As part of our regular “Remember their Audience” series, we examine the Brexit Party’s huge advert on the Daily Express offering the Conservatives an electoral pact.
The background: With a General Election coming, the Brexit Party has taken out a full cover advert with the Daily Express to offer the Conservatives an electoral pact. This is a highly unusual move and the offer comes with significant caveats. There is also a backdrop of the Brexit Party holding firm above 10% in all polls, and other polling that suggests they will do far better (at the expense of the Conservatives) if brexit is delayed.
The claim: “If you have the courage for a clean-break Brexit, then we will help you secure a big Brexit majority. Together we can destroy Corbyn’s Labour.”
So says Nigel Farage to Boris Johnson, on behalf of his Brexit Party. The offer is backed up by polling that shows the Brexit Party is doing well. The Express reports “new” polling, though its 14% score for Farage’s party is in line with other polls of late.
However, a pact is highly contentions and the Prime Minister has ruled one out – with Downinst Street’s spokesman restating that position again this week.
Who they aren’t talking to:
Floating Voters – Remainers – or Boris Johnson.
As usual in this series, I now take the opportunity to remind you that many things in politics are misunderstood because most of us think we are the audience when in fact we rarely are.
The Brexit Party is clearly not speaking to remainers. It never talks to remainers. That is it’s greatest asset. It knows its base and it seeks at all times to energise that base rather than reach out to non-hard-liners. It is also clearly not speaking to traditional floating voters for exactly the same reason.
Keep that “energise the base” point in mind and it becomes clear he is not talking to Boris Johnson either.
If the leader of a party wants to speak with the leader of another party, there are no end of ways to do it. They can have underlings confer with eachother, they can send letters and they can schedule phone calls. If things get serious they can even meet – secretly if need be.
They do not take out adverts to eachother.
So who are they talking to: Brexit Party supporters
The Conservatives are, by attacking remainers and other opposition parties, attacking the Brexit Party. This follows a few weeks through which the Conservatives benefited from a “new leader bounce” in polling that came almost exclusively at the expense of the Brexit Party. So the Brexit Party is under quite some pressure right now.
The polling, however, has stopped shifting that way – and the latest polls show they have have stabilised at solidly above 10%. For a new party being heavilly targeted by the governing party, that is no mean feat.
Their aim now is to get some of those “bounce” voters back – something that is very possible if the Conservatives fail to deliver brexit before a general election. It is all the more possible if that relative strength of the Brexit Party is emphasised so that more leave voters feel they can have an impact.
So the advert is for their base. The Express is as close as there is to a Brexit Party newspaper in the UK and it’s 300,000+ readers will likely feel energised by Nigel Farage challenging Boris Johnson in what on the face of it looks a pragmatic offer.
On the flipside, Boris Johnson will upset those same supporters, and many other brexit hardliners, if he lets the complications of a pact appear to stand in the way of “no deal” (labelled “clean break”) brexit.
Which can only further boost the Brexit Party in the polls.