This election will go down in the history books as the Brexit election; the moment when the British public reaffirmed its commitment to the 2016 referendum result. How, therefore, do we account for the failure of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which essentially became a protest vehicle for those longing for a ‘clean break Brexit’?
A closer look at two seats in Labour’s former ‘red wall’ reveal Farage and his party played a significant role in the election that returned Boris Johnson as Prime Minister with a commanding majority. The Conservatives increased their share of the vote in many areas which voted Leave in the EU referendum but if Johnson’s familiar slogan of “Get Brexit Done” was the dynamite that brought the Red Wall crashing down, the Brexit Party served as the fuse in some of these areas.
Take Blyth Valley, the earliest indicator that the exit poll was indeed correct. This constituency, which had been Labour since its creation, elected a Conservative MP by a slim margin of just over 700 votes, with the Tory share increasing by 5.4 per cent. Labour, on the other hand, saw a 15 per cent decrease in vote share. The Brexit Party undoubtedly contributed to this victory by taking 8.3 per cent of the vote and cyphoning support away from Labour.
A similar story unfolded in Tony Blair’s old seat, Sedgefield, a constituency in the north-east of England, which returned its first Conservative MP for 84 years. The figures are almost identical. The Conservatives saw an 8.4 per cent increase in their share of the vote, whilst Labour saw a 17.1 per ent decrease. The Brexit Party took 8.5 per cent of the vote and created inroads into the Labour vote, helping the constituency turn blue.
Despite the party’s efforts in Labour-held seats, the election cannot really be considered a success for Farage and his party in terms of seats. The Brexit Party took only 2 percent of the national vote, a long way behind the pro-remain Liberal Democrats who took 11.6 per cent. The party also failed in its target seats such as Hartlepool, where the Party Chairman Richard Tice failed to get elected.
But the impact of the party should not be dismissed; Farage refused to stand candidates in seats which voted Tory in 2017, and abstained from competing in the south and south-east for fear of benefiting the Liberal Democrats at the expense of the Tories. All this points to the clever tactics of Farage and suggests he still commands respect in areas of the country that desperately want the 2016 referendum results carried out.
Ben Partridge is an Opinion Contributor.