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Analysis #26

Why I’m standing for the Brexit Party

James Heartfield

13 May 2019

The Brexit Party is the only serious party willing to champion the cause of democracy in the European elections. That's why I'm standing for them, and why you should support them.

As an original signatory of The Full Brexit's founding statement, I want to explain why I am standing in the European elections - and why you should vote - for the Brexit Party.  I know that a lot of Full Brexit supporters may be alarmed by a Party that is led by Nigel Farage, and some on the left have said people like me are “useful idiots” for The Brexit Party.

No doubt I have been an idiot, over all kinds of things, but this time backing The Brexit Party is the right thing to do.

The Leave vote was the biggest challenge to the establishment in twenty years. But the two and a half years since the Referendum have shown up the weakness of the Leave vote. Without any deeply rooted political organisation behind the protest it was too easily annexed by people who were not really interested in seeing it through.

Tory and Labour parties voted in Parliament to move Article 50. They both fought a snap election in 2017 on manifestos committed to honouring the Referendum. But as is clear they did not mean it. Substantially, the candidates for the major parties were Remainers, so that the Parliament was overall a Remain Parliament, elected on “Leave” manifestos (Labour’s rather less explicit than the Tories’).

The outcome is clear. The Government’s negotiations were useless. Everyone can see that the Withdrawal Agreement is an abject surrender, and it has not been able to secure a majority in the House of Commons. The bad faith, Brexit-in-name-only, withdrawal agreement, and the paralysis of Parliament and government, are the natural outcome of a ruling party that does not believe in the policy it promised.

The Labour Party has behaved easily as badly. The Labour leadership have avoided the question of Brexit hoping that the Tories would “own the problem” and they could walk into number ten when it all went pear-shaped.

There are people still who think this is a strategy of great genius. It is not. It is utterly without principle. Even – as is happening in front of us – the Conservative Party collapses, Labour is unlikely to gain secure authority by dissembling. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

What both political parties have done is to make a virtue out of lying to the voters. They have lied about their willingness to Leave the EU.

They do not seem to understand what a child learns. Lying is destructive. You cannot trust someone who lies to you. Without trust you cannot work together, and you cannot make plans for the future.

We are at a crucial turning point. Public disaffection cannot indefinitely carry on without leading to profound social disengagement. Already the government is failing to govern and seen as a hateful embarrassment.

The opposition’s weaknesses are not as pointedly on display, but arguably they are in a much worse position. Labour’s two-faced stance, speaking Remain to one set of supporters and Leave to another, is not fooling anyone. It is clear that in Government Labour would renege on Brexit altogether or adopt a more limiting deal than the Withdrawal Agreement.

Labour will pay the price for failing. But if we go along with them, we will pay the price too. These European elections are the first test since the Article 50 period elapsed. If we do not protest now there is a strong chance that the political upset will disintegrate into bitterness and withdrawal. The effects of such a resigned disaffection could poison democratic forces for years to come.

As good as The Full Brexit has been at marking out the left-wing case for Brexit, it has not been able to give those ideas a clear organisational expression. There is no Full Brexit Party in a shape to challenge Tory and Labour Parties at the election.

I have joined with the Brexit Party to put myself forward as candidate in Yorkshire and the Humber. I am working with some great people, like Lucy Harris who organised the Leavers of Britain Group, and the libertarian Andrew Allison.

To say we disagree on many things is putting it mildly. But every one of the Brexit Party candidates is committed to Leaving the EU and to democracy. No other party with any prospect of a hearing is even standing on a Leave platform.

Within four weeks of launching, the Brexit Party is polling in second place – even in London. That is a clue that something very big is happening. The Conservative Party support is disintegrating, and much of that is coming to the Brexit Party.

More importantly, the Brexit Party rallies are getting to working class constituencies that Labour has abandoned. The Referendum was for many of these people the first time they voted.

They have been dismayed at the way that they have been robbed of their choice to Leave. But having made a special decision to take part in a vote unlike the usual elections they are more committed to that choice than many others.

Immigration, which was an issue in the 2016 referendum (though not to the extent claimed) has not so far been an issue in these elections. The reason, I think, is clear. There has been no upsurge in hostility towards immigrants. The Brexit Party is not a racist party - I would not stand for any party that was.

The Brexit Party is not a party of the Left. Though some find it hard to believe it is not a party of the right, either. It has no political platform in these elections – other than to save democracy, by carrying through the referendum result.

 

About the Author

 

Dr James Heartfield is a lecturer and author of, among many books, The European Union and the End of Politics (Winchester: Zero Books). He is standing in Yorkshire and the Humber for The Brexit Party in the European Parliament elections on 23 May.

 

 

This work represents the views of the author only. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.