Nigel Farage has announced that the Brexit Party will not be putting forward candidates in Tory-held seats, and the focus will be on wooing Labour Leavers instead.
Although Farage vowed at the Brexit Party launch earlier this month to contest 600 constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales, the party leader has now gone back on that pledge.
He has said at a press conference this afternoon that while he does not accept that his original proposal would have allowed Jeremy Corbyn to secure a majority on December 12th, he thinks it would have led to a hung parliament.
The Brexit Party has decided therefore not to challenge the Conservatives in any of the seats they won at the 2017 general election. This creates an informal ‘Leave alliance’ without compelling Boris Johnson to drop his Brexit deal.
Labour seats in the Midlands and North of England where voters favoured Leave in the 2016 EU referendum could be more vulnerable to turning blue as a result of the unofficial Tory-Brexit Party pact.
But the Brexit Party has still been found by the British Election Study to draw the majority of its support – 72% – from ex-Tory voters, and only 17% from former Labour voters.
The new alliance could still hamper Boris Johnson’s ability to win marginal Labour Leave seats being targeted by the Conservative Party at the upcoming election.
Commenting on the news, Labour chair Ian Lavery said: “This is a Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson alliance with Donald Trump to sell out our country and send £500m per week from our NHS to US drugs companies.
“We urge voters to reject this Thatcherite 1980s tribute act, which would lead to more savage Tory attacks on working class communities. Our NHS is not for sale.”
Labour’s Welsh leader and First Minister Mark Drakeford had a similar message, saying: “If it wasn’t clear before, it is now plainly obvious that the Brexit Party is a proxy vote for the Tories.
“They are committed to the same project that will risk jobs through a reckless, damaging Brexit and undermine the very foundations on which our free, universal health service is built. They no more speak for working people than the Tories.
“It is only Welsh Labour that will protect our NHS from trade deals with Trump, improve workplace rights and reshape our economy to work for everyone.”