Large parts of the media have branded this election as being about Brexit first, then other issues. But what has this actually meant in practice?
“Have the issues about the PM’s ‘deal’ and a ‘clean Brexit’ been explored in any significant way?
Four days to go
“There are now four days to go until the British electorate votes for a leave government. In the last couple of weeks we have seen more and more discussion about tactical voting, so we will start with that. By far the largest impact on tactical pro-Brexit voting in this election came when Nigel Farage stood down 317 Brexit Party candidates in Conservative-held seats. In effect, this meant that the tactical voting decision for pro-Brexit electors in those constituencies was made for them. (Some pro-Brexit candidates then stood as independents, so there will still be some limited impact in some constituencies.)
“Mr Farage’s decision meant that the Brexit Party’s focus was on seats held by Labour, the LibDems, Plaid Cymru, and the SNP. It also meant that the Brexit Party was no longer a national party in electoral terms. Had the Conservative Party reciprocated and stood down (or ‘soft-campaigned’) in a relatively small number of constituencies where the Brexit Party appears to have a much better chance of winning against the incumbent Remainer party MP, we would now be looking at the possibility of a different make-up in Parliament on 13 December.
“Anyone with knowledge of the history of the Conservative and Unionist Party knew that this was never going to happen. We strongly suspect that Mr Farage knew this when he made his announcement. So can the Brexit Party win any seats?
“Conventional wisdom and the vast majority of polling companies predicts that the Brexit Party (BxP) will fail to win a single seat on Thursday. There is a small polling company predicting 24 seats for BxP, based on local sampling, but this seems highly unlikely. The main reason is our First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system. In a significant number of seats outside the major cities in the North, the Midlands, and South Wales, a combined pro-Brexit vote would romp home. In many cases this could result in a BxP candidate being elected.
“Given that the pro-Brexit vote will be split between the Brexit Party and the Conservatives, it seems likely that many opportunities to defeat Remainer parties will be lost. Based on our own analysis we believe that the Brexit Party could be looking to win as many as 12 seats if there had been informal arrangement in around 25-35 constituencies.
“Even without cooperation from the Conservative Party, we believe that the support for the Brexit Party in some constituencies might spring some surprises.
Where is the Brexit debate and democracy in all of this?
“The simple fact is that the majority of the British voting public voted to leave the EU in the largest democratic mandate of all time in British political history. It continues to be a shocking indictment of the state of politics in the country that this has not been implemented.
“This election has been billed as “the Brexit election”. In our view this is farcical. In the end this has come down to one simple message about Brexit. “Get Brexit Done”. The Brexit in question is the revised Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration negotiated by Mr Johnson’s team. For vast numbers of the voting public this means that the entire, drawn-out, sorry saga of Brexit stagnation in Parliament will be over. It means getting on with the domestic agenda.
“Is this a true Brexit? Of course not. It was the best that the incoming PM could manage in three months after the shocking deal which his predecessor, Theresa May, did with the EU. Yes, it removed the odious backstop which would have left the UK in servitude to the EU for years to come, and it improved the terms of the Political Declaration, but it left the rest of the abominable Withdrawal Agreement untouched.
“It also places part of the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) in a different regulatory regime to the rest of the UK. Has this election campaign illuminated and informed the public about Brexit? No. It has all come down to electoral politics rather than facts and informing the public. ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’, as our Gallic friends over the English Channel would say”.