Over 50 per cent of voters supported Brexit, but under 20 per cent opposed the three-tiered lockdown, according to YouGov. We wait to see how the polls settle down in the wake of Boris Johnson’s announcement of the latest one. But it would be surprising were they to be very different.
So given the recent paucity of support for an anti-shutdown policy, what is Nigel Farage up to in briefing that the Brexit Party is to relaunch as an anti-lockdown party?
The answer may be that he doesn’t need 50 per cent plus of the vote to make an impact on the British political scene.
True, there are no longer seats in the European Parliament to be won with under 20 per cent of the vote, and most of Britain’s domestic elections are contested under first past the post, which doesn’t help challenger movements.
All the same, a new force could conceivably pick up council seats next year, were it able to utilise the Brexit Party’s list of candidates and contacts.
But a moment’s thought suggests that Farage isn’t expecting to make a big electoral breakthrough next year – let alone in 2024 or whenever the next election comes, by which time all may be very different.
Rather, he is playing his familiar game of trolling the Tories – piling in on Conservative MP and Party member opposition to the coming lockdown to ramp it up further.
Farage’s best hope of success in British politics is to boost his chances in elections by dividing the Tories, and hoping to peel off members and MPs, as he did with Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless.
It’s possible of course that the story is an elaborate Farage-Telegraph mutual wind-up of the kind that we have got used to over time.
After all, it’s not the first time he has floated branding the Brexit Party as “Reform UK” or, to be strictly accurate “the Reform Party” (much the same thing).
Mind you, it isn’t clear that his attention is truly concentrated on UK politics, rather than a prospective TV career in America, which hasn’t come off to date. He has also lost his LBC show.
And remember that absurd flurry about his suitability or otherwise to be the UK’s man in Washington, as puffed by Donald Trump.
In our view, Farage would be well placed in the Lords, which is where he should rightly be, rather than an Embassy: we can think of no-one less suited to diplomacy, with the possible exception of the late Brian Clough.
If he’s serious about this new enterprise, he would obviously peel votes from Labour voters, other voters, and those who don’t vote at all.
But his natural pitch would be to small business people and the self-employed who voted Conservative last December (plus the UKIPish fringe of mask-burners, anti-vaxers, 5G conspiracy theorists and QAnoners). At any rate, he will want to freak out Tory MPs before Wednesday’s vote. And in some cases will doubtless succeed.