Richard North, 03/11/2019  

With Johnson having upped the stakes by refusing an electoral pact. the Farage story isn't going away. For a while, at least, it seems set to dominate the news cycle, bolstered by a high volume of commentary on social media.

Coverage in the Mail is interesting, as it puts the onus on Farage to make good his threat of putting up a candidate in every constituency in the UK, except Northern Ireland.

Having thrown down the gauntlet on Friday, Farage admitted yesterday that the "risk of the vote being split is very real". Yet, despite that, his response was to urge Johnson to "reconsider" his withdrawal agreement and "drop the deal because it is not Brexit".

Vying with the prime minister in office, Farage also made his own contribution to raising the temperature, warning Johnson that if he refused to budge, his FaraCorp machine would spend the next six weeks ensuring every home in the UK was aware that his deal is a "sell out".

This, it appears, is Farage's idea of "common sense". He has given Johnson a two-week deadline for the two parties to strike a pact. But even the Mail admits that this now looks "incredibly unlikely". Nevertheless, he insists that Johnson drops the deal, arguing that, "as weeks go by and people discover what it is you will have signed up, they will not like it".

But not content with taking on the Tories, Farage has "fired a warning shot at Jeremy Corbyn", saying he intended "aggressively" to go after Labour-held Leave-backing seats in areas like the east Midlands, the north east of England and south Wales.

These, he said, were "absolutely among our top targets" as he attacked Labour's plan to hold a second referendum. Labour's proposal, he insisted, to pitch a Brexit deal negotiated by Corbyn against Remain at a second ballot would represent a "complete and utter betrayal" of Leave voters.

According to the Mail, Farage thinks it is a "nonsense" to suggest that such areas could vote for Johnson. He believes his own party poses a very major problem to Labour.

Surprisingly enough, the Labour-supporting Observer has not responded too kindly to this, choosing for its assassin the waspish Nick Cohen to deliver its own take-down.

The headline tells much of the story, proclaiming: "The more Nigel Farage plays Brexiters for fools, the more they seem to like it", with the sub-heading: "Even while being lied to, core supporters have an unshakeable faith in their leader".

I am not in the best position to disagree with those sentiments after my piece yesterday on groupthink yesterday. And it is as much the FaraCorp supporters as Farage himself that become the target of Cohen's wrath. As for those supporters, he says:
…if there is any meaning in the vapid word, "populism" can be defined as the willingness of voters to be lied to. The louder they scream "all politicians are liars", the harder they fall for the big lie from their chosen demagogue. Political scientists define devoted supporters of Farage, Trump and Corbyn as "low-trust" voters, who believe nothing they hear on the news. And yet they turn as trusting as children when their great leaders lead them on. In the case of Brexit, they are easy to lead and to fool.
Sadly, much the same could be said of the other parties' core supporters, in the context where the only healthy response to the blandishments politicians is a strong dose of cynicism. The situation has gone way past mere scepticism.

But Cohen does have a point: it is not so much what people disbelieve. It's actually what those same people are prepared to believe. We see sensible people who are quite rightly extremely suspicions of the things they are told by Corbyn, Johnson and squeaking Jo, but whose brains seem to turn to mush when Farage spoons out his brand of tosh.

Adored as he might be by his gullible fans, though, Farage continues to fail in making an impression on the polls. In a YouGov survey for The Sunday Times, his FaraCorp staggers in with a mere seven percent, having lost six points since 30 October.

This poll, incidentally, gives the Tories 39 percent (up three points) but has Labour closing the gap with 27 percent, gaining six points. ComRes has even worse news for the Tories, putting them on 36 percent as opposed to Labour on 28 percent – a mere eight-point gap – compared with its 19 October poll.

Here also FaraCorp doesn't do particularly well, coming in on ten percent after a drop of two points. In the 2015 election, Ukip peaked in some polls at just over 15 percent, so Farage has a way to go before he matches his own pre-referendum performance.

From the look of it, Farage will need to try even harder, as Johnson seems to be launching his own counter-attack, revealing his "fast and furious" plans to wrap up his deal by Christmas if he wins decisively in the general election.

Oddly enough, that would make absolutely no different to when we leave as there is no chance of the European Parliament giving its consent in time. The last plenary starts on 16 December, the same date that MPs would be progressing the WAB in Johnson's scenario. There MEPs would have dispersed for Christmas before the Bill gained Royal Assent, leaving it to January before a vote could be held.

In propaganda terms, though, Johnson's ploy could put greater pressure on Farage. The polls seem to suggest that voters who support Brexit (and many who don't) want to see the whole thing over, so Johnson's catch-phrase of "let's get it done" has some traction.

Farage's intervention, on the other hand, would quite evidently delay matters, especially as the fool has sponsored an advert (segment pictured), which perpetuates his stupidity of calling for the Withdrawal Agreement to be junked and for us to go straight to negotiations with the EU on "a simple free trade agreement".

If the Tories themselves had any intellectual coherence, this idiocy would give them the opportunity to tear Farage apart. As we remarked earlier, it is extremely unlikely that the EU will react to a no-deal Brexit by sitting down to negotiate a free trade deal.

However, the very fact that Farage is being seen to delay Brexit is inviting hostile comment on social media – even from avowed supporters – while he is self-evidently struggling in the polls. It may be that he has been too clever by half, and we will see his supporters fading away.

This could be particularly important as The Sunday Times is claiming that remain parties themselves have finalised an electoral pact aimed at thwarting Johnson. With Farage setting terms which the Tories cannot accept, their best way out is to do their best to crush the interloper.

You never know, and it is unwise to predict. But it could just be that this election is Farage's last hurrah. Certainly Pete has got the man summed up. "What Farage is doing", he writes, "is inexcusable and unforgivable".

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