- SIMON DAWSON / Reuters
- Boris Johnson is certain to refuse Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage’s offer of a “Leave alliance” with the Conservatives at the forthcoming general election.
- Farage said that if prime minister was willing to drop his Brexit deal by November 14, the two party leaders could form an electoral pact to deliver a pro-Brexit majority a the December 12 election.
- But the Johnson has already ruled out an electoral pact with the Brexit Party and is likely to do so again.
- Here’s why Boris Johnson has no interest in teaming up with Farage.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage made his final offer of an electoral pact to Boris Johnson on Friday.
The terms were simple. If the United Kingdom’s prime minister was willing to drop his Brexit deal with the European Union by November 14, the two party leaders could form a “Leave alliance” at the December 12 election.
Farage would stand aside his candidates in hundreds of seats to give the Conservative candidates a clearer run. In return, the Conservatives would stand aside for the Brexit Party in a smaller number of seats to bolster their own chances of success. Such an arrangement would likely pave the way to a parliamentary majority for Johnson.
The problem for Farage is that Downing Street has no such interest in an electoral pact, something even US President Donald Trump urged the pair to do on Thursday.
Responding to Farage’s claims, Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly on Friday said: “A vote for Farage risks letting Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street via the back door – and the country spending 2020 having two referendums on Brexit and Scottish independence.
“It will not get Brexit done – and it will create another gridlocked Parliament that doesn’t work.”
Johnson has also previously ruled out an electoral pact.
Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr earlier this year is he would consider a deal, the prime minister replied: “No. There is good reason for that, that is that the Conservative Party is the oldest and greatest political party in the world.
“It is a big, broad church and we don’t do deals with other parties.”
So why will Johnson refuse Farage’s offer?
First and foremost, Johnson has no intention whatsoever of dropping the Brexit deal which he negotiated so exhaustively, and which is within touching distance of passing through Parliament.
Farage rubbished Johnson’s deal at the Brexit Party’s campaign launch on Friday, saying it was “not Brexit” and accusing the prime minister was “trying to sell a second-hand motor” to the British people.
But Johnson sees the deal, which he renegotiated against many of his opponents’ expectations, as an electoral prize. It will be central to his promise to “get Brexit done” on the election campaign trail.
There are other reasons why the Conservatives don’t want an electoral pact with the Brexit Party.
Some of Johnson’s advisers believe Farage, who rose to prominence as leader of the UK Independence Party, is toxic and would damage their party’s standing with liberal voters by association.
Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s chief political aide, has clashed with Farage on multiple occasions and the pair are known to dislike each other intensely.
Cummings, who ran the Vote Leave campaign, made the decision to sideline Farage during the EU referendum in 2016. He saw Farage as a divisive and extreme figure who might deter wavering voters from supporting Brexit. The same thinking is likely to be informing Downing Street’s constant attempts to distance itself from Farage this week.
That is why Downing Street will not countenance a pact with the Brexit Party.
What does it mean for the election?
- Peter Summers/Getty Images
It means the Brexit Party is set to field 500 candidates across the UK. Pollsters are divided over whether the Brexit Party will damage Labour or the Conservatives more.
Farage opened his speech saying that UKIP, the party he used to lead, actually “disproportionately hurt the Labour Party in the 2015 general election and there wouldn’t have been a Conservative majority if it hadn’t been for the effect of the UKIP vote.”
And Conservative MP Nigel Adams suggested this week that Farage could help Tory candidates by tempting Labour supporters who would never consider voting Conservative.
“I want Nigel Farage and his people to stand,” Adams told the Sun. “Brexit Party candidates will take votes off Labour and we’ll come right through the middle in a load of die-hard working-class seats across the north.”
But many pollsters disagree and say votes given to the Brexit Party could damage the Conservative party of a majority.
A Daily Mail analysis of data from polling firm Electoral Calculus found that the Brexit Party could cost Johnson dozens of key seats. Its model assumed that 70% of the parties backers would switch to the Tories and 30% to Labour. It predicted that the Tories would take 38 seats from Labour if Farage’s candidates dropped out. That would increase to 50 seats if all Brexit Party voters backed the Conservatives.