Writing About Brexit: The Brexit Party Ltd

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 11th November 2019, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

How many The Brexit Party Ltd candidates are actually standing?

We still don’t know. (And likely won’t, till candidate declarations are made.)

Nigel Farage’s announcement was that The Brexit Party Ltd wouldn’t stand candidates in the 317 seats the Conservatives won at the last election, because he doesn’t want a hung Parliament and – he says – if the Brexit Party Ltd stood six hundred candidates, there would be a hung Parliament.

The Conservatives won 318 seats in 2017: John Bercow was a Conservative MP, and counted as one for purposes of counting how many seats the party won: but only 317 Tory MPs counted for voting purposes.

In 2019, because Lindsay Hoyle was a Labour MP, the Labour Party will have one MP less than the number of seats they officially win.

Whether Farage is actually aware of this or if he is planning to stand The Brexit Party Ltd in Bercow’s former constituency Buckingham, we don’t know.

Farage has made about £30,000 already by charging 3000 people £100 each to be “assessed” as parliamentary candidates for The Brexit Party. Whether any of them will actually be selected to stand is unknown, but probably not in any constituency where The Brexit Party Ltd might get a large-ish share of the vote and Farage saves his deposit.

Every PPC has to pay a deposit of £500 to be able to stand: party PPCs have it paid for by their party. For that they get up to two free mailings of electoral material to any or all of the addresses on the register in their constituency, and their name plus party on the ballot: they also get to attend the count with their electoral agent and appoint up to ten electoral observers. If they get at least 5% of the vote in their constituency, they get their £500 back.

Unlike in the EU elections, where people were “voting for Brexit”, at a Westminster election people are voting for named candidates, and it is surprising what a difference that makes.

Nigel Farage doesn’t think any of his candidates will win. If he did, he would be standing himself. In effect, then, every candidate standing is a potential net loss to him of £500. Of course, some of them may achieve over 5%, but if he is standing 332 candidates or 333 or 283, scattershot across “constituencies that didn’t elect a Tory last time” he is bound to lose their deposits often enough to eat a thousands-pounds hole in his – excuse me, in The Brexit Party Ltd funding.

Farage’s objective in standing The Brexit Party Ltd candidates would be three-fold:

First of all, as a means of fundraising. You can’t raise money for a political party unless you make a point of standing candidates. This may even be the second -place reason: Farage is greedy, sure, but not only for money.

Secondly, for personal self-aggrandisement: Farage wants to be the party leader, wants to appear on the BBC, wants to be name-dropped by Donald Trump (but not, probably, by Robert Mueller): he may have given up on becoming an MP, and apparently even the Tories aren’t stupid enough to make him a peer in the House of Lords, but he can carry on milking this gig for a few years yet – unless the UK actually does leave the EU.

Thirdly, to split the vote in non-Tory constituencies to give the Tories a better chance of winning – just as Jo Swinson is hoping to peel off Tory Remainer votes, Nigel Farage is hoping to peel off Labour and LibDem and SNP Leave votes.

I think if Farage were seriously trying to do that, he would need to make a more detailed and nuanced assessment of the polls than simply “not standing where a Tory won in 2017” but I don’t think he is seriously tryng to win seats for the Tories or even for The Brexit Party Ltd.

Mainly, I think Farage wants the fame, wants the money, and wants a grateful Conservative Party acknowledging he helped them win the crucial 2019 election. If it’s not just the Tories he wants grateful to him, we may never know: The Brexit Party Ltd’s funding is murky as hell.

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