Belfast Telegraph

Chris Moncrieff: Farage's talk of his new party creating a stir across political landscape will cause tremors

 

Nigel Farage launches the Brexit Party's European Parliament elections campaign
Nigel Farage launches the Brexit Party's European Parliament elections campaign

By Chris Moncrieff

Nigel Farage talks big - he always does - but in the past his bombast has been largely treated with something approaching derision by Labour and the Tories. But this time, his words may have to be taken far more seriously by the big two, especially the Conservatives, who are experiencing more internal disaffection among their members - both at Westminster and countrywide - than ever before in their long history.

Let's look at the facts. The Conservatives have plummeted by a sensational 10 points, according to a recent opinion poll. Although opinion poll findings are often, and justifiably, treated with at least outward scepticism by politicians.

But the Tories would be foolish to shrug off such a massive potential falling off.

The alarm bells should be jangling in their ears.

On top of this, Farage's timing in the formation of his new Brexit party could hardly be bettered. An alarming and dangerously high number of dissatisfied Tories must be sorely tempted to join this new outfit. And many of them are likely to succumb to that temptation.

To make matters worse, some pundits calculate that a general election now could cost the Tories 60 Commons seats and drive them into the wilderness and oblivion. Their prospects are bleak.

At the moment, the Tories appear be spending all their energy in fighting among themselves. But the demands for Theresa May to be replaced without delay, are falling on deaf ears. Indeed, party rules do not allow another internal vote of confidence in her for a long time yet, although it has been pointed out that that rule could be rescinded without much trouble.

Nor are there any signs that May will voluntarily step down. She has asserted that she will see the Brexit crisis through to the bitter end before she even considers leaving 10 Downing Street. Even so, the sinister men in grey suits could come knocking on the door, like executioners rousing a condemned prisoner.

I doubt whether the Tories are actually quaking in their boots about Farage's boisterous initiative, but they are certainly entitled to feel a little anxious. Politicians are often given to outrageous hyperbole, and Farage is himself a master of that "art".

But his talk about the new party creating an earthquake in the British political landscape must cause some feelings of discomfort.

David Cameron once described members of Farage's old party, Ukip, as "fruitcakes".

Today, the Conservatives will have no appetite for that kind of contemptuous language about Farage's new party. They are too absorbed with their own internal mass brawl, which could be the death of them.

● Those 70 or so MPs who have written to the Home Secretary demanding that Julian Assange be extradited to Sweden appear to have jumped the gun.

At the time of writing, Sweden does not appear to have requested Assange's extradition to answer rape and sexual assault allegations against him.

And although at a late stage of any proceedings, a Government minister may be involved, this is, at the moment, certainly a matter for the courts and not Parliament. But as usual, some MPs cannot resist the temptation of meddling.

Lord Falconer, the former Labour Lord Chancellor and Tony Blair's ex-flatmate, has, not for the first time, hit the nail on the head. He said: "This is really a matter for the courts to decide, isn't it? I don't think politicians should be saying Julian Assange should or should not be... extradited."

He should know.

As if the Brexit crisis was not hot enough already, Labour MP David Lammy has stoked it further by likening Right-wing Tory Brexiteers to Nazis.

I am afraid that if Mr Lammy thinks such remarks will help to bring an early resolution to what is looking like an intractable problem, he is seriously misguided.

I am all for robust politics, but this is surely way over the top.

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