makes it that bit more likely that parliament will have a healthy intake of politicians who grate, whether wittingly or unwittingly, against the reactionary Remainer elite and the profound threat it poses to our democratic freedom. Other questions, such as what to do about Boris’s BRINO and how to put pressure on the government to secure a full exit from the EU, can come after we have shifted parliament from being a bastion of Remainer elitism towards something more heavily pro-Leave and hopefully pro-democracy.

The BP’s decision doesn’t solve every problem, of course. One question is whether the Tories will reciprocate and withdraw candidates from Labour seats where the BP has a good chance of picking up votes. There are reports of a non-aggression pact between the BP and the Tories in these areas. But if the Tories are serious about Brexit, they will stand back and give free rein to a BP candidate against Labour, which, let us not forget, is promising to void the referendum result by forcing us to vote again. (However, if the Labour candidate is Eurosceptic, like Dennis Skinner, or a pro-democracy Remainer, like Caroline Flint, then voting for those candidates is preferable to voting for the BP candidate.)

In response to the BP’s decision, the pro-Remainer elites have demonstrated just how out of touch they are with public sentiment and with the Brexit spirit. They are screaming about this pact being proof that a ‘hard right’ Boris / Farage / Trump alliance wants to force a Hard Brexit on the UK and sell off our country, including the NHS, to the highest bidder.

First of all, it is a bit rich for those who campaign day and night for the UK to continue surrendering its sovereignty to the EU to accuse other people of wanting to sell off the nation. And secondly they are, unfortunately, wrong that pact proves that ‘Hard Brexit’ – or what some of us prefer to call Brexit – is now a real possibility.

That’s the key point about the BP’s softening of its approach to Boris and his Withdrawal Treaty and the Tories’ role in bringing this shift about: it confirms that actually there is no party, and this includes the Brexit Party, that fully represents the democratic desire for Brexit and for radical change in political life. It confirms what many of us suspected: that achieving Brexit and democratic reform will have to be fought for long after the election, and will have to be fought for by new, bottom-up groups and movements whose only interest is in boosting the democratic rights of the British people.

So in this election, let’s teach the Remainer elite a lesson. And after the election, let’s teach the supposed Brexit-supporting political class a lesson, too. We democrats have our work cut out for us.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Ven Oods

16th November 2019 at 9:25 am

Or, did Nige just threaten to field 600+ candidates to concentrate BoJo’s mind (is that even possible?) before revealing his mutually–assured-non-destruction plan that he’d intended all along?
Without him we wouldn’t even have our current opportunity, so bless him for that.

Peter Gardner

16th November 2019 at 3:06 am

The Tories still have a strong Remainer faction. They will not give it up this side of the election, only when faced with a hung parliament and then only if the numbers show it must ally with a Leave block. It not available it would ally with one of the Remain blocks in order to form a government.
The Tory party depends on its remainers to win a majority in its own right. The next Tory Government will depend on the Tory Remainers both in government and on the backbenches. The Tories cannot deliver a Leave Dominated parliament without the Brexit Party. That is just simple maths because such a high proportion of Tory PPCs are Remainers or closet Remainers. Although a small Tory majority might minimise the number of Remainer MPs, a large Tory majority would add significantly to the Remainer block in Parliament.
‘Get Brexit Done’ means get Brexit out of the way. It does not mean get a better deal or a clean break from the EU. Brexit is just one of many policies. Literally revoking Article 50 would be as effective a way of getting Brexit Done as a clean break WTO exit.

Peter Gardner

16th November 2019 at 2:49 am

Good article.
“Other questions, such as what to do about Boris’s BRINO and how to put pressure on the government to secure a full exit from the EU, can come after we have shifted parliament from being a bastion of Remainer elitism towards something more heavily pro-Leave and hopefully pro-democracy.”
It may come after but without a Leave dominated Parliament it won’t come at all.

Marvin Jones

14th November 2019 at 2:45 pm

There is not anything that I could add to this truthful and factual article Brendan. It is the way it is and let’s hope that Boris gives TBP a hand up to win about 50 seats, because this could be the unbeatable coalition we deserve.

Michael Lynch

14th November 2019 at 9:41 am

I’m really torn on this. My heart is saying one thing and my head the other. It’s a serious conundrum. Unfortunately, the first past the post system is entirely at odds with the referendum and the result. If the vote is split between Tory and the BP then you’ll just end up with a Remainer MP. It’s just not a system that represents the majority in any given seat so it has to be played. This is simply what Farage is doing and it should ensure a more representative balance in Parliament. Let’s hope so anyway.

Peter Spurrier

14th November 2019 at 11:29 am

My advice is to vote for whichever, of Tory or Brexit Party, has the best chance of winning in your constituency. I think the main thing is to get a majority in Parliament for Brexit.


14th November 2019 at 7:08 am

Of course they have stepped aside. Since when has the right ever stuck to their principles if it meant risking losing an election.

Michael Lynch

14th November 2019 at 9:30 am

Please don’t speak of principles regarding the right. If there is one person in Parliament who has sold out their principles then it’s Corbyn. He has betrayed millions of Labour voters by not standing by them on the European question. Throughout his entire career he has consistently voted against anything to do with Europe and now he’s an ardent Europhile! Give me a break.

Marvin Jones

14th November 2019 at 2:49 pm

S H, you left out the I T !

David Watford

14th November 2019 at 5:12 am

The Conservatives should stand down wherever Labour is in front in the seat. But they won’t because they are trying to form a Government and will have to gamble win.

This is what you get with First Past The Post voting. If both the Tories and Brexit Party stand they risk handing victory to Remainers. With preferential voting you can vote Conservative 1 and BP 2, or BP 1 and Conservative 2, without risking helping the Remainers win. Now people have lost the opportunity to vote for their party when they have to not stand.

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Neil McCaughan

15th November 2019 at 10:30 am

We’ve all heard John McDonnell’s promises before.

antoni orgill

12th November 2019 at 7:00 pm

“willfully disingenuous ..”? Is there now a way to be disingenuous without knowing one is being disingenuous ..?

Melissa Jackson

12th November 2019 at 10:01 pm

Willfully in the sense of being pig-headed rather than deliberate – Stubbornly determined to please themselves, regardless of the consequences.

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John Millson

12th November 2019 at 9:48 am

Such a naive analysis. The Tories step aside for the Brexit Party? Sure, they have demonstrated unprecedented chronic dysfunction recently but they aren’t that stupid. Farage is poison to many, ‘one-nation’, right-of-centre.
And after doing over the Remainer ‘elite? Next: the upsurge of working class heroes? The honourable protectors of Democracy. Really?

Forlorn Dream

11th November 2019 at 8:18 pm

Imagine this, Tory Leave candidates in government with a solid overall majority. Brexit Party as the official opposition. Labour, etc reduced to a handful of squeekers so easily outvoted as to be worthless. All the trash swept from the seats in one glorious night.

Now imagine Boris, JRM and Farage sitting across a desk from the EU negotiators and dumping a bag of shredded paper onto the table. Farage opens with,
‘That’s your BRINO, now, do we talk or do we walk away?’

LOL, if only…

Marvin Jones

14th November 2019 at 2:58 pm

My way would be to clear the table of any files, and ask them to negotiate only the crucial deals we already have, that neither of us could survive without. Like the free movement of goods and trade from which they seem to have a 90billion Euro surplus every year. As far as anything else, we are a third country and are not bound to any of their nonsense projects, unless we agree to it.

H McLean

11th November 2019 at 7:32 pm

I suspect this is going to disappoint more than a few Brexit party voters. It requires a lot of trust that Johnson will do the right thing by the country and Brexit, and given the litany of disappointments since the referendum it would seem ill-advised to hope for much progress beyond a big Tory win followed by BRINO, with the prospect of further extracting Britain from the bureaucracy of the EU most likely chipped into long grass and conveniently ignored for the next five years.

That’s the bad news. The good news is Labour are facing an extinction level election and will be slaughtered by the electorate. The big question is, if Johnson feel emerges with a whopping majority will it embolden him to set about delivering a real Brexit or will he rip off his face-mask to reveal he’s actually Theresa May in disguise, robotically dancing to the EU tune?

Marvin Jones

14th November 2019 at 3:06 pm

My instinct, even though Boris and the Tories are 10 times safer in government than the other spineless traitors, is, that Boris does not want a Full English. He has covert liberal ideologies in his cupboard and is a bit of a coward himself.

Jim Lawrie

11th November 2019 at 7:01 pm

Nigel Farage is saying to Labour supporters who voted Brexit – you can have Brexit without voting Conservatives, and with an MP representing you who is committed to Brexit. Conservatives who voted Brexit are the other side of that coin.
The BP must have looked at extensive private polling and listened to their members report back before reaching this decision.

Locally, Conservatives might, independently of Central Office, encourage a BP vote.

The election now looks like a flushing out into the open of all political ranks for a big showdown.

A tactical withdrawal by the BP does not mean they have switched sides in the war. Saying that it does is just holier than thou political purity.

Christopher Tyson

11th November 2019 at 6:56 pm

I think that that Brexit Party has shown leadership here and let us voters off the hook. We were offered a chance to vote in an EU referendum, we did not expect that we would have to oversee the implementation of the outcome in all its technocratic and legalistic detail. If you hire a lawyer you tell him or her what you want done and expect them to find a way to do it. Ironically in our age of technocratic, ideologically light politicians, our political class and civil servants have either been unable or unwilling to make Brexit happen. Is Boris’s deal the real thing or not? Personally I don’t know. However the Remainers have been humbled, and British politics has been changed. Is it all about Brexit? I’m not sure about that either. Everyday spiked reports on the insanities and absurdities of PC and identity politics. If a future government can halt or turn the tide on identity politics this will be no small thing. In traditional liberal pluralism there was an acceptance that groups or special interests would attempt to influence the state, this is actually a good and democratic thing, neglected or marginal voices or concerns should have this opportunity. What is different about current identity politics is that it has become state ideology. Identitarians are empowered by the state, the state then kowtows to the authority that it has itself given, we have a virtuous or virtue-signalling cycle. I probably need to reassure people that I am not calling for an authoritarian state to clamp down on diversity and minority concerns; tolerance and concern for minority rights can be achieved within a liberal framework, but we need a state that is able to say ‘no’, to the increasing and endless demands that are being made in the name of diversity and minority rights.

antoni orgill

12th November 2019 at 7:25 pm

Why do ‘we’ need a state able to say ‘no’ to the ‘increasing, never-ending demands made in the name of minorities & diversity’? Rather, a state able to say, ‘yes, we can enable you to succeed in life’ is a much better option to tap into. Just hazarding a guess here but those ‘increasing, never-ending demands’ are made in a stagnating economy wherein Brexit has caused catastrophic confusion and delay. Those most vulnerable are _ of course _ going to raise their voices in protest. What else legitimises the claim to status, rights, housing, food? Via the Welfare State all manner of resources are either made available or denied. In the run-in to Christmas you want the state to rehearse its right to say, ‘No’?

James Knight

11th November 2019 at 6:07 pm

This is a one issue election. It is about who respects democracy and what we voted for, and who doesn’t. It doesn’t matter a jot what Corbyn, Starmer, Swinson and Lucas say on any issue when it is clear they are not prepared to respect what people voted for.

Looking at the 2017 election is a mistake, the past is not necessarily a guide to the future. It would have made more sense to stand down in places where there was a credible Brexit candidate standing, of whatever party.

In2 Minds

11th November 2019 at 5:53 pm

This move by Farage and the BP puts even more pressure on BoJo to rid the Tory party of the anti-democratic section it still has.

Marvin Jones

14th November 2019 at 3:12 pm

Starting with the sewage he left in his cabinet from the previous lot. He only half cleansed his government out.

Steve James

11th November 2019 at 5:47 pm

It was the right decision. Getting remainers out of parliament is the top priority. We’ve seen how antidemocratic they are and that they will stop at nothing to get their own way. At least, hopefully, we will have a leave parliament for the next 4 or 5 years, which should be more than enough time to get a decent free trade deal – or leave on WTO terms. DUP and Brexit MPs can hold Boris to account and ensure he doesn’t settle with BRINO.

Steve Roberts

11th November 2019 at 5:19 pm

BON is correct that whatever happens in this GE the fight to defend democracy will be long and hard and long after the election .
I am not being semantic for the sake of it, but this entire article is far too ambiguous in meaning to take any position on, clarification of meanings would entirely alter how one addresses this article and the entire very important issue.
Recently BON wrote ” Our advice is to vote for the candidate who best represents or understands the Brexit spirit and whose victory would send the clearest possible message to the Remain establishment that their stranglehold on political progress is over.”
And now writes “..In spiked’s view, the aim of voters who care about democracy, who care about deeply for that hard-won liberty that gives ordinary people power and influence over our rulers, should be to give a thoroughly bloody nose to the Remainer elites..”
And “.. Sidelining them by filling parliament with Leavers – whether those Leavers are Tories, Labourites, Brexit Party candidates or independents – is the most urgent business for democrats right now”
So lets try to be clear what Brexit and leave means, it means not been in, it means we leave the EU and all its institutions that binds us to it including the CU,SM,ECJ that’s what TBP has spent the last days explaining is not what Johnsons treaty is, it is a remain and reform treaty.
As it defies the democratic instruction to leave it is an antidemocratic treaty being attempted to be imposed on the nation, it is supported by all candidates of the CUP.
Who are the reactionary remainer elite, do we mean just the LP.LD. and other peripheral parties in the HOC, or do we mean all those that deny us leaving which would mean quite logically that the entire CUP are part of the remainer elite, which i contend they are.
Unless of course it is now acceptable to be a bit “brexity” so one can be called a “leaver” not quite, or not so “remainerish”.
So if ,as i contend, all, with very few exceptions previous M.P’s and new candidates either are remainers who openly want to deny brexit, or remainers who are in the CUP that wants a remain treaty or TBP candidates which is a party seemingly only wanting to be a rump of a pressure group on the remainer CUP then voters have a real problem.
Or as BON wrote ” it confirms that that actually there is no party, and this includes the Brexit Party, that fully represents the democratic desire for Brexit and for radical change in political life ”
So are we to achieve anything approaching defending brexit and democracy since , what i would call a betrayal of principles by TBP. What is to be done ?

david Oxley

19th November 2019 at 1:07 pm

What is to be done ? I think it is clear what we as democrats do, Vote for the best Brexit candidate available, if you consider that to be BP, Tory or Labour then vote for them. In my opinion today it would be BP, as the candidates were originally attracted to BP because they supported a clean break and despite Farages warming to Canada + and the Tories it is still the case. If we can clear out the remain MP’s and have a Brexit committed HofC then we can put more pressure on to get a clean break, this will embolden the electorate to show that we can change things and we will not be ignored.
The last election was screwed as all candidates lied, ‘Brexit means Brexit ‘Tories, and ‘we respect the Leave vote ‘ Labour, now we can all see what they have done for 3 years and the gloves are off.
This does not stop the fight within the Leavers groups and Brexit Party ranks to argue for a more radical polices like abolishing the HofL, or ending Hate Crime laws but it is the right move for now.
If we want to finish the remainer MP’s off we may have to use an ugly tool and cast it aside once that is done, Farages BP may not be that tomorrow but it is that tool for today.

Eric Praline

11th November 2019 at 5:18 pm

Quite amusing the SNP has fallen out with the Lib Dems about the TV leader debates.

Perverted Lesbian

11th November 2019 at 7:05 pm

I feel bad for Scotland, they are basically a one-party nation, even though the country as a whole is pro-union, this is because the Union vote is split, Sturgeon must be one of the most unappealing politicians ever, closely followed by Ian Blackford or as I call him ‘The Penguin’, the reason they peeve me so much is they are completely tunnel-visioned on the idea of Independence but talk down about those that wish for independence from the EU and do not seem to see the irony in this.
She doesn’t seem to get or care that the tactics she and other remainers are deploying could be turned and used against Scotland should they vote for independence, and boy will she be screeching if a pro-union parliament tried to overturn ‘that’ vote. Charlatans, the bloody lot of em

melanie pursglove

11th November 2019 at 5:07 pm

I am in Stafford constituency – voted Leave and gifted with a second rate Remoaning, Brexit blocking trouble making Tory MP. He is now standing down and the Tory candidate being parachuted in has no connection with the constituency, lives 100 miles away and whose real opinions on Brexit and otherwise are totally unknown. She is career politician related to Rees Mogg and having had two previous attempts at the green benches in Bristol is trying her hand here. Farage’s decision gives her an easy ticket albeit on a likely low turnout although Tory majority here was not huge in 2017. I wanted to vote for a local candidate to represent our constituency on many issues including Brexit. Now we have no choice – therefore as I cannot cast a positive vote for a candidate of my choice I shall not be voting. What are the Tories offering in return ? Will they stand aside in Stoke etc where they have no hope in favour of a candidate who does from the Brexit Party ?

Jonnie Henly

11th November 2019 at 3:24 pm

“Make no mistake: this General Election is a Brexit election. Any politician who says otherwise (hello, Corbynistas) is being wilfully disingenuous.”

You guys said that about the last election…

steve moxon

11th November 2019 at 3:59 pm

Which is was, you fool. Many folk voted against Maybot BRINO, hence the Tawdries actually sliding instead of the expected overall majority.

Eric Praline

11th November 2019 at 5:18 pm

And you think people didn’t vote on Brexit??!?

Jerry Owen

11th November 2019 at 3:23 pm

If the Tories agree to stand down where Brexit may be in with a chance, then it’s the best of a very bad deal as far as I’m concerned. Johnson could have done far more to help get a Brexit we voted for. Personally I have contempt for him not coming to an arrangement with the BP. Still we know he isn’t a Brexiteer now.
So here we have it again .. the big two slogging it out. I really hoped that we could dismantle the two party system with the BP but alas that won’t be the case now.
I’m not happy despite some rather good points BON has raised. I will vote BP regardless.

steve moxon

11th November 2019 at 3:57 pm

Dismantling the hideous two-party dinosaur combat has been scuppered for the last 15 years by Nigel Farage failing to understand that Remoanering is a facet of ‘identity politics’ totalitarianism. If he understood this he could have set up an explicitly anti-‘PC’ party, and we might well be in a very different position by now. It was a monumental misjudgement.

antoni orgill

16th November 2019 at 10:19 am

You’re right, Steve and more right than even you can realise so why not transcend this sickeningly familiar moment of ‘self-repulsed narcissism’ and swallow the medicine you prescribe for others. Start your own party (to break the strangle-hold, etc _ unless you really like it?) and see who turns up … we’ll all await the results of your political experiment with interest … so keep in touch …

Eric Praline

11th November 2019 at 5:23 pm

It’s clear that neither Labour nor the Tories are ever going to stand down, except in the odd case like Bercow’s seat. It’s just a line in the sand for them. Each election they stand in hundreds of seats where they don’t stand an earthly.

cliff resnick

11th November 2019 at 3:13 pm

If your a betting man then this is the best option given the circumstance, nothing is guaranteed but if the BP take seats from Labour whilst having little or no impact on the Tories then maybe the Brexit Party could be king makers perhaps along with the DUP but who knows where that will go, god politics is so boring they’re all the same!

Dominic Straiton

11th November 2019 at 6:04 pm

I made £15000 on Trumps and £8000 on Brexit. Easiest money ive ever made. Boris will get a majority. The British and American people always make the correct decision. And if they dont. Run.

steve moxon

11th November 2019 at 3:08 pm

I take it there’s an informal reciprocation at least to a degree. I live in a very interesting constituency, Penistone & Stocksbridge, where the Remoaner Liebore MP Angela Smith jumped ship to CringeUK, then to the GlibDems, jumping County to stand for ’em. So we’re now threatened with some Corbynista (not) representing us. In the last election, Liebore won only narrowly over the Tawdries, despite a considerable UKIP vote, and in the local elections every party had a decent showing, so the GlibDem-Groan alliance will make considerable inroads into Liebore, leaving this a potential gain for the Tawdries — as they well realise: Bowis visited here the other week — OR for the BrexitP. The issue is that hitherto Liebore stalwarts surely would far rather support the BrexitP than perform a volte-face and vote for the Ms Horseychops the Tawdries are putting up. And that surely goes also for previous UKIP voters. I’ll be going with the BrexitP unless somebody really can convince me the Tawdries are so squeezing the BrexitP vote that they they are the ones to shaft the Cobynista. This is going to be interesting.

antoni orgill

12th November 2019 at 7:31 pm

Still waffling on to yourself after all this time … does anyone reply to your ravings any more, Steve?

steve moxon

13th November 2019 at 12:39 am

Still ‘projecting’ on to everyone your own hang-ups, you dummie Leftard?

Peter Spurrier

13th November 2019 at 5:05 pm

According to a poll of 45,000 in England and Wales in Sept and Oct, broken down by constituencies, in Penistone and Stocksbridge, it was 36% Tory, 24% Labour, 15% LibDem, 6 Green and 16% Bxt Party. Looks like voting Tory increases the chances of a Brexiteer.

Matt Ryan

11th November 2019 at 3:02 pm

I won’t be voting for my local MP (Calder Valley) as he is useless (yeah, I know they all are, but Craig is a real slimy weasel). Don’t want to vote for the Communist Party of Great Britain (T/A Labour) or the so-called Liberal Democrat party.

Spoil ballot paper (None of the above) then. So much for my vote mattering…

Melissa Jackson

12th November 2019 at 10:03 pm

I personally find drawing a male appendage on my ballot paper is both stress relieving and perfectly reflects my feelings on the candidates.

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