Nigel Farage’s latest political venture has launched its general election campaign. We followed the Brexit Party’s top MEPs to find out what makes them tick.
A general election is coming on December 12, and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is ready for it. The party launched its campaign on November 1, with Farage making clear that he wants Boris Johnson to scrap his current withdrawal agreement and unite both Brexit and Conservative parties together in a “leave alliance”. If he doesn’t get what he wants, Farage has said his party will oppose the Conservatives, and he’s confident he’ll win.
We’ve seen how Brexit Party MEPs have turned their backs during the EU’s anthem and read countless headlines about the party. As the party geared up for a looming general election, WIRED sent Darren Loucaides to Brussels and beyond to see how the Brexit Party is gearing up for what Nigel Farage has described as an all-out political war.
Here’s what we know so far.
Its strategy is straight out of the Change UK’s playbook
The Brexit Party’s original raison d’être was to reach voters who were angry and upset about the postponement of Brexit, and provide them with a message of hope and optimism. To do so, its digital team decided to crib the message of another political party: pro-Remain Change UK, (erstwhile The Independent Group; currently The Independent Group for Change). The Brexit Party started mining keywords from Change UK’s tweets, repurposing them for its social media output. Ideas like healing a “broken politics” were lifted wholesale in order to tap into a narrative that appealed to voters.
It has a new snazzy canvassing app
Farage’s party has spent “a lot of money” on technology it hopes will win them the election. VICE reported that the Brexit Party has invested in a new canvassing app called Pericles. This app is intended to replace old canvassing methods – essentially, activists writing down answers on paper as they go door to door. In contrast, Pericles can gather the data in real time and build a map of the local area, showing voters who haven’t yet turned up to the polls as flashing blue dots for canvassers to go and pick up. The Brexit Party hopes that this app will help it counteract the problems Ukip faced in the 2015 election, when they received 3.8 million votes but only won one seat – due to the first past the post voting system. According to a party source, Pericles was developed by Voter Gravity, an American firm with a history of working with Republican campaigns.
Its social media strategist used to work for Labour
Nineteen-year-old Steven Edginton was appointed as chief digital strategist for the Brexit Party in April 2019. He drew on his experience working at the campaign group Leave Means Leave to gain traction, resorting to emotional words like “humiliation” to appeal to leave voters. In July, Edginton rose to prominence due to his role in the so-called Darroch affair, in which he leaked secret diplomatic cables of the British ambassador to the US criticising Donald Trump to the Mail on Sunday. Edgington left his position shortly after the European Parliament elections, and 24-year-old Ed Jankowski took over. Jankowski had previously worked for Labour, where he saw the extent of their digital prowess at work. “That’s what’s interesting about coming to the Brexit Party from Labour,” Jankowski told WIRED. “You had this great technology, but you didn’t have a message.”
It is “at war” with Labour
“We are at war, politically, with the Labour Party,” said Nigel Farage during the Brexit Party conference tour, this summer. A party source has said that when Change UK began to implode, the digital team set their sights on Labour. The Brexit Party polled Labour voters in order to learn what issues they cared about the most, and target individual constituencies. At the Brexit Party’s election campaign launch Farage said that the idea that his party’s supporters are all Tories is “lazy thinking” and that Labour are set to be hit the hardest in his campaign.
It is not backing Johnson’s Brexit deal
While they aren’t targeting the Conservatives per se, at the campaign launch Farage called on Boris Johnson to abandon the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU, which in Farage’s opinion is “not Brexit.” Farage also suggested that the Conservatives form a “leave alliance” pact with the Brexit Party to solve the Brexit stalemate. If that were to happen, Farage said, the two parties would become what US President Donald Trump called “an unstoppable force” in an interview on LBC. If Johnson does not agree, Farage said that the party will contest every seat in Britain and will be the only party standing up for Brexit.
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