‘Brexit supporters have been disenfranchised’

Alexandra Phillips MEP on the withdrawal of Brexit Party candidates.

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Topics Brexit Politics UK

The Brexit Party’s decision to stand down candidates in 317 seats has split opinion among Leave supporters. Some say it is a necessary move to prevent a split in the Leave vote that could allow Remain candidates to sneak through. Others argue that it is a capitulation to the Conservatives, whose Brexit ‘deal’ amounts to ‘Brexit in name only’ – or worse. It also raises questions about the Brexit Party’s future – can it continue to portray itself as a force for shaking up politics or will it be subsumed by the Tory machine? Alexandra Phillips, an MEP for the Brexit Party, has been outspoken in her opposition to the move. spiked caught up with her to find out more.

spiked: What was your reaction to the decision to stand down candidates in Tory-held seats?

Alexandra Phillips: Heartbreaking, galling and sickening on some levels. But I want to make it clear, I don’t blame Nigel Farage for this, and I don’t blame my party. What I blame is the first-past-the-post system and the way that the establishment parties – in particular, the Conservatives – abuse it. They have tried to scare voters into not picking their first-choice candidates and are constantly trying to present the election as a binary choice. Now the spectrum of choice for voters has been reduced, disenfranchising a huge part of the country.

The right-wing press has also played a role. The Daily Mail published the email addresses of our candidates, urging their readers to tell them to stand down. I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. Any man or woman has the right to put themselves forward as a candidate and to appeal to voters based on their policies and their standpoints. But the party of government has essentially used its mass-media influence to try to discourage people from standing. People were also getting calls from No10 telling them not to stand. There has been an industrial-level campaign against our candidates.

Perhaps when Nigel took his decision, he thought the best way to stave off the intense pressure was by throwing a bone to the Conservatives. He expected them to reciprocate but they have done the opposite. You give them an inch, they want to take a mile.

I’m surprised there’s not more outcry about what’s going on. Imagine if this was taking place in another country, say Russia (every conspiracy theorist’s favourite country). Imagine if Putin, during election time, had got the newspapers in Russia to publish the email addresses of rival candidates telling readers to contact them to say they must not stand for election. And imagine at the same time if Putin was offering jobs in the Kremlin to discourage them from competing in an election. There would be an international outcry. It is totally anti-democratic. If you can’t beat your political opponents based on policies and merit, then you shouldn’t have any place in a 21st-century democracy.

spiked: Can we even trust the Tories on Brexit?

Phillips: No, because if we could trust the Tories on Brexit then they would have no problem in seeking a Brexit majority in parliament alongside us. We could hold them accountable on Brexit.

But at the end of the day, they have been in government for nearly 10 years. They have overseen the entire Brexit process from the beginning, from calling the referendum to campaigning for Remain under David Cameron. Theresa May’s government put an EU federalist in charge of the Brexit negotiations and brought back an international treaty of subjugation. Boris Johnson has since dusted that down and brought back the same thing. Even the EU Commission has said it is the same thing. Legally, it is 95 per cent the same deal. It beggars belief how Johnson can so brazenly try to mislead the public on his deal.

I appreciate that Johnson has to hold both wings of his party together. People always look at the ERG of the Conservative Party and assume that that is the whole of the party. But if you count the numbers, between 20 and 40 MPs are estimated to be in the ERG, but the party has over 300 MPs. The ERG makes up far less than a quarter of the party. This suggests that the rest are for Remain or for a ‘soft’ Brexit. Then, there are people like Theresa May standing for re-election.

You can see that the Conservatives have not magically become a pro-Brexit party that wants to deliver a proper Brexit and give this country full-fat freedom. But they have to pretend to people that they are a Leave party so they can win a majority. As soon as they have got that majority and they think that they will be in office for five more years, all of their Brexit promises will be for the birds.

spiked: How can we hold the political class accountable?

Phillips: We need political reform. Bringing in proportional representation has become a pressing matter. And that is another issue on which the Brexit Party is very vocal and campaigns hard. I don’t think that the majority of people want to back either Labour or the Conservatives. And yet, that is the binary choice that is facing us, thanks to our electoral system.

We can use this current situation to make clear that what is broken is our politics in general. Brexit shone a light on that and exposed our political system as wanting. The referendum result was the first time people stood up and said to the establishment, ‘This has to end’. Against the will of the government, against the efforts of everybody in the mainstream media and in big business, the people said: ‘We want change.’

But rather than listening to the people, those in power have actually stooped to even lower levels. I hope that over the next month, during the election, parties across the political spectrum can give voice to what is most urgently needed in this country – proper democracy and electoral reform.

Alexandra Phillips MEP was talking to Fraser Myers.

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

Comments

Marvin Jones

28th November 2019 at 2:48 pm

Alexandra, the possibility of voting 50 of you TBR into Parliament while destroying the Tories is possibly what would have happened. Labour would walk in and we would again be full members of the EU, hanging like a small lump from the start of a dogs tail after walkies. BUT! this miserable sentimental, love the world and all it’s terrorists and criminals party would win, and this country would deserve experiencing the road to hell. Nigel should have threatened to bring Johnson down, but he would have bottled it and made a deal.

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24th November 2019 at 2:51 pm

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Jim Lawrie

24th November 2019 at 11:19 am

Ms Phillips you can vote for the candidates of your ex Parties UKIP and Conservative. If people like you had not jumped ship twice, the Brexit vote would be less fragmented.

The more I see of Brexit Party candidates, the more my decision not to vote for them is confirmed, especially their “leader”.

Johnson intends 2 years of misery under the present “deal”, then the referendum that Labour is proposing, and blame it all on the “rebellious” wing of his Party, and play the heroic, honourable, victim.

ZENOBIA PALMYRA

23rd November 2019 at 7:43 pm

Brexiteers won’t be satisfied until they’ve invaded Germany, re-conquered India and brought back hanging. Such is their anger and thirst for revenge!

Iain Litenment

24th November 2019 at 7:51 am

A backward sentiment Palmyra. You can do better than this. I voted to maximise democracy and because I believe in the rights of nations to self determination. Unfortunately we can’t have this discussion with remoaners because they offer nothing but insults.

NEIL DATSON

24th November 2019 at 9:29 am

What an extraordinary outburst. Zenobia, kindly elucidate, what is it that we are angry about, and what do we seek revenge for? Every single Brexiteer I’ve ever met has expressed similar sentiments to Iain, although some express their reasoning less cogently than others.

If, on the other hand, you merely want to express your own anger then I suggest you move over to the Guardian’s Comment is Free pages, but if you want extra upticks it would be as well to throw in a bit about ‘racism’, ‘fascism’ and ‘xenophobia’ as well.

Marvin Jones

28th November 2019 at 2:40 pm

Let’s bring back hanging first, the rest will follow.

James E Shaw

23rd November 2019 at 1:42 pm

Geoff Cox

23rd November 2019 at 1:54 pm

Presumably you mean people who want Brexit are diseased? Nice. Do you ever wonder why the debate has become so toxic?

Marvin Jones

28th November 2019 at 2:41 pm

Precisely why hanging should be legal.

Marvin Jones

28th November 2019 at 2:52 pm

Besides, O’Brien is the illiterate persons Svengali. He has you well and truly convinced.

Geoff Cox

22nd November 2019 at 10:15 pm

Politics is the art of the possible. This is the nub of where we are now. Brexiteers (including me) completely underestimated the lengths to which Parliament would go to keep us in the EU. Before the Referendum I widely expected any leave vote to be overturned through delay and a massive hype in project fear. I reasoned that the public would grow weary and more pro-Remain. But I was wrong about the later. The public have stayed stong on Brexit and have forced Parliament to hang themselves ever higher.

If the Cons win with a small majority of say 25, then I’m sure we will get Brexit 1 done and we will move into the transition period. Then it will be up to the Brexit Party / UKIP et al to reform and carry on the fight for real Brexit.

Furthermore it is clear now we need real political reform – a fairer electoral system and a way to recal MPs if enough voters want it.

Sovereignty belongs to the People and MPs should have no power to steal it from us.

Mike Ellwood

22nd November 2019 at 8:24 pm

I’m not convinced by PR, and I’m even less convinced by PR as promoted by Brexit Party people, who tend to be ex-Tories. Tories (or Labour) never wanted PR because they knew how well FPTP worked for them. So I don’t have too much time for little ex-Tories bleating against it now.

Steve Roberts

22nd November 2019 at 5:36 pm

Lets get something clear here, it was not “leave” vote that had the possibility of splitting , to leave means to not be in, this is not the hokey cokey, one foot it one foot out, we voted to leave.
When commentators say the leave vote will be split what they really means is that some “leavers” essentially traditionally tory voters, will change from being a leaver to supporting a remain CUP, an antidemocratic position against the referendum result, what is feared is that it will split the tory vote not the leave vote. Those leavers that still want to leave will continue to be leavers and democrats.
Something is clouding Phillips judgement, almost entirely, perhaps she feels loyalty to TBP for some reason, which makes no rational sense – seen as TBP is pitching itself as a defender of democracy – at all as it has deliberately disenfranchised millions of voters after promising to fight all seats in the GE if the CUP refused to seek a clear break brexit, upon which the CUP promptly put two fingers up to the TBP and called its bluff.
But she doesn’t blame TBP ,its apparently the fault of FPTP and the right wing press, nonsense, when Farage promised to fight all the seats he knew it was FPTP, he also knew a majority of constituencies voted leave, he has backed down to save the possible, even likely electoral obliteration of the CUP which is now an open remain party with its treaty which Farage has spent the last few weeks explaining before he gave away 317 seats.
This was no tactical retreat, there has never been a more appropriate and opportune time to seriously challenge the status quo and the dominance of the two main parties despite FPTP.
The huge success of the referendum followed by the obliteration of the LP and CUP in the EU elections and the increasing support nationally for TBP opened up a huge opportunity.
That opportunity only began to slide, according to polls ,after Farage started his planned retreat, on the one hand exposing the CUP as remainers , which they are, and on the other offering olive branches or nearly begging Johnson to take the line of TBP to leave the EU, completely confusing voters, and leavers in particular, tactical voting possibilities reared its ugly head again.
Everyone including TBP leadership knew this change by the CUP was not going to happen, the gauntlet was thrown to Farage by Johnson, back off or risk taking the CUP down, he backed off in the most dramatic style , no equivocation 317 seats gone, we are not stupid , this did not happen because of a few seconds of video one Sunday night from Johnson, this had long being in the making.
The democratic content of the referendum result, the will of the people has been betrayed, to save a remain party, the CUP, what has that to do with defending democracy, changing politics for good, because “we are ready”.
The truth is “brexit is for the birds” until we rid the HOC of all the remainers that are undemocratically denying the will of the people, That includes the CUP, LP, LD, et al, TBP had a glorious opportunity to shatter the status quo, the people were ready, they thought they had a party prepared to change politics for good, that is the reason for the existence of TBP it is the people that built it, gave it the possibilities for real change we voted for in the referendum, it has in my view, deliberately betrayed that opportunity, once again people have little real choice. Take solace that this was a tactical retreat if one likes, time will tell, sometimes the reality is hard to face, people have been let down far too many times with broken promises, TBP has made a bad start and seems only to wantiNg to chase red blood, why would that be ? Dark, blue, light blue all around. Hmmm.

NEIL DATSON

22nd November 2019 at 3:36 pm

I agree with more or less every word of this BUT – being realistic a Johnson led Conservative government is the only realistic hope for getting out of the EU at all. Get that done, and just possibly some worthwhile reform of our sclerotic ‘democracy’, might finally result. I’d like there to be a least a small number of Brexit Party MPs who can hold his feet to the fire, but have little hope of it. It was to the good that the Conservatives got a massive fright in the European Elections – I can’t see them forgetting that in a hurry.

Taken as a whole the last House of Commons must surely have been the most self-satisfied and egregious collection of men and women who have ever claimed to ‘represent’ their constituents. If we were to end up with a hung parliament (surely the only other realistic possibility), the next lot could surpass them. Scarcely possible? I fear not. And bear in mind that they could be protected from the wrath of their constituents for the next five years by the Fixed Term Parliament Act. In one sense it would scarcely matter; if we remain in the EU we soon won’t need a national government at all. The Parliamentarians and their absurd antics might as well become just another colourful tourist attraction, somewhat akin to the Changing of the Guard.

Mike Ellwood

22nd November 2019 at 8:19 pm

QUOTE: “Taken as a whole the last House of Commons must surely have been the most self-satisfied and egregious collection of men and women who have ever claimed to ‘represent’ their constituents.”

Since I don’t have a party I want to vote for, this is my best hope for this election: that we can hopefully get rid of some of the worst of the last parliament. Some have already said they are standing down – hooray! – But not enough.

QUOTE: “And bear in mind that they could be protected from the wrath of their constituents for the next five years by the Fixed Term Parliament Act”

Hmm….did Johnson say he was going to abolish it? Not sure now. Even if he did, he’ll probably go back on his word, seeing as how he’s that kind of guy, but someone needs to abolish it. A horrible, anti-democratic law it is, as we’ve seen. I didn’t like it from the beginning, but I didn’t appreciate quite how bad it was until the last few months.

NEIL DATSON

22nd November 2019 at 10:05 pm

No, as far as I’m aware Johnson hasn’t declared an intention to repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act and I have no faith in him trying to enact any kind of democratic reform. However, I do believe that if we elect a House of Commons that is similar to the last one it will behave in much the same way as the last one. Given that, the only realistic prospect for immediate – albeit inadequate – advance is to elect a house that is committed to a genuine Brexit. (The critical condition is that it must not be a BRINO type arrangement, but must restore sovereign independence.)

George Orwell

22nd November 2019 at 12:23 pm

Sadly, all true. Under the Johnson deal we have to stump up our 39 billion and then embark on trade negotiations without being able to use that money as a bargaining counter. That part of the game was lost by May at the very beginning and the number of Remainers still unable to accept the 2016 referendum is currently large enough to stop Johnson from ripping up the entire ‘deal’ and starting again from scratch.
However, the overriding need now is to ensure that we don’t become another Venezuela so we have to back Johnson in order to get a fresh political start with a hopefully neutered Labour Party.
After that, if Johnson gets a large majority, then maybe the Brexit Party can have influence if they look like presenting a sizeable threat to the Conservatives at the next election in five years or so.
Ideally, I would like to see Johnson get a large majority and then under Brexit Party pressure having the confidence to just walk away with no deal and then start trade negotiations with the EU from a much enhanced bargaining position.
It all depends on whether the British still have a confident, entrepreneurial attitude after so many years of our establishment authoritarians doing all they can to divide and rule our populace.
Either the British still have what it takes, or they don’t.

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