Boris Johnson Nonetheless Has a Nigel Farage Downside

(Bloomberg Opinion) — A little bit over per week in the past, Nigel Farage described the Brexit deal that U.Okay. Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced again from Brussels as a travesty and a betrayal of the 2016 referendum. He threatened to face Brexit Get together candidates in 600 constituencies in opposition to the Conservative Get together within the forthcoming common election if Johnson didn’t repudiate his personal settlement.

On Monday, Farage reversed course and the Conservatives cheered, as the specter of splitting the pro-Brexit vote appeared to decrease. But the truth of the Tory acquire is lower than clear minimize.

In 317 Conservative-held constituencies, Farage stated his get together will stand down in order to not damage the the get together’s possibilities or produce a hung parliament which may threaten Brexit altogether. The choice got here after Farage was attacked by Conservatives and the Brexit-supporting media for his purist stance. Nick Timothy, who suggested the previous prime minister Theresa Might, wrote that Farage “has tragically became the Frodo Baggins of Brexit,” likening him to the Tolkien hero who survives his perilous journey to destroy the One Ring solely to succumb to its lure on the final minute and search to own it himself.

Sufficiently chastened, Farage took an escape route provided by Johnson on Sunday, when the prime minister declared {that a} Conservative authorities wouldn’t lengthen the Brexit transition interval past 2020 — that means a free commerce settlement must be finished by then. That promise, as I wrote on Friday, is both insincere or folly. However it was sufficient to get Farage to desert his earlier menace.

The Brexit Get together chief already seemed a little bit foolish along with his resolution to not stand as a candidate. Monday’s announcement could permit Farage to focus his firepower on fewer seats, however he’s basically conceded the Conservative argument that backing the Brexit Get together places Brexit itself in danger.

His resolution will come as a reduction to Conservative lawmakers who nervous {that a} cut up within the Brexit vote of their constituencies would permit both Labour or the Liberal Democrats to take benefit. Matthew Goodwin, a politics professor on the College of Kent, notes that 35 of the 50 smallest Conservative majorities are in Depart-voting seats, so Farage has eliminated a serious menace to these members of Parliament.

Even so, there’s a hazard in overdoing the Tory celebrations. The Brexit Get together will nonetheless be contesting seats in Depart-voting, Labour-held components of the nation, significantly within the Midlands and the North. The entire Tory electoral technique — its big-spending pledges, its stance on immigration and its pledge of a fast Brexit with Johnson’s deal — is predicated on capturing these seats.

“This announcement could assist the Tories maintain on barely higher in opposition to the Lib Dems, significantly in Depart-voting rural southwest England, and even perhaps in opposition to the Scottish Nationwide Get together within the North East of Scotland,” notes pollster and analyst Matt Singh. “However Johnson nonetheless wants seats received final time by Labour, so Farage standing candidates in these seats remains to be extremely prone to damage the Conservatives.”

And even when this has turn into extra of a two-party race and the Conservatives seize a majority, Farage can nonetheless declare a considerable victory. He could discover it chilly consolation personally, however his long-standing Brexit marketing campaign, relationship again to his days as the top of the U.Okay. Independence Get together, has had an out-sized affect on the Tories. It has produced an inner revolution wherein average Conservatives and remainers have been purged in favor of a brand new coalition of working class Brexit voters and conventional social conservatives. He’s as a lot the daddy of the new-look Tories as Johnson.

If we’re speaking Lord of the Rings, the Brexit Get together chief could also be seemed upon extra as a type of reconstructed Gollum, the slippery trickster of singular goal who fell below the ring’s spell and couldn’t let it go. Gollum was destroyed finally at Mount Doom by his greed, however not earlier than he helped Frodo and Sam accomplish their mission.

To contact the creator of this story: Therese Raphael at [email protected]

To contact the editor answerable for this story: James Boxell at [email protected]

This column doesn’t essentially replicate the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its house owners.

Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial web page editor of the Wall Road Journal Europe.

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