Nigel Farage agreed to a ‘Leave’ alliance on Monday (11 November) announcing that his Brexit party will not stand candidates in seats won by the Conservatives.
Speaking at the launch of his party’s election campaign in Hartlepool, a Labour-held seat in the north-east of England, Farage said that the Brexit party would “concentrate our total effort into all the seats that are held by the Labour party, who have completely broken their manifesto pledge in 2017 to respect the result of the referendum, and we will also take on the rest of the remainer parties.”
The decision not to stand in the 317 seats won by the Conservatives at the 2017 general election, means that Farage’s party will focus on winning over the 5 million Labour voters who also voted Leave in the 2016 referendum, particularly in constituencies where there was a substantial Leave majority.
The move “prevents a second referendum from happening”, said Farage, who added that “in a sense, we now have a leave alliance. It’s just that we’ve done it unilaterally.”
The Brexit party’s poll ratings have tumbled since Boris Johnson took over from Theresa May as Prime Minister, but are still at between 8 and 10%. The fact that the Conservatives have given no indication that they will stand aside in seats targeted by the Brexit party underscores that the move is something of a climbdown by Farage, who last week said that he would only agree to a ‘Leave’ alliance if Johnson abandoned the Withdrawal Agreement brokered in October.
On Monday, Farage said that he had been reassured by Johnson’s promise not to extend the transition period beyond December 2020.
The poll on 12 December is set to be dominated by Brexit and that has increased the prospect of tactical voting on both sides.
“Farage has bottled it and hung most of his candidates out to dry,” said Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain, a pro-Remain campaign group.
“But by standing down Brexit party candidates across the country, it’s now more important than ever that Remainers use their votes wisely,” she added.
Polling by Best for Britain has suggested that only one in three Remain voters need to vote tactically to deprive Johnson’s Conservatives of a majority, even though the Conservatives currently enjoy a ten point poll lead over Labour.
Last week, the Green party, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru announced their own election pact to avoid splitting the pro-Remain vote in seats they hope to win from the Conservatives, although Labour has so far refused to be part of a formal pact.
The Green party has also announced that it will stand aside in several Conservative-held seats targeted by Labour, including the London seat held by Iain Duncan-Smith, a prominent Brexiteer.