To secure Brexit, we need to re-elect the Conservatives tomorrow

To secure Brexit, we need to re-elect the Conservatives tomorrow

While tomorrow’s election is not one that was supposed to happen until 2020, it became increasingly clear after the passage of the Article 50 legislation that it was necessary. A small motley crew of frustrated former Remain backers kept promising to do all they could to frustrate the Brexit process. And then there were the legions of unelected members of the House of Lords making the tenuous claim (given the referendum result) that the Government had no mandate for its Brexit agenda and that they would therefore use their privileged position to throw multiple spanners in the legislative works.

So if ensuring the delivery of Brexit was the overriding reason for Theresa May calling the election, so too it should probably be the overriding issue in our minds as we cast our votes at the polling station tomorrow. So forgive us for disregarding in this piece a whole swathe of other political issues that will also influence and inform people’s decisions (not least those relating to counter-terrorism which have been brought to the fore as a result of recent shocking events).

The Liberal Democrats are not in serious contention in more than a few handfuls of seats but their stated position of seeking a second EU referendum in order to campaign to reverse last year’s historic vote is democracy denial on stilts. It is heartening that their pitch to the so-called 48% of Remain voters appears generally to have fallen on deaf ears as it has become increasingly evident that all but a minority of Remain voters have accepted the referendum result and want politicians not to cause further uncertainty, but to get on with delivering the settled will of the people. So defeating Lib Dem MPs and candidates will send a clear message that the electorate does not want to revisit the referendum.

Then, of course, there is UKIP. We have paid tribute before (here for example) to UKIP and the role the party played in pressurising David Cameron and his colleagues into committing to an In/Out referendum on EU membership. We certainly would not have reached the point we are at now (certainly not so soon, at any rate) without the sustained campaigning by patriotic Kippers over the last two decades. Their contribution should not be underestimated.

But the pitch of the current party leadership to vote UKIP as an insurance policy against a Conservative government failing to deliver Brexit as promised simply doesn’t cut the mustard. A new government will be formed on Friday; and there is an obvious danger that a Conservative government may not even be able to be formed if too many voters support UKIP and enable those representing anti-Brexit forces to slip through the middle and onto the green benches of the House of Commons.

Furthermore, UKIP’s national message about the outcome it is seeking is deeply confused. Party leader Paul Nuttall said that his party would fight the “vast majority” of seats and only sit out contests where a long-standing “true Brexiteer” was already in serious contention. But in the event, UKIP is only fighting 377 of the available seats, leaving more than 1.25 million people who backed them last time without a UKIP candidate on the ballot paper. Their backing out in some hundreds of seats is welcome as it will help Brexit-backing candidates (mainly Tories) seeking to oust sitting europhile MPs. But if their intention really is to put country before party, it beggars belief that they have still put up candidates against deeply committed Brexiteers from Labour like Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) and Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) or Tories such as Steve Baker (Wycombe), Sir Bill Cash (Stone), Nick de Bois (Enfield North), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park), Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and Essex North) and Andrea Leadsom (Northamptonshire South).

All of which brings us to the nub of the issue. The election is a clear choice between two parties – Labour and the Conservatives – with their respective leaders seeking the keys to Downing Street. While we are well aware that in our system we elect representatives seat by seat to stand up on our behalves in Parliament, who we send to represent us is crucial in deciding who will have the numbers in the Commons to form a government.

So do we want a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn or a Conservative government led by Theresa May?

We know that some of our readers – and indeed regular authors – are loyal Labour backers who will continue to vote for their party. Indeed, Fawzi Ibrahim made the Brexiteer’s case for voting Labour here just the other day. But do we believe that a government led by Jeremy Corbyn will be capable of securing the Brexit that people voted for last year and on the best possible terms? No, we don’t.

His continued insistence not to accept that there are circumstances where no deal would be better than a bad deal is a horrendously weak opening gambit for the negotiations. His proposal unilaterally to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK would have the effect of immediately disregarding the fate of the more than one million UK residents living on the continent. And how confident can we be that he could even form a functioning government – let alone take charge of negotiating Brexit – given the fact that when his own MPs voted on his leadership in June 2016, only 40 were willing to back him in a secret ballot? It was less than a year ago, after mass resignations from the Labour frontbench (which left only a semi-functioning official opposition), that no fewer than 172 of his own MPs backed a motion of no confidence in him. If they don’t have confidence in him, why should we?

The Conservative campaign has clearly had its rocky moments these last few weeks. But on the all-important, election-defining issue of Brexit, the message of Theresa May and her party has been resolute and consistent. As Jonathan noted in this editorial the day after the Conservative manifesto was published, all the key questions on which Brexiteers may have had any lingering doubts have been answered. Under a Conservative Government led by Theresa May over the coming years, the UK will leave the single market; we will no longer be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice; we will be outside the EU customs union, free to negotiate our own trade deals the world over; we will not be sending billions of pounds a year to Brussels, powerless to hold anyone to account for its spending; and we will take back control of our borders and our fishing waters.

And if it is the current Prime Minister taking charge of the Brexit talks that begin in just twelve days’ time, she will enter the negotiating chamber with that oft-stated willingness to walk away if our EU partners are only willing to offer a bad or punitive deal to the UK. We don’t expect her to have to play that trump card: the EU actually has far more to lose than we do in the absence of a mutually beneficial deal. But it’s a bit like the nuclear deterrent: if others don’t think there are circumstances in which you would be willing to press the button, you are left impotent and powerless.

There are a few devoted Brexiteers in other parties who deserve re-election – not least Labour’s Kate Hoey in Vauxhall who is facing a nasty Lib Dem onslaught over her position on Brexit. But in virtually every other seat, if you want to see Brexit negotiated confidently and competently, in the best interests of the UK, we believe it is vital that tomorrow you vote Conservative.