Posted by Thersites on  UTC 2019-11-12 13:27 Updated on UTC 2019-11-13

Nigel Farage has wrecked his brand, the Brexit Party. He has wrecked it as surely as Gerald Ratner wrecked his jewellery empire with some idiotic jokes that disparaged his own products in 1991, a moment when Ratner created the gold standard for unforced brand wrecking.

Farage has spent the last few weeks stressing the ideological purity of the no-deal Brexit foreseen by the Brexit Party as compared with the highly questionable May/Johnson deal now being touted by the Conservative party.

In those weeks he has defined the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of the Brexit Party as being the maintenance of that purity. According to this USP, the Conservatives' deal is a grimy stitch-up not worthy of the name Brexit and a betrayal of what the majority voted for in the referendum.

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Deciding now not to contest seats currently held by the Tories, irrespective of whether the candidates are Leavers or Remainers, has effectively legitimised the May/Johnson deal. Those who fell for the purist USP of the Brexit Party platform as it was until yesterday morning are now spitting tacks at Nigel Farage's turnabout – hero to zero in a minute or two, about the time it took Gerald Ratner to wreck his own brand.

If in recent weeks the Johnson Conservatives have not been offering an acceptable, purist Brexit, but a Brexit in name only, why now, suddenly, has it become a tolerable deal for Farage? Why now let so many Tory Remainers off the hook of accountability in their Leave voting constituencies? And why do that without any quid pro quo from the Conservatives?

The 317 Conservative candidates whose bacon Farage has just saved, even if they were all to be returned, would not give the party a parliamentary majority. The Brexit Party candidates in those seats may all lose, but among the still smoking cinders of that loss, the Brexit Party candidates would have been able to comfort themselves with the thought that at least some Tory Remainers had got their comeuppance for their years of betrayal.

Let us not forget an important fact which the Johnson bluster covers up: the May/Johnson agreement has not yet been accepted by Parliament – if it had been we wouldn't be having a General Election now. It is not 'oven-ready' – yet one more Boris™ lie: it is still on the supermarket shelf, its sell-by date long past. Every Tory Remainer who gets re-elected is a potential saboteur for the next stages of Brexit and a potential wrecker of the final agreement which is supposed to come to pass at the end of next year. It is one of the many myths which the Conservatives are propagating madly from their hyperactive spinners, that there is a 'deal', done and dusted. There isn't. Ask the DUP.

Nor have the Tories made any attempt to purge their candidates of troublemakers – instead they have accepted most of the malcontents back into the fold. Their candidate list, apart from the absence of a few old-timers, essentially includes the doubters and troublemakers who failed them in the last parliament.

Even if no Brexit Party candidates had been elected, at least the survivors would have had clean hands. The Labour and LibDem parties would have won the election, but that would then have been another battle for another time.

It is difficult to see, though, how the Brexit Party only putting up candidates in seats held by Labour and LibDems will reduce the chance of getting a Labour/LibDem government. Pollsters tell us that for every one voter who crosses from Labour to the Brexit Party, two Conservative voters cross to the Brexit Party.

The Conservatives have to pick up additional constituencies beyond those 317 existing seats (even assuming they win them all back) if they are to have a hope of returning to power, but if the Brexit party is going to shave consistently more off the Tories than off Labour, Labour (possibly with a LibDem coalition) is going to get in anyway.

Perhaps the greatest factor which will influence the result will be turnout. Theresa May's disastrous election humiliated the Conservatives by revealing how much better their opponents had been at mobilising the vote. If Labour manages to do that this time round as well, the Conservatives will simply become a parliamentary rump that will be subjected to routine humiliation for at least the next five years (or ten years, as happened in the Blair era). The Brexit Party will be gone, its brand destroyed, and fade into complete irrelevance.

Update 13.11.2019

An erstwhile Brexit Party candidate, Darren Selkus, now unceremoniously dumped, reports:

I don’t understand Nigel Farage’s decision to stand us down in Conservative seats with zero risk of a Remain party winning.

I don’t understand why, after exposing Boris Johnson’s deal as a surrender, the Brexit Party is now backing it.

I don’t understand why we are being told to trust a man who told us thousands of times we are leaving the EU on October 31 and now says he will take us out by the end of December 2020.

I don’t understand why Nigel Farage has betrayed my incredible volunteers and thousands of constituents who will have no one to vote for.

I don’t understand why 317 dedicated PPCs were the last to know they had been stood down and locked out of their Brexit Party email accounts and supporter database.

I don’t understand why you build a dedicated new party and then sacrifice half of it without missing a step.

I don’t understand how you can then have the audacity to ask those supporters and PPCs still to help you campaign.

Indeed Mr Selkus, a pox on all their houses – particularly those of the two egomaniacs Boris™ Johnson and Nigel™ Farage. It would be nice to say that the British people deserved better, but after the last thirty years, in which they elected Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron/Clegg, Cameron and May, their punishment beating will have to continue for a while yet.

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