The battle for the upcoming elections in the United Kingdom seems to be mainly between the Conservatives and Labor. But there are also two smaller parties that may have little chance of winning, but can still play a significant role.
The leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage, paid much attention on Tuesday to the last major campaign meeting for the London elections: what is his party really for?
Despite predictions that the Brexit Party will not conquer any seat in the Lower House, Farage continued to be unwavering on Tuesday. The half-filled room in an old event hall in the heart of Westminster might have been in stark contrast to the rallies with thousands of supporters that the party held in the run-up to the European Parliament elections, the campaign videos shown at the start were still slicker then what the Conservatives and Labor served the British in the last weeks.
Half of those present, the non-journalists, clapped and cheered extra loudly when their party leader walked in on the sounds of Power from Kanye West. Farage opened his speech with an attack on the press (“you in London”), which he accused of “engulfing the Brexit Party with negativity” during the campaign.
He surprised friend and foe on November 11 with the announcement that the Brexit Party did not put forward a candidate in the 317 constituencies held by the Conservatives since the previous elections. Snatching voters away from them would pave the way for Labor or the Liberal Democrats, was his reasoning. That would go against the raison d’être of the Brexit Party: deliver the British exit.
In addition, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had promised that the transition period after the Brexit, of exactly one year, would not be extended, and Farage could live with the “Canada plus model” that Johnson said he would strive for the free trade agreement to be reached during that transition period. achieved with the EU.
“In a way, we now have a Leave alliance,” said the Brexit Party leader, referring to his earlier insistence on such an alliance, with which he had not managed to persuade the Conservatives. “We rigged it on our own.”
The question is whether that move worked out well. It turned out to be difficult to explain to the supporters of the party why they were ‘capitulated’ in advance in the 317 districts. Especially for the people who had registered there as candidates, it was difficult to digest.
The Conservatives were pleased that the Brexit Party no longer stood in their way, but refused to repay that favor. High-ranking Conservatives put even more pressure on Farage to step back into constituencies that went to Labor during the previous elections. Farage gave a finger, but Johnson and his colleagues don’t seem to settle for less than a whole hand.
The influence of the Brexit Party on the political mainstream is undeniable. The Conservatives included plans in their party program that can be traced back to the right-wing populist corner, such as an Australian-based immigration system and a thorough reform of the BBC public service broadcaster. But with that the question of whether the party of Farage has added value also became more pressing.
Farage answers this question himself by saying that his party not only wants to deliver the Brexit, but also wants to overthrow the entire British political system. For example, the Brexit Party, which after a British exit should continue as the Reform Party, wants to change the electoral system and give the people more direct say through referenda.
At the other end of the spectrum we find another small party, the Liberal Democrats. Under the leadership of the young and relatively unknown Jo Swindon, they strive to completely blow off the Brexit.
That intention forms the core of the biggest problem that the party encountered during the campaign. Even many fervent Remain voters hesitate to reverse the 2016 referendum from above, without a second referendum. Finally, 17.4 million Britons voted in favor of the Brexit.
In addition, the Liberal Democrats started the campaign with the vision that Swinson could best be prime minister. They continued to do so throughout the campaign – a particularly ambitious vision, given their position in the polls and the characteristics of the British electoral system, which is not exactly designed to facilitate the emergence of small parties.
Swinson only admitted last Monday that it is very unlikely that her party will get a majority of the votes and may lead a new government.
Polls and electoral calculations currently leave room for two possible scenarios with regard to the elections: the Conservatives win a majority and guide the Brexit deal from Johnson through the parliament, or the Conservatives, nor Labor wins a majority.
In the latter case, the Liberal Democrats can still play an important role, says University College London political scientist Oliver Patel. “There is not a single party that wants to work with the Conservatives, so Labor would have the chance to try to form a government.”
Patel thinks that a tolerance agreement between Labor and the small anti-Brexit parties, such as the Lib Dems, the Scottish National Party and the Green Party, will then become a real possibility.
“It will limit itself to one shared goal – to prevent the Brexit – and then quickly collapse, because the parties are too different to form a stable government.”