Sir John Major recently described the Conservatives as a “Brexit Party Tribute Band”. Ken Clarke pronounced the Conservative Party as “the Brexit Party rebadged”. On her way to the Lib Dems, Heidi Allen complained the Tories had “become Brexit Party Version 2”.
Numerous commentators have pointed out that Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings have shifted the Tories from its broad-church, one nation political roots in an attempt to out-Brexit the Brexit Party. Or as social economist, William Davies, put it: “The Conservatives are to the Brexit Party what cocaine is to crack: more acceptable in polite company, but ultimately made of the same stuff”.
Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. In less than eleven weeks, this Conservative Government has been accused of lying to the Queen and serious conflicts of interest. The Supreme Court found its prorogation of Parliament unlawful and they’ve nicked nearly all the Brexit Party’s policies. Strategically, this Government has been a disaster. It has lost every vote in the House of Commons, witnessed Parliament remove No Deal from the negotiating table, increased its minority and in a desperate attempt to save itself, resurrected Mrs May’s dreadful Withdrawal Agreement, warts and all. The Spectator memo (such a transparently valedictory note) outlines a die-in-a-ditch plan of negotiation-by-tantrum, full of threat, obstruction, and blackmail. True to its master’s voice, it states “everything to do with duty of sincere cooperation will be in the toilet”.
Compare and contrast with the Brexit Party. In just 26 weeks we have won a national election, becoming the European Parliament’s largest and most diverse party. Yes we did turn our backs on the EU’s Ode to Joy and have brought a little of Westminster to the Strasbourg debating chamber, but Brexit Party MEPs have overwhelmingly fulfilled our promise to responsibly hold the Parliament to account and stand up for the interests of our constituents. In the financial, employment, fishing and other legislative committees, we have made a wide range of constructive interventions, always in the British interest, but never disrespectful of our European colleagues. Contrary to the racist, fascist stereotyping, Brexit Party MEPs have been the ones standing up for more democracy, increased philanthropy and calling out the EU’s institutional racism.
The essential difference between this Conservative Government and the Brexit Party is one of conviction and statesmanship. For Downing Street, it’s all about political expediency to save their own necks; how they are positioned for a general election and who will be blamed for the mess. As that memo reproduced by The Spectator makes clear, “to marginalise the Brexit Party, we will have to fight the election on the basis of ‘no more delays, get Brexit done immediately’.” Dignity, integrity and the conventions of parliamentary behaviour have been spaffed up the wall. Far from being a 21st century Machiavelli, it turns out that Mr Cummings is the medieval Lord of Misrule.
The Brexit Party believes, and has been consistent in its argument throughout, that a Clean Break Brexit is the only way. Nigel Farage, who Downing Street condemned as “not a fit and proper person”, has been constant in putting country before party and attracted an extraordinary variety of everyday people as prospective parliamentary candidates true to that cause. It’s not about saving the Brexit Party, it’s an honest belief about what’s best for the nation and fulfilling the democratic imperative of the 2016 referendum. It’s also about old-fashioned diplomacy. The Tories’ scorched-earth policy isn’t going to help inspire future trading relationships. You may disagree with his point of view, but dial in to Nigel Farage’s radio show and he will show plenty of respect for yours.
Lamenting the Government’s shenanigans, Amber Rudd protested that many Conservative voters believe in “the moderation of the Conservative Party, not the extremism of a Brexit Party”. It’s good that the Government appears to have finally come round to our Clean Break way of thinking, but with respect, Amber, the Brexit Party are the grown-ups in the room now.
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