A week of talks ended with claims the Conservative Party had tried to tempt remaining Brexit candidates with offers they couldn’t refuse. My understanding is leading candidates were offered a chance to be involved in the Government’s strategic Brexit talks team and no one was offered a peerage or honour. Whatever the truth, it was a bad-tempered end to a traumatic week for Nigel.
In my last conversation with him, I said the election was a referendum re-run and the side that managed to unite the Leave or Remain vote would win a big Commons majority.
Nigel’s position that we need a clean Brexit is one I support, but I see no realistic way to get this through the parliamentary mathematics.
My view was it was easier to unite the Leave side than the Remain one and the outcome has been that the Leave side emerged in better shape than the so-called Remain Alliance.
Nigel has every right to feel aggrieved that after 25 years of campaigning to leave the EU, he has become marginalised in the debate, but the reality is that the Brexit Party has been exposed as a pressure group that could push the Conservative Party around, but not replace it.
The Brexit Party stormed to victory in the European elections a mere six months ago, after the abject failure of Theresa May to deliver Brexit.
Her “surrender treaty” was the product of begging on one knee to Brussels and the Remain majority in Parliament, who were calling the shots.
She allowed the EU to create a two-part process that meant we had to agree a £39billion separation deal without agreeing the free trade deal at the end with no leverage. A catastrophic error of judgment that only a bunch of useless politicians or civil servants could come up with.
I am no fan of the behaviour of the Conservative Party over the last three years, but in fairness to Boris, he had 90 days to pull the irons out of the fire and he hasn’t made a bad job of it.
A combination of the success of the Brexit Party and internally-generated pressure has shifted the Conservatives from Remain to a majority Leave party. Boris owes his position as Prime Minister to Nigel. Nigel’s problem is that he is used to having a clear Conservative enemy ahead of him.
It’s not hard to understand the suspicion and loathing of a party that has done everything they could to politically destroy him at each and every turn, and I think this has coloured his judgment.
The Conservatives fear Nigel and Nigel hates them.
The Conservatives couldn’t reciprocate Nigel’s unilateral decision to stand down candidates because they would lose support in key Lib Dem-v-Tory marginal seats.
I believe he could, and should, publicly lend his own vote to Boris, suspend the understandable hostility and urge voters to do the same where the Brexit Party cannot win.
Then he should campaign in the 30 or so seats that the Brexit Party could win.
We need to come together, support Boris, get the first part of Brexit done, and then fight for next phase with better parliamentary mathematics.
So come on, Nigel. Lend your vote to Boris and complete the unstoppable Brexit alliance!