In the wake of four Brexit Party MEPs resigning from the party, the Brexit Party candidate, Reece Wilkes, pulls out of the election race in the tightly contested Labour-Conservative marginal of Lincoln, as concerns about Nigel Farage’s electoral strategy continue to grow.
The Labour Party currently holds the Lincolnshire constituency after they gained the seat in 2017. This was during the election where Labour promised to uphold the referendum result of 2016, and end freedom of movement from Europe.
However, on the eve of an election, the Tories hope to oust Labour, in the only seats in Lincolnshire to not elect a Conservative MP. With a Leave vote share of over 57%, this is undoubtedly the type of seat that Boris Johnson must win to command a majority in the House of Commons.
Generally, the constituency has opted for whichever party won the general election, except for Theresa May’s capitulation in 2017. Nonetheless, the decision taken by Mr Wilkes will undoubtedly stem from recent polling that suggested that the Brexit Party will cost the Conservatives gains across England and Wales.
The YouGov MRP poll published on the 27th of November indicates that Labour will retain this seat with 44% of the vote. The Tories are just three points behind on 41%. Whereas, the Brexit Party are trailing further behind in third place, where they are expected to amass a pitiful 7% of the vote.
Mr Wilkes also joins the former UKIP candidate in 2015, Nick Smith, in supporting the Conservatives as both concede that the Brexit Party have no chance of winning the election. Despite, coming third, Mr Smith, managed to salvage 12% of the vote, mirroring UKIP’s national vote share. If this is anything to go by, the polls reflecting the Brexit Party on around three per cent may be accurate.
In an interview with BBC Radio Lincolnshire, Wilkes said that his decision to stand down was on the reflection of messages he has received as a consequence of The Daily Mail’s plea to Brexiteers, who begged for Brexit Party candidates in marginal seats, like Lincoln, to stand down. He went on to add that if Brexit was lost by one vote that he would feel it was ‘his fault that Brexit was not delivered’ and therefore, could not reconcile costing Britain’s independence. Similar to my BrexitCentral article, Mr Wilkes urged ‘believers of Brexit to back Karl McCartney.’
When pushed on whether Leave voters would go back to Labour, the ex-Brexit Party candidate implored Brexit-backing constituents to ‘put every aside and back Karl McCartney.’ Wilkes then laughed off questions of a deal being struck between the Eurosceptic parties and instead he said he initiated discussions with the Conservatives about standing down.
The emails that Wilkes received laid the blame of Britain remaining in the EU at the feet of the Brexit Party if Boris Johnson fails to command a majority in the House of Commons. Other emails read that ‘the country will never forgive you’ for this, and he noted that constituents provided touching life stories that prompted Wilkes to stand down.
However, Wilkes made clear that he has yet to contact Nigel Farage, or anyone else within the Brexit Party, over his decision, but he has sent a letter. In his letter, he told Farage that: ‘It has become clear to me down on the ground in Lincoln that by failing to back the Conservative candidate, who is pro-Brexit, I will split the vote and inadvertently assist in getting a Remainer Labour MP back into Parliament.’
With just three days until the British people go to the polls, the decision by Mr Wilkes provides the Conservatives with a further boost as the number of Brexiteers coalescing behind Boris Johnson is growing by the day. He will hope for a clean sweep in the counties of Brexit. This includes the eight Lincolnshire seats, alongside all eighteen Essex seats.
By J Walters