Socialist Worker

Behind the swift rise of the Brexit Party beast

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2656

The Brexit Party—the grinning face of reaction

The Brexit Party—the grinning face of reaction (Pic: Gage Skidmore)


Just weeks after it was set up, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party has topped the poll in the European elections in Britain.

The right wing party came first in all of the English regions apart from London, in Wales, and the majority of local authority areas.

Farage, a racist politician and former banker, is playing a long-term game to strengthen the right. Such opportunists never reveal their full agenda at the start of their projects.

Farage wants to take working people’s anger and turn it against minorities. The left must battle to turn it against the establishment and the rich.

Farage did not even produce a manifesto or policies on any issue except Brexit.

He could therefore attract both those who want to tax the rich and those who want business tax cuts. He could win votes from those who want to defend the NHS and those who want to privatise it.

He has managed to present himself as a democrat standing up against an establishment that has betrayed ordinary people.

And he has been careful not to talk about immigration, unlike during the EU ­referendum campaign in 2016.

It has meant he could appeal to a broad range of Leave voters.

For example, the Brexit Party won 40 percent of the vote in Sunderland, which returned large votes for Leave in 2016 and for Labour in the 2017 general election.

Hoovered

It hoovered up support in Sunderland from Ukip, which saw its vote drop from 30 percent to 9 percent.

But Labour’s support also collapsed with its share of the vote down to 21 percent from over 40 percent in the European elections in 2014.

The Brexit referendum campaign was shaped by racism from the official Leave and Remain campaigns.

But many saw it as an opportunity to kick an out of touch establishment, with the poorer C2, D and E social groups more likely to vote Leave.

A poll by Lord Ashcroft after the European elections showed that 40 percent of C2 and 36 percent of DE voted for the Brexit Party.

The demographic at the Brexit Party rallies has been different, made up of larger numbers of well-to-do Farage fans and middle class right wingers.

The real danger is that Farage will now use racism to grow. Stopping him requires building unity among anti-racists who support Leave and Remain.

That Farage has not successfully captured the support of all Leave voters is shown by the votes in two London boroughs.

Barking and Dagenham voted Leave by 63 percent in the Brexit referendum. Labour’s vote was down in this week’s election, but it still topped the poll with 41 percent.

The Brexit Party came second with 29 percent of the vote, likely gaining from Ukip’s collapse from 28 to 5 percent.

But in Tory-controlled Bexley, which also voted Leave by 63 ­percent, the Brexit Party came first with 41 percent while Labour slumped to 13 percent.

Farage wants to take working people’s anger and turn it against minorities. The left must battle to turn it against the establishment and the rich.


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