Boris Johnson couldn’t have done it without the Brexit party

14 December 2019 9:57 AM

Dear Boris Johnson,

Friday felt like June 2016 all over again. The electorate voted Leave; in their droves. Remain reacted by lashing out at the voters (far too many examples but see this for starters:)

This was no ordinary General Election: it had another purpose of wresting back control from a gridlocked parliament that had defied popular sovereignty. Although every vote didn’t count in the same way as a referendum (let’s get rid of FPTP), nonetheless millions of voters reminded us all just who owns democracy, by grabbing the levers of power to reaffirm that they had not changed their mind about leaving the EU. So congratulations on winning.

As I am a Brexit Party MEP, you may be surprised to know that I am so delighted that the Tories have won a landslide. No doubt some of my ever-so-smart lefty colleagues will smirk and conclude that they knew I had moved to the right of politics. But I can assure you, I have not become a Tory. And neither have millions of people who voted for you. Those extraordinary shifts in Northern heartland constituencies are not because voters particularly approved your full manifesto or have taken a shine to Burke. Rather their votes were either a means of punishing Labour for its betrayal of Brexit; or more positively, because you have promised that you will deliver our 2016 mandate. Voting for you was a democratic way of shouting loud and clear: ‘we meant it then, we mean it now’. Now deliver.

I was impressed at a certain humility in your speech after you won. You were right to recognise that these votes are on loan. You don’t own them. Now you will have to respond to the discipline imposed on you by the electorate and not betray that loan by either watering down Brexit or weaselling out of manifesto promises to honour the Brexit decision. You will need to respect the wishes of a new cohort of voters because they are the source of your authority as Prime Minister. With such an unusual demographic of support, you won’t be able to fall back on tribal party loyalty.

But could I also put in a plea that you show similar humility in relation to respecting the contribution the Brexit Party has played in your success. Despite the fact that overall the BXP strategy has helped deliver your astounding victory, having effectively disarmed the threat of a second referendum by disarming the Remain alliance in 317 seats, some of your less gracious colleagues have even today continued their relentless attack dog approach deployed throughout the campaign. Even in winning, whingers suggest that the Brexit Party shouldn’t have stood candidates at all, with BXP supporters harangued as closet Remainers for even daring to challenge a Tory monopoly of Brexit. I know it’s always easier to win if you nobble and cripple your opponents before the game, but if democracy means anything it must mean choice. Where we did stand, we were regularly on a par with the Greens and even the Lib Dems in votes cast.

The Brexit Party did not win any seats but it did have the political guts to go behind slogans and talk about the pros and cons of what kind of Brexit was on offer, what taking back control might mean in terms of radical democratic reform, and so on. Yet anyone who dared try and scrutinise your new Withdrawal Agreement (surely a reasonable thing to focus on in a contest dubbed by you as the Brexit Election) was accused of nit-picking or destabilising ‘the message’. Always the inference has been to impugn the Brexit Party’s sincerity, usually via unsavoury character assassination and innuendo. (Senior Tory: ‘This is the end of Nigel Farage, who has spent the last six weeks proving once and for all that he cares more about himself than delivering Brexit. The vast, decent majority of the British public will thank us for removing him from the political sphere forever.’)

On the one hand, could ‘senior’ Tories show a little bit of grace as victors and stop whinging. I might also suggest that you – personally – remember that you substantially owe your position to the Brexit Party. Without its extraordinary emergence as the winner of the European Elections, which numerically wiped out your elected MEPs delegation, there would most likely have never been a leadership election for you to contend. By the way, I’m not asking for favours, just honour.

Memories are short, but Theresa May was forced to resign while you all considered the possibility of your own party’s demise. The party was forced to take account of the popular fury against the establishment for its three years of blocking and demonising the ‘will of the people’. Such was the existential crisis that your own party faithful opted for the most rhetorically hardline Brexit candidate on offer. You were duly elected to scotch rumours of Brexit betrayal.

Meanwhile, I am sure that you and your advisers noticed that the Brexit Party was the original Leave alliance, successfully galvanising votes from across the left and the right, from Tory shires to the industrial North. This seems to have provided you a template for this election – appealing to both Labour Leavers and your own political base and informing the Conservative’s newfound enthusiasm for courting the Northern heartlands.

So enjoy your triumph. But if you want to ensure those loaned votes don’t turn on you, perhaps be a little less entitled in assuming your own success is all No 10’s doing. Ultimately, our parties are jointly responsible for our old friend Guy Verhofstadt tweeting our New Year’s resolution: ‘Brexit will now happen. The British people have confirmed their referendum decision of 2016’. I’ll drink to that.

Claire Fox
Brexit Party MEP (soon to be made redundant, I hope)