Alex Hall has worked as a Conservative Party Agent for twelve years and currently covers the constituencies of Stratford on Avon, Kenilworth and Southam and Warwick and Leamington.
You can scarcely open a newspaper or venture onto social media without hearing about the need for the “pact” between us and the Brexit Party. I fundamentally disagree.
You should know that at 7am on the 23rd June 2016 I drew the biggest, fattest cross I have ever drawn on a ballot paper next to the box that said “Leave the European Union”. So why do I, a staunch Brexiteer who backed first Dominic Raab and then Boris Johnson in the recent leadership election, and who believes a No Deal Brexit would be perfectly fine, think that a pact with the Brexit Party is a bad idea?
1: We should always field a candidate
Living in the left-wing stronghold of Liverpool as a younger man, I received my postal vote for the council elections and was horrified to see only two candidates; Labour or Lib Dem. The disillusionment I felt at not being able to vote Conservative gnawed away at me.
A year later at the general, came within a whisker of spoiling my ballot paper. Not that it would have mattered much in the Labour fortress of Liverpool Riverside but in later years, when I lived in marginal constituencies in the West, could have done. Today’s Conservative voter in Hartlepool who we abandon for the Brexit Party could be tomorrow’s disgruntled former Tory living in hyper-marginal Morley and Outwood, and who stays at home on polling day.
2: Unwinnable today, marginal tomorrow
That part of Liverpool in which I was the “only Tory in the village” was once safely blue. Likewise Buckingham, a safe Tory seat before it was held by the Speaker, was once Labour.
But there is no better example than where I lived until two years ago; Kingstanding in Birmingham. Kingstanding is working class, with high levels of deprivation, Leave-voting (over 70 per cent) and, 20 years ago, it was the safest Labour ward in the City.
In short, it is exactly the kind of area where supporters of a pact with the Brexit Party would have had us lay down our arms. Now both councillors representing it are Conservatives (and staunch Brexiteers). More importantly they were both elected, in 2014, despite having to face a challenge from UKIP. Times change and the Conservative Party must be there to change with it.
3: The doorstep just does not support it
It is tempting to assume that people who voted Leave and Conservative would switch to the Brexit Party and vice versa – but talk to the people who knock the doors and the canvassing shows it just isn’t so.
A great many of those Brexit Party supporters would likely not vote at all or return to Labour if their new party stood aside for us. And what of Conservative voters who, if faced with the awful choice, would prefer the Lib Dems or Greens to the Brexit Party? We make the mistake of thinking voters can switch between blue and turquoise interchangeably at our peril.
4: We are not the Brexit Party, and nor should we wish to be
We absolutely should attack the Brexit Party. They have, if we are honest, one policy – and that is that that any deal at all with the EU is wrong. If the deal that came back from Brussels had been bad, we would be right to leave without one.
But the Prime Minister has pulled off something that would have been laughably impossible years and united the Conservative Party on Europe with a good deal. Who wants no deal at all with our neighbours, partners and friends on the continent when we have a good deal from Johnson?
And what of our voters who would be repelled by a pact with the Brexit Party? I can see the Lib/Lab slogan already: “Vote Blue, get Farage”. I will admit that a guilty pleasure of mine is to listen to Nigel Farage’s show on LBC; he’s a great radio presenter, but he’s Marmite to the voters and a pact could see a lot of our supporters abandon us.
5: Our Party must remain a broad church
In response to emails to members about the current state of politics, I have had many overwhelmingly positive replies. But there are other members who tell me that their loyalties are being tested right now. If you dismiss these members as “fake Tories”, then you do not know our Party at all: many of these members have been the backbone of our Party for years. A pact with the Brexit Party would tip these dedicated supporters over the edge and we might never get them back.
Some of our members have sympathy for the Brexit Party (a few quietly admit to voting for them in May), but others are appalled by them. I have campaigned for many fantastic MPs and councillors who voted Remain. We should never underestimate their contribution. They were here working to deliver Conservative policies long before the Brexit Party came around.
We are richer for being a Party that boasts both Steve Baker and Ruth Davidson as members. And, yes, I’d take Ruth over Farage any day.