Optimism abounds as people return to work. Millions of people have new-found enthusiasm, energy and hope, akin to a delicious cake baked with the trusty ingredients of political stability and economic potential. What a difference a few months can do for a major nation’s fortunes.
It’s worth reflecting on and correcting some misleading impressions of some of the key Brexit events in 2019. At the start of last year the Tories knew they had a weak, ineffective manager with no vision who was suffocating Brexit, yet they couldn’t bring themselves to remove her.
Theresa May was like an over-promoted sous chef. When a botched Brexit dish failed to be delivered both in March and April, the customers walked out. Up popped my friend Nigel Farage, as the experienced campaign chef, in a sparky new Brexit Party uniform, with a tasty “clean Brexit” plat du jour, to win the European elections. The Brexit Party had some excellent MEPs from the political left, centre and right. Our success forced Theresa May out. This was the palate cleanser that obliged the Tories to install Boris as the new Master Chef, with a little nervous trepidation, to get them back on track.
At the end of the summer, some of the Cummings-inspired starters on Johnson’s trial first menu were too spicy for the zombie Parliament and the somewhat indulgent Supreme Court. In the corner of the restaurant sat the cabal of food critics led by the bulbous pairing of Letwin and Bercow.
September 2019 was a key moment when another newly-installed party leader, Jo Swinson, was presented with her first big opportunity to influence history. Jo actually put country before both party and herself in a massive way that has not been properly acknowledged and appreciated. In a Remain-controlled Parliament she could easily have agreed to join a Stop Brexit coalition, which would have won a No Confidence vote against Boris. Without facing the perils of a general election, she could have been installed as Deputy PM under Corbyn, with the SNP alongside. This coalition could have still been running the kitchen, in which case there would have been just gruel on the menu this Christmas for millions of families. Her refusal to let Corbyn be an interim Prime Minister inevitably led to the general election where she lost her seat. She received a haggis revenge for her selfless act.
With the election called, in early November the Brexit Party also put country before party by unilaterally announcing it would only stand candidates against the Remain parties, so guaranteeing Boris the very best ingredients to create a tasty majority.
This noble sacrifice enabled the Tories to focus on their target Labour seats and not to have to worry about any possible Swinson threat in the South. The Lib Dems were rapidly getting past their sell-by date in any case, as the anti-democratic Revoke option proved less succulent than metropolitan illiberals had hoped.
As things turned out, The Brexit Party took some 600,000 Labour Leave votes in Labour heartlands, from voters who would never have voted for a Tory meal. This enabled the Tories to increase their majority more than otherwise possible. The folk who think the Brexit Party cost the Tories seats simply don’t understand the deep anti-Tory feeling amongst many traditional Labour voters. These good people would have likely stayed at home or voted Labour as usual.
There are some who wrongly think that Nigel and I turned down a deal for seats with the Tories. I even must correct our splendid MEP, Matthew Patten, whose recent BrexitCentral article suggested this. This perception is totally wrong. The Conservatives never had any intention of negotiating any form of deal, not even for a single seat.
If the Tories had stood down in favour of a Brexit Party candidate in a modest number of Labour stronghold seats, then the Labour Party would have been further crushed. Hartlepool is a classic case in point. The Tories had not won the seat for over 50 years. Locally the Tories were happy to stand down in my favour. Tory HQ chefs however refused point-blank to have this choice on the menu, seemingly afraid of a new party in the Commons dining rooms. This opportunity to further damage Labour has been sadly lost.
However, the nation’s prospects are healthy and hearty as we leave the EU. Businesses and investors will thrive on this new-found confidence, leading to more jobs and higher wages. Let’s feast throughout 2020 on these delicious and wholesome Brexit opportunities.