Give Nigel Farage some credit, his well-oiled Brexit Party will taste election joy
PUBLISHED: 19:38 16 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:48 17 May 2019
Love him or loathe him, there is no argument that Nigel Farage is now the figurehead of a slick-looking political party, says Iain Dale
European election campaigns are usually seen as rather tedious affairs which culminate in a very low turnout. However, on occasion they can produce political tremors, if not earthquakes. In 1989, the Greens shook everyone when they polled 15%. In 2014 UKIP stormed to victory with the highest vote share and most seats. Are we in for a repeat this time? Nigel Farage certainly thinks so, and, given the seemingly unstoppable rise of his newly formed Brexit Party in the opinion polls, it's by no means an impossibility. The latest poll shows them on 34%, a massive 18 points ahead of the second placed Labour Party. The LibDems, and even the Greens seem to be overtaking the hapless Tories, who languish on a pathetic 10%. I suspect on polling day they'll be lucky to get that. They're not even bothering to run a campaign. There's no manifesto and the Freepost leaflet we've all received through our letterboxes has to count as the worst I've ever seen.
No one wanted these elections and they should never have taken place. It's a personal humiliation for the Prime Minister, and a collective act of self-immolation for the Conservative Party. In my own circle of non-politically obsessed friends, not a single one of them intends to vote Conservative. They're all voting for the Brexit Party.
They're not alone. Labour is also tanking in the polls because many of the five million Labour voters who voted Leave in 2016 are also gradually drifting over to Nigel Farage. I even met a Labour member of the House of Lords the other day who is voting for the Brexit Party.
Whatever your views on Brexit, you have to give the Brexit Party its due. In a matter of weeks it's conducting a highly polished, professional campaign, especially on social media, where it's trouncing its rivals. Their recent party election broadcast was the best I've seen in years, yet their rivals trail in their wake. And their entire social media campaign is being managed by a 19-year-old.
Change UK have hired a professional marketing consultancy but their efforts are embarrassing by comparison. They've hired a battlebus which looks like something Del Boy might have driven in Only Fools and Horses. The slogan on the side looks as if it's been stencilled on, and it reads 'FOR REMAIN, VOTE CHANGE'. Think about that for a moment. How does 'remaining' imply any form of 'change'?!
In East Anglia (which for these purposes includes Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire) all the parties are competing for seven seats. In 2014 UKIP won four seats, the Tories two and Labour one. Only one of UIP's MEPs stuck with the party, the other three defecting to the Tories, the SDP and the Brexit Party respectively. Given the complexities of the D'Hondt system of counting the votes, it's very difficult to predict what will happen when the votes are counted next Sunday evening.
Both the LibDems and the Greens will be looking to gain a seat in the region. My election predictions haven't always been, er, spot on, but at least I have the courage to put my head on the block. If you push me, I'll predict four seats for the Brexit Party, one for the Conservatives, one for Labour and one for the LibDems. And I'll also predict the Brexit Party will gain more than 45% of the vote in the region, and may well exceed 50%
There is an old saying in parts of Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex that you could stick a blue rosette on a donkey and it would be elected. Not this time. The Tory Party's grip on the region will be well and truly shattered next week. It's too early to predict that this will have any long term consequences, or give us any insight into the result of the next general election, but it's no longer possible to rule out the shattering of the two party system.
Email Iain at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @iaindale