Wednesday 31 July 2019

True believers

The famous Python debate about the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea was supposed to be a joke, but like many of the best jokes, it as rooted in a degree of shrewd observation about the way that schisms can and do occur between factions of extreme viewpoints.  Life imitates art more often than many imagine, and this week we had Farage claiming that the new PM’s consiglieri, Dominic Cummings (who was widely regarded as the evil mastermind behind Vote Leave) is not a ‘true believer’ after all.  He’s not terribly sure about Johnson either, apparently.
In a sense, this is actually good news, of a sort, because he has said categorically that ‘there would be no pact between his party and the Conservatives as long as the former Vote Leave head remained in charge of strategy’.  With such a pact in the now inevitable early general election, then given the shambles to which Corbyn has reduced the Labour Party and the vagaries of a First Past The Post electoral system, it is entirely possible that around 40% of the vote split between the Conservatives and Nigel Farage plc would return a landslide majority in parliament for a no deal Brexit, even if the other 60% of those voting rejected such an outcome.  Without such a deal, Johnson’s main hope of such a victory depends on crushing the Nigel Farage plc party almost out of existence, a much harder challenge as things look at present.
Whether it is, as I suggest, good news or not depends on one critical factor however: whether anything Farage says can be taken on trust.  Maybe not such good news after all.
But assuming, for the moment, that there is no electoral pact between Johnson and Farage, it is still just about possible that Johnson could achieve a narrow overall majority with around 30-35% of the vote, because of the way votes are distributed under our far from proportional system.  But whether such a majority would enable him to push through no-deal (which is the common assumption) is not quite so clear.  That would depend on him either managing to get any anti-no-dealers deselected in advance of the election to be replaced by his own variety of true believers, or else on any anti-no-deal Tories returned to parliament being willing to fall in behind his no-deal policy.  I wonder whether either of those things are as likely as is generally assumed.  Mass deselection of candidates is not a process of which the party has any experience, and those currently holding out against no deal don't seem likely to simply change their mind overnight.  An election - even if it results in a nominal narrow majority for the Tories - might not make any real change to the parliamentary arithmetic after all.

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