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11 November 2019updated 05 Oct 2023 7:59am

Evening Call: Has Nigel Farage just gifted the Tories a majority?

Possibly. Then again, possibly not.

By Jonn Elledge

Is this it, then? Is the Leave alliance coming together, even as Labour/the Liberal Democrats are still focused on explaining that it is the Liberal Democrats/Labour who are, in fact, the real monsters? Are we officially, finally stuffed?

Here comes the news part. Concentrate. This afternoon, Nigel Farage announced that his new-yet-somehow-still-old Brexit party was to abandon plans to stand in over 600 seats at next month’s general election. Farage, who has broken with tradition in not seeking a seat to not get elected by himself this year, and who Patrick noted earlier has been “in search of a ladder to climb down”, said that the insurgent party would now not stand in the 317 constituencies won by the Tories in 2017.

It will, however, contest seats where the dominant force is the comparatively Remain-y Labour party that now backs a second referendum. Significantly, Farage was speaking in Hartlepool, the sort of Leave-voting post-industrial Labour seat that everyone’s been unhealthily obsessed with for well over three years now.

All this produced two immediate results. One was blind panic in Labour or Remain circles, about the prospect that this might finally give Boris Johnson the majority he craves. The other, even less dignified one, was a series of unintentionally hilarious tweets from Leavers, praising Farage as a man whose patriotism is over-shadowed only by his lack of ego. (“First time I can recall a Conservative leader showing Nigel Farage the respect he deserves,” tweeted Guido Fawkes, which is a double-edged compliment if ever there was one.)

Whether this is quite the bombshell to the anti-Tory forces that it at first appears remains to be seen. On the face of it, not splitting the right in Conservative constituencies would seem to make it easier for the incumbent to retain those constituencies. But the Brexit party is still standing in the Labour-held target seats the Tories need to win to actually get a majority – which could push them further out of reach.

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By the same token, this seems like bad news for the LibDems, who stood to benefit from a split in the right in assorted southern constituencies. But by sending a signal that he’s a Boris Johnson fan, Nigel Farage could end up alienating the moderate, Remain-voting voters who could go yellow this year even further. For what it’s worth, neither YouGov’s Chris Curtis nor our own Patrick Maguire are convinced that this news with really change the result very much at all.

One group who definitely do stand to lose from today’s news, though, is Curtis’ own profession. The fact a fairly major party just decided not to stand in half the seats means this election just got a lot more difficult to accurately poll. No one ever thinks of the real victims when making these decisions, do they?

Good day for…

The writers of the next film in the Terminator franchise, after a survey from Deltapoll found that 53 per cent of the public would literally go back in time to prevent the Brexit referendum ever being held, if only the technology existed.

Confusingly, the potential re-writers of history include 16 per cent of Brexit party voters and 25 per cent of Leavers. It also includes a third of Conservatives – though whether either of the last two prime minister are among their number is a matter of mere speculation.

Bad day for…

The economy, after official statistics showed that GDP grew by just 0.3 per cent in the third quarter.

The government has gamely tried to frame this as good news – it does mean that, despite shrinking by 0.2 per cent the quarter before, the UK has avoided a technical recession. But, notes George, average earnings are still not expected to return to their pre-crash peak until 2025. “Whether the economy grows or not matters less than the overriding reality that its fundamentals remain profoundly weak.”

Quote of the day

“No need to edit this one.”

The CCHQ Press Office Twitter account tweeting a video of an interview with shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, thus admitting – one presumes accidentally – that it does indeed have form for editing videos of senior Labour politicians to make them look worse. Oh dear.

Everybody’s talking about…

Poppies, poppies everywhere. The man on Question Time wearing the one as big as his head. The person in a full-sized poppy costume, appearing as a mascot to show respect for our boys at a football match and/or audition for a guest spot as the monster on the next series of Doctor Who. The literal World War 2 plane that literally dropped 750,000 of the bloody things on the white cliffs of Dover this weekend. (In facts that never lose their power to surprise, incidentally: Vera Lynn is still alive, now aged 102.)

Sadly for those of us who think the best way to commemorate the victims of conflict is to use them as ammo in a culture war, Britain’s annual festival of remembrance is now finally over for another year. But here’s a great piece Stephanie Boland wrote two Remembrance Sundays ago on the booming market for poppy-themed tat.

Everybody should be talking about…

The fact that, after four days, a large chunk of Yorkshire and the Midlands is still under water, and severe flood warnings remain in place. The incident has already cost one woman her life.

Speaking in Derbyshire on Friday night, the prime minister reassuringly said that the disaster was “not a national emergency”. But it does show how unprepared Britain is for the climate crisis, argues Anoosh.


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The Terminator joke was shamelessly nicked from James Cooray Smith, sorry.

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