As I received an invite to the Brexit Party Rally at the NEC in Birmingham, I went along yesterday to see what I could learn about their policies – apart from wanting Brexit of course. Not that there was a great deal to learn as clearly policies for a prospective general election are still being developed, but there were a few hints. However they do plan to have 600 candidates ready to fight such an election by the Autumn and 100 of them can be seen in the photo left of the event.
It was a lively meeting, and clearly professionally organised. With the party only being in existence for 49 days, it is surprising how much they have achieved already. They are clearly going to be a force to be reckoned with in UK politics whatever happens on Brexit.
The main speakers were Annunziata Rees-Mogg, Richard Tice, Tim Martin and Nigel Farage. Richard Tice is the party Chairman and spoke particularly well. He runs a property firm and was formerly CEO of CLS Holdings – a listed property company. He made it clear that the Brexit party has an “anti-London” focus where they think too much money is spent and have already committed to scrapping HS2. Another big commitment was to scrap interest on student loans and cancel all historic interest.
Tim Martin runs the Wetherspoon pubs and suggested that on a hard Brexit happening we will not need to drink French wine or German/Dutch beer. We can produce it ourselves or import from Australia. But his main focus was on the lack of democracy in the EU. He just wants to leave on WTO terms, i.e. without a deal.
Other speakers argued that the electoral system needs reform with some type of proportional representation introduced, and the House of Lords reformed or scrapped altogether (cheers for that from the audience). The events in the Peterborough by-election where the party failed to win the seat were explained as an abuse of the postal voting system (see below). Reform was also planned for the Civil Service – exactly why or how was not made clear, and the party wants to scrap the BBC License Fee but not scrap the BBC.
Unlike Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, there was no great commitment for tax hand-outs to bribe the electorate – maybe they will come later. But cancelling HS2, not paying the Brexit bill as proposed in the Withdrawal Agreement and halving the foreign aid budget will create many billions of pounds to spend on the regions outside London.
The Brexit Party is clearly a party of protest – members don’t like the EU, don’t like Westminster politicians, don’t like the BBC who collected boos from the audience, don’t like the London elite and the Civil Service, and more…. At a general election they might simply split off a lot of Conservative voters enabling the Labour Party to take power. That is an issue they have yet to tackle.
But that’s about all I learned about their policies which are clearly still under development. You can submit your own suggestions for what they should be by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
You can see a video of the event and Nigel Farage’s speech on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXk0tChqOUk
The alleged abuse of the postal voting system by the Labour Party in Peterborough is the subject of a legal challenge by the Brexit Party, who only lost by 683 votes. They are lodging a petition under the Representation of the People Act and several allegations of voter fraud are being investigated by the police.
Now I do personally have some experience of how the Labour party operates with postal votes. A few years ago we happened to visit my late mother-in-law when the Labour candidate was visiting to collect her vote. It was clear they had organised a postal vote for her, and had come to ensure she ticked the right box and they then promised to post her vote for her.
She might have been on their list of traditional Labour voters but given her age at the time she was hardly acting independently or with due consideration of the candidate and his policies. In other words, the Labour Party was leading the prospective voters by the nose with a well organised machine to collect votes from those who only had a vague commitment to the candidate and the policies they were supporting.
The Brexit Party certainly have a case to argue for reform in this area.
Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson )
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