Can the Brexit Party be stopped?

Nigel Farage's party lead Tories and Labour in EU elections poll

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Can the Brexit Party be stopped?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

With Brexit delayed, voters will take to the polls in the EU elections on May 23, selecting their MEPs for the UK's remaining duration in the European Union.

The newly-formed Brexit Party is leading the way in recent opinion polls, potentially winning more votes than Labour and the Tories combined.

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is leading the party, and it has been described as unstoppable.

However, others argue that tactical voting can stop the Brexit Party in its tracks.

The Claim

Gina Miller, the founder of Remain United, a campaign to elect the leading remain parties in the European elections, argues that Farage's party can be stopped - by voting tactically.

Writing for The Guardian, she admits that the remain vote is split, but their votes can still count and "halt the Brexit party in its tracks".

Miller argues that Farage is facing no resistance, despite opinion polls showing the remain majority growing by the day.

She says that a low turnout in the EU election is no longer a luxury we can afford: "We need to galvanise the remain vote, energise voters and encourage turnout.

"If we are to avoid them turning into a fanfare for Farage, pro-European voters as well as moderate leave voters need to get their heads around tactical voting and encourage others to back a single remain party in their region.

"We all need to put traditional loyalties and domestic issues to one side, think smart – and not split the vote."

Miller adds: "All I want is for Remain United to lift the fog so that people who oppose Farage – and his chilling authoritarian vision for our country – can deploy their votes strategically and effectively. The battle ahead is one that we cannot afford to lose."

The Counterclaim

However, it could be too little, too late. The Scotsman's Lesley Riddoch says that it is "too late to stop the Brexit Party bandwagon".

She notes that the European elections are no different to the last ones in 2014, when Farage "unleashed his much-promised political earthquake".

UKIP stormed to victory with 28 per cent of the vote, and 23 MEPs. The following general election saw Farage's party finish third in terms of the popular vote - although ending up with just one MP, thanks to Westminster's first-past-the-post system.

Riddoch argues that "broken British democracy" is both the problem and the result of the UKIP/Brexit insurgency.

She writes: "Not being elected has actually suited Farage. It has let him play the martyr, evade political scrutiny during his fraudulent Brexit campaign, then slip away when the going got rough.

"Because his real, popular support was unacknowledged by British democracy, Farage was able to guilt-trip and browbeat broadcasters, becoming a near constant presence on opinion-forming news outlets."

Riddoch adds: "UKIP has moved so far to the racist right that Farage looks almost respectable, and having Boris – the “lovable face of far right-wing lunacy” - as Tory leadership contender doesn’t hurt either.

"For voters who believe Brexit is the panacea for all Britain’s ills, there’s still only one game in town."

The Facts

According to a new poll by Opinium for the Observer, the Brexit Party will receive more EU election votes than the Tories and Labour combined.

The poll suggests that more than a third of voters (34 per cent) will back Farage's party on May 23 - an increase of six points since the last Opinium poll a month ago.

Labour's support has dropped to 21 per cent, followed by the Liberal Democrats on 12 per cent. The Tory vote has collapsed to 11 per cent.

Change UK - The Independent Group, the new party consisting of former Labour and Conservative MPs, has just three per cent of the vote, behind the Greens (eight per cent), UKIP (four per cent) and the Scottish National Party (four per cent).

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