Nigel Farage is the face of Brexit. From the start of his political career he’s gone for the “Big Ask,” as his friend Donald Trump would put it, get the U.K. out of the European Union.
Everyone in the Western political establishment hates him because of this.
Over the past year he has been prophetic in his analysis of how the Conservatives have maneuvered to betray the U.K.’s departure from the European Union.
For more than a week since announcing the Brexit Party’s electoral strategy, Farage has been under enormous pressure from all quarters to stand down many of his candidates and not fight the Tories.
Farage’s initial strategy, contest the whole election, was exactly as I suggested in my last article on Brexit.
It was a high risk, Trumpian “Big Ask.”
It may be an opening bid in a complex negotiation that ends with them making a pact towards the end of the campaign.
Frankly that only happens if the polls shift considerably from where they are.
Politics is not a game for the timid or the weak. If Farage is to be a big player in British politics he needs to act like he is a big player in British politics.
My very cynical take is that no one in power actually wants Brexit to happen if it means real political change in the U.K., including the ERG.
They, at best, realize some Brexit is better than no Brexit. They are truly spineless and cannot be counted on to hold any line if it means the death of the Tory party.
Many of them folded to Theresa May’s blackmail, they had no chance against Johnson’s, who is far more capable than May.
The British Deep State is old, vast and powerful still.
Johnson is a face for that and Farage knows it.
And the pressure campaign from all quarters had the singular message to Farage from Westminster to Brussels, stand aside so we can get on with European integration.
It worked… kinda.
The polls didn’t shift enough to validate Farage’s ‘Big Ask’ but they did move enough for him to have a strategy for the next best thing — wipe out Labour and take enough seats from them to hold Johnson accountable in the resultant Parliament.
So, Farage did as he was implored, but only after forcing real concessions from Boris Johnson publicly to avoid a hung parliament.
Because even though Johnson is in the cat bird’s seat at the national level and the polls didn’t shift enough towards Farage, the threat of Farage splitting the vote and hurting Johnson was real.
Everyone knows that Johnson’s got a number of seats in the Northeast and the Midlands which haven’t voted Conservative in a hundred years which he has a very small chance of winning.
And that could hand the Remainers a path to a second referendum.
So why did Farage just stand down 317 candidates?
Farage listed two main points that he could work with that speaks directly to Labour voters who voted Leave:
- Johnson has promised no extension to the Transition Period beyond 2020, keeping No Deal on the table.
- Johnson would negotiate based on a Canada+ Trade Deal.
Both of these things were part of Farage’s “Big Ask” in the first place. By conceding he got most of what he wanted, something to campaign against Johnson on, since Johnson wasn’t about to give Farage anything official publicly.
The Tories cannot form an alliance with an outsider like Farage. That would be damning to them, conceding they are the past.
Farage is hated in British political circles more than Jeremy Corbyn. He has cost them elections, prestige, power and most importantly, their air of legitimacy.
So Johnson could never give Nigel what he and millions of Brexit voters wanted. This validates my analysis of him as a keeper of the political status quo. And that he is using Brexit cynically to maintain it.
Smartly, Farage did not act like a second class citizen here. He had to lead with his best. But leadership takes many forms.
So, after the Tories made their initial push to attack Farage personally, taking a page out of the Alinsky playbook, by saying it’s all about his ego and his unwillingness to compromises, Farage outmaneuvered them by falling on his sword twice.
First by not standing as an MP, putting country before himself. And, second, by standing down his candidates to the delight of Leavers all over the U.K. putting country before party.
Farage comes out looking like the big man, the committed patriot and Brexiteer. Johnson get to save face for the Tories who still look like the legitimate party to lead a government.
But in doing so Farage puts Johnson on the hook to deliver major points he’d rather negotiate away to “Get Brexit Done.”
And Farage will have ammunition in the next General Election if Johnson betrays him.
The Brexit Party should rise here in the national polls. Brexiteers have a clear choice in each of the local elections and the Remain alliance forming around the LibDems, Labour and the Scottish National Party is in real trouble.
This is what everyone who wants Brexit wanted to happen. But Johnson had to commit to Farage’s demands before it would happen.
For the strategy to work, the Brexit Party needs to take 35 to 70 seats in this election. That would stiffen the spines of those ERG boys who have proven themselves craven and could actually be a big enough block to ensure Johnson stays true to his word.
It’s the best of a bad situation and Farage knows it. Brexit is now up to the British people to deliver. Farage’s “Big Ask” of them hasn’t let him down yet.
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