Tory leadership election be damned . The vote that matters is the general election that’ll be called at Hallowe’en.
Whichever crazed Etonian is appointed Prime Minister by the nation’s prime gammon, they’ll be in Number 10 for a matter of weeks before the Brexit deadline of October 31. And they have more chance of meeting Elvis in Tesco.
You may think there are many reasons for this. That Brexit is hard, that we do not know how to genetically-engineer unicorns, that a few weeks of summer is not long enough to renegotiate a thing it took us 3 years to come up with.
But the main reason the next PM will not meet the deadline is because the European Commission with which they have both pledged to talk will not start work until November 4.
Parlez-vous avec vous-mêmes, mes Jambon Fumés. It’s vote of no confidence time for you, with a majority of 3 and a party that’s just realised it’s picked yet another plonker.
Boris Johnson would demand a No Deal Brexit, and lose a third of his Parliamentary party. Jeremy Hunt, if he were PM, would demand another extension and lose a different third. Neither would be able to form a functioning government in the 14 days after losing a vote of no confidence, and so off to the country they’d be forced to go.
The outcome of a general election in such times is hard to predict. But we do know the party leaders, and the likely leaders, and can predict what they’ll do.
Johnson would form an open coalition of some sort with the Brexit Party in the hope of soaking up enough Bugger It All To Hell votes to leave without a deal. To get it, he’d need to offer Nigel Farage (and his financial backers) something. Perhaps readmittance to the Conservative Party, a safe seat, or an agreement to stand aside in Leave areas and let the Batsh****rs have a clear run.
It’s been suggested he might offer a peerage, in return for the insurgent party being mothballed in the way that all limited companies can be. Picture if you will Lord Whiny of Garage, failed public school boy, failed husband, and 7 times a failed MP, clad in ermine and finally gifted a right to rule over us.
And in the House of Lords, where’d he be about as welcome as a pimple on a porn star’s bum.
Hunt would be more likely to plump for reason over populism, and fight for a sane and steady Brexit that has as much hope of winning as a one-legged donkey. Whichever of them is PM, and whatever strategy they choose to fight a general election, neither Hunt or Johnson can win.
Even – and this is the important bit to remember – even WITH the help of a hugely-popular Brexit Party.
General elections aren’t like locals, when no-one cares. They’re not like the Euros, with a system that allows unelectable people to be put on a list and pretend a popularity they’d never otherwise have. A general election demands not only a majority to win, but for that popularity to be repeated in a minimum of 326 constituencies nationwide.
And everyone cares about them. Remainers, Leavers, atheists, Communists, Muslims, EU citizens: everyone. They’ll care about it even more after 3 years of government by goons, followed by a PM they didn’t get to pick and who turned out to be more of the same.
General elections require groundwork. Labour won in Peterborough and Newport, despite having the least popular leader in history, because they had activists knocking on doors, talking about local issues and presenting a human face to recall when the voter saw names on a piece of paper. Despite losing an estimated 100,000 members in the past year, it still has a massive network of people to call on, many of them young and enthusiastic.
The Conservative Party has 160,000 members, the vast majority of whom are white males with an average age in their middle 50s. They too have a committed machine that can organise, although nowhere near as vast. While both main parties have problems convincing donors to part with their money at the moment, they will cough up if a change of government is threatened.
The Lib Dems have more than 100,000 members, including a whole bunch of new councillors. The Greens have around 40,000, with a recent boost from the climate change protests, and disaffected Corbynistas.
The Brexit Party has 5 shareholders. They can throw a rave, but they won’t get people to knock many doors.
Supporters will argue they didn’t need activists to win the Euros. But there they won with limited support in massive constituencies, and still took less than half the seats available: 29 out of a potential 73. They have one local councillor, 4 Welsh assembly members, and zero membership rights.
They have 115,000 registered supporters. But as has been exhaustively pointed out, their funding sources are questionable, which means the identities (and therefore electoral usefulness) of these alleged people is entirely unknown. It’s not built for democracy, but demagoguery.
Farage has no troops for a battle. He has no hardware. He has computer data, social media profiles and the like, and many believe that is enough to sway a significant chunk of the electorate. But last time I checked, Facebook thought I was a man who likes soft jazz, so don’t bank on its brilliance.
Farage, like Vladimir Putin who he so admires, can talk a good war. He can rile the easily-fooled, and get people to put their hands in their pockets. But in the same way he has never been photographed buying somebody else a pint, he has never in 25 years been able to persuade a majority of voters, plus one, to back him.
UKIP once commanded 4m votes in the United Kingdom. But they were so dispersed across the country there was not enough in one place to generate a single Parliamentary seat. When that party returned one solitary MP in 2015, it was with a majority that had plummeted from 12,000 to 3,000. UKIP made turncoat Douglas Carswell less popular, not more so.
And remember – this was when Brexit still looked possible, even positive. Today one of the Brexit Party candidates admits it will lead to 30 years of economic strife. Jacob Rees-Mogg reckons it’s nearer 50, and both prospective PMs say it will cost billions in subsidies to save just some of the businesses likely to go bust.
Brexit seems beyond the reach of the self-cannibalising Tories, while Labour’s destructive ambiguity has killed its chances of government stone-dead. Neither Red or Blue has a cat in hell’s chance of forming a government alone.
There is a slim chance that, under Johnson, the Tories would strike a deal with Farage and scrape together enough seats to rule with the help of the DUP and the absentee Sinn Fein. But they would be even less likely to agree a fresh deal with the EU, or survive another vote of no confidence if they attempted to leave without one.
The Lib Dems and Greens will do well in the impending election; but if they co-operated with each other, they could sweep the board in the south, west, and London. Elsewhere, the Labour heartlands have abandoned their backing for Brexit as manufacturers have deserted them, and a Labour Party which backed Remain or a second referendum strongly enough could scoop up seats in Wales, the north, and Scotland.
Remain or Leave, we all need a functioning government. We won’t get one if we continue with this Brexit madness. The only chance for stability, and sanity – and, entirely coincidentally, for Remaining in the EU – is a Rainbow Coalition of yellow, green and red.
Plaid Cymru and the Greens have already agreed to stand aside in the Brecon by-election. Labour refused in Peterborough. Jeremy Corbyn needs to stop worrying about the Tories, who are toast, and do what’s best for Britain.