After Brecon and Radnorshire, What Now For Brexit Party and the Conservatives?

My original blog post (with updates to 2 August 2019) about the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election

https://ianrmillard.wordpress.com/2019/06/21/brecon-and-radnorshire-by-election-2019/

The result of the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election of 1 August 2019

  • LibDems 13,826 votes (43.5%)
  • Conservatives 12,401 (39%)
  • Brexit Party 3,331 (10.5%)
  • Labour Party 1,680 (5.3%)
  • Monster Raving Loony 334 (1%)
  • UKIP 242 (0.8%)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brecon_and_Radnorshire_(UK_Parliament_constituency)#Elections_in_the_2010s

The LibDems won fairly decisively, but with a smaller majority than the betting might have been suggesting. I have posted several informative links below.

Why did the LibDems win, why did the Conservative Party not win?

For me, the most important aspect beyond the headline result is the fact that the Conservative ex-MP, Christopher Davies, would have won, perhaps even handsomely, were it not for the candidature of Brexit Party, which received 3,331 votes.

The LibDem majority over the Conservatives was only 1,425. In other words, had Brexit Party not been standing, the Conservatives would almost certainly have won, and probably by nearly 2,000 votes. The Brexit Party received a vote-share of only 10.5% (LibDems 43.5%, Conservatives 39%), but that was more than enough to sink the Conservative candidate.

The Labour vote has suffered a general decline in the constituency over the years (all-time high was 57.69% in 1964), but this was its lowest-ever vote-share (5.3%). I attribute that partly and perhaps mainly to tactical voting: Labour supporters voting against the Conservatives (mainly) in a situation where Labour had no real chance anyway (the Labour vote here has not exceeded 20% since 2001 (21.4%). However, the 5.3%, barely enough to retain the deposit, does tend to support my view that Labour is now the party of the blacks and browns, the public service workers and those mainly dependent on State benefits.

The Sky News Political Correspondent tweeted something interesting about the Labour vote in Brecon and Radnorshire, which had been in the 10%-18% range since 2005 and until this by-election’s collapse to 5.3%:

Brecon and Radnorshire is almost entirely white British in demographic terms (Powys, the county in which is situated the constituency, is said to be 99.3% white British). In white British areas, Labour increasingly has no chance. Labour scarcely speaks to or for white British people now. This has implications that go far beyond Brecon and Radnorshire.

The Conservatives and Brexit Party down the line

Brexit Party is one of two parties that emerged in 2019 despite having no real policies (the other being the pro-EU, pro-Remain, pro-Jewish lobby party, Change UK, which sputtered to a halt almost immediately and now scarcely exists).

There is no doubt that the early promise of Brexit Party has somewhat blunted since its great 2019 EU elections success. The recent Peterborough by-election was nearly won, but not quite, Brexit Party losing to Labour by a mere 683 votes. Now we have another, though less unexpected, disappointment. Nigel Farage and his large meetings held before both the EU elections and the Peterborough by-election built up a head of steam and a head of expectation, but so far that pressure has just tooted into the void, at least as far as Westminster is concerned.

The political landscape has just suffered an earthquake. Boris Johnson (aka, to me, “Boris-idiot”) is now, incredibly, Prime Minister (or Fool posing as “King for a Day”), having been put there by about 92,000 Conservative Party members (out of about 50 MILLION voters, in other words by about 1 out of every 500 or so eligible voters). He has “pledged” (for what little his pledges are worth) to leave the EU “deal or no deal” by 31 October 2019. If that seems about to happen, I am assuming that the anti-“no deal”/WTO MPs will block it and/or vote for a no-confidence motion. That might in turn cause Boris Johnson to trigger a general election.

Alternatively, the EU might offer Johnson a form of words that he can present to the Commons as a workable “deal” (in the now familiar vulgar terminology). The UK can then pretend to leave the EU but in reality stay in, or kick the can down the road by means of an extension, which Johnson himself seemed to find acceptable recently. The Commons might block the former, but probably not the latter.

An extension (as mooted) might last until 2021 or even 2022. In 2022, new electoral boundaries will be in place in the UK. MP numbers are set to be reduced from 650 to 600. Those changes will hit both Labour and the LibDems hard.

If the Conservatives can hang on until 2022, their chances of survival (as individual MPs and as a party of government) look better. In the meantime, Boris-idiot can go on posing as Prime Minister, and his Cabinet of Conservative Friends of Israel, enemies of the people, can (with the help of their Labour Friends of Israel accomplices) pass more repressive laws to destroy (real) “democracy” and (real) civil rights in the UK…

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That, at least, could have been the scenario had the Conservatives a majority or at least a working majority (reduced by Brecon and Radnorshire to 1 MP vote) and so able to continue as a government. As it is, whatever happens on 31 October, it cannot be long now before Labour moves a no-confidence motion. If not in November, then surely in December or early next year.

Brexit Party has not yet proven that it can win Westminster seats, but it has proven that it can prevent the Conservative Party winning. In Peterborough, the successful Labour Party candidate got 10,484 votes (30.9%). The Brexit Party got 9,801 votes (28.9%). The Conservative got 7,243 votes (21.4%). While it may be that not all of those who voted Brexit Party would, in lieu of that, have voted Conservative, most would have done; hardly any would have voted Labour, in my opinion anyway. It is clear that, without Brexit Party, the Conservatives would have won Peterborough. The same is true in Brecon and Radnorshire.

Boris Johnson may have shot Brexit Party’s fox by going all-out (supposedly) for a “no deal”/WTO Brexit if the EU does not play ball, but he has not killed that fox, just wounded it. If the UK leaves on a “no deal”/WTO basis, then Brexit Party probably will deflate to nothing, though it may reinvent itself even then. However, it seems unlikely that the majority of MPs of all parties will not block such a departure. If that happens, then Boris Johnson, however much he tries to play the Leave “tribune of the people”, will be seen by Leavers as a waste of space, “all hat and no cattle”. In that scenario, the anger of the Leave-preferring voters will devolve upon both Remain MPs and Boris-idiot. Brexit Party will then, like Antaeus treading on his native earth, be revived and take on new strength.

What Boris Johnson and the Conservatives would like is for Brexit Party to just disappear, thus leaving the Conservatives to trample all over the hopelessly-split Labour Party and the LibDems. What is more likely is that the UK will not leave the EU on any real basis by the beginning of November. Brexit Party will thus put up 650 MPs and the Conservative Party will be slaughtered. Most hard-core Leavers will vote Brexit Party, most hard-core Remainers (especially in the South) will switch to the LibDems. For Boris Johnson and the Conservatives, a two-front war. Apart from Brexit issues, anyone who believes in the Welfare State, in decent public services, in animal welfare, will not vote Conservative. Anyone hostile to Jewish Zionism, likewise.

The Brexit Party may only get 10%-20%, so say 15%, nationwide, but that alone all but destroys any hope for a majority Conservative government. My own efforts at working it out using Electoral Calculus [see Notes, below] indicate Conservative Party as largest party in Commons, but without a majority and quite possibly worse off than now.

Much depends on the LibDem vote. At present, the opinion polls show intended LibDem vote somewhere in the 15%-25% range, with latest educated guess (via Ipsos/MORI) at 20%.

That might give a Conservative majority of as much as 74. However, even if that poll is accurate, it is unlikely that the Conservatives will actually maintain a lead of 10 points over Labour. If Labour were able to achieve 30% instead of 24%, which is well within the parameters of reasonable possibility, then the Conservative Party would be 20 MPs short of a majority, i.e. worse off than now.

There again, even if Labour were still on 24%, but if Brexit Party could reach to 15% at the expense of the Conservatives on 29%, the Conservatives would be no less than 57 MPs short of a majority.

On the other hand, If Brexit Party can get 20%, LibDems 20%, Labour 25% and Conservatives 30%, the Conservatives would be about 35 MPs short of a majority.

It is a game one can play for hours.

Conclusions

The LibDems are back in the game, if only by default. They have much of the Remain vote, they have a (notionally) fresh and energetic leader, they have the votes of those disliking the other two main System parties as well as those of persons wishing to vote tactically. They have at least the possibility of a 50-seat bloc (again) in the Commons.

Brexit Party is not looking good as a potential party of government but it is looking effective as a way of blocking Conservative Party ambitions. A general election resulting in 30% Con, 30% Lab, 20% LibDem, 15% Brexit Party and 5% Green comes out with Labour as largest party, but 46 MPs short of majority, the Conservatives not far behind and the LibDems with perhaps about 50 MPs. On that basis, the LibDems could, as in 2010, be once again the kingmakers. Plus ca change…

Notes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brecon_and_Radnorshire_(UK_Parliament_constituency)#Elections_in_the_2010s

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powys

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-49200636

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/voters-head-to-the-polls-for-brecon-and-radnorshire-byelection-live-a4202956.html

https://news.sky.com/story/liberal-democrats-win-brecon-and-radnorshire-by-election-as-johnson-suffers-first-defeat-as-pm-11775356

https://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Gigantes/Antaeus/antaeus.html

https://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/userpoll.html

Update, 4 August 2019

Worth reading:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/04/boris-johnson-armageddon-clock-what-is-it-counting-down-to

Andrew Rawnsley predicting the demise, quite soon, of both Boris-idiot and the Conservative government (and party):

“As he [Boris-idiot] points the country at the cliff edge and depresses the accelerator, does prime minister Johnson have any idea where this will end? It is a mistake to think that he does. No one knows what he is really up to, including himself. In one breath, he tells us that this is “do or die”; in another, he sets the odds on a no-deal Brexit at “a million to one”;

He [Boris-idiot] has to know that there is a strong possibility that it will mean an autumn general election. The least credible message from Number 10 is that it is not contemplating this outcome”;

Tory strategy for winning an election makes some very big and risky assumptions. One is that the gains harvested by the Conservatives at the expense of Labour among Leave-supporting voters will outweigh Tory losses in Remain-supporting constituencies. Nearly every top Lib Dem target is a Conservative seat, while Scottish Nationalists are hoping to scalp Tory MPs north of the border. The other perilous assumption is that Nigel Farage’s party will fade away or fold up. The leader of the Brexit party is enjoying being the object of renewed attention and displays no signs of wanting to retire again. He declares that he does not trust the prime minister and he has a bitter history of mutual loathing with Number 10’s chief strategist, Dominic Cummings.”

One lesson from the Brecon & Radnorshire by-election is that the Brexit party doesn’t have to do all that well – it polled barely a double-digit share on Thursday – to hurt the Tories. If the Conservatives could have added the Brexit party vote and that of Ukip to their tally, they would have held the seat with just over half the vote, rather than narrowly lose it to the Lib Dems. They’d hope to put a harder squeeze on the Brexit party in a general election, but couldn’t be absolutely confident. All the hazards of this strategy will be multiplied many times over if an election takes place after 31 October. In one scenario, we would still be in the EU, breaking the Tory leader’s “absolute commitment” to his party that Britain will be out “under any circumstances” and hugely boosting the Faragists.”

In the alternative scenario, Britain has tumbled out of the EU without an agreement. That is no longer a threat or a promise. The countdown has reached zero and no deal is a reality. Even in the less chilling versions of a crash-out Brexit – the ones that don’t involve supermarket shelves being stripped bare by panic-buying and children dying for lack of life-critical medicines – I wouldn’t want to be a prime minister trying to make a case for his re-election when the country has just suffered a big economic shock and the currency is collapsing.”

My suspicion is that the Armageddon Clock isn’t really there to count down the seconds to Brexit day. It is there to remind Boris Johnson how long he has left before it becomes too late to avoid his own doomsday.

Of course, I myself have made, in the above and previous blog posts, similar points to those now made by Andrew Rawnsley. He, however, has the inside contacts (and public profile) which I do not have. I, perforce, have to use simply my own knowledge and powers of reason (also, I am doing this unpaid, pro bono publico!)

I should say that there is little incentive for the Brexit Party to form a pact with the Conservatives unless the Conservatives in effect gift Brexit Party at least 50 winnable seats in return for Brexit Party standing down in the other 600. Such a pact might backfire for the Conservatives in that it would

  1. deprive the Conservatives of a number of seats which, even with Brexit Party standing, the Conservatives themselves might win; and
  2. create a bloc of up to 50 “fourth party” Westminster MPs for the first time, so
  3. making Brexit Party far more electorally credible in subsequent elections.

Meanwhile…

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/tory-mps-beg-brexit-party-candidates-not-to-stand-in-their-constituencies-amid-fears-of-split-vote-a4205031.html

If Brexit Party candidates give up their candidature in seats where the Conservative candidates might lose if there is a Brexit Party candidate, then not only has the Brexit Party given up what might be good chances of winning in those seats, but it has restricted itself to standing only in seats where it has, arguably, little chance of winning.

In other words, a one-way electoral pact with the Conservatives almost wipes out Brexit Party’s reason for existing. It might confirm as MPs a few Conservative Eurosceptics, but no political earthquake is going to happen just because of that. The better strategy is to fight all 650 seats and see what happens. If it should be that 200+ Conservative MPs lose their seats, then good.

Update, 23 June 2020

My analysis was not too bad (as good that of Andrew Rawnsley, anyway), but nexpected events happened, as they often do: as we now know, duing the General Election campaign of December 2019, Nigel Farage, for whatever reason, decided to stand down all his Brexit Party candidates standing in Conservative-held seats. That killed Brexit Party stone dead and ensured a Conservative Party victory by default. 2017 Labour voters did not, most of them, vote Conservative, but some did, in some seats. A relative few defected to the LibDems or what was left of Brexit Party, but almost as many as all of those simply decided not to vote.

Result: a Conservative Party majority of about 80.

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