Even with all the volatility in British politics right now, it is still remarkable that the Brexit party are favourites to win the European Elections just a week after launching. But will the Brexit party winning actually change anything, I ask in The Sun this morning.
I think there are a several ways it which it will have an impact. First, it’ll make MPs more cautious about a second referendum. One of the reasons why support for the idea has grown in parliament is a belief that Remain would triumph. A Brexit party victory would challenge that assumption.
Next, I suspect that Farage’s new party topping the poll would make the Tory Brexit holdouts less inclined to compromise. They’ll see it as a sign that the public backs no deal, though I suspect that the Brexit party’s success has more to do with the delays to the UK leaving than anything else.
The Brexit Party’s vote will come at the expense of the Tories more than any other party. The debate will quickly shift to how the Tories can win these voters back, and that will boost the chances of the Brexiteer leadership contenders. Indeed, the return of Farage has already led to Tory MPs taking a second look at Boris Johnson.
The other great question is, what effect will a win for the Brexit party have on Labour? If the Brexit party is taking votes from Labour in its traditional heartlands, it will strengthen the hand of those in the party who just want to get a Brexit deal done so the issue is off the stocks before the next election.
But a cross-party deal is still unlikely to happen given how bitterly it would divide Labour. Some in government do, though, hold out hope that a Brexit party victory might lead to some more Labour MPs being prepared to back the deal; a mere five Labour MPs voted for the withdrawal agreement last month. But with the DUP and hardcore Brexiteers determined not to back the deal, it would require 30 or more Labour MPs to come over—which is a hard ask—for the deal to pass.
The most significant consequence of a Brexit party triumph, though, is that it would finish off Farage’s old party, Ukip.
Ukip’s flirtation with Tommy Robinson street thuggery and YouTube stars who make light of rape has been a disaster for the party. The electorate will simply have no truck with such extremist nonsense and so Ukip won’t be the beneficiaries of the public’s anger at the Brexit delays.