If we want to keep Britain inside the EU, we must vote tactically to make it happen
If Remainers unite we can kick Boris Johnson out of Downing Street and stop Brexit from happening
An alien arriving from Mars during the UK general election would be forgiven for thinking that Boris Johnson had been a good prime minister in the short time he has been in No 10 and was held in high esteem among the British public. It is now widely assumed that in two weeks’ time Boris Johnson will be returned to Downing Street with a working commons majority – just as he planned.
Yet behind the headlines, and the (variable) poll leads Mr Johnson is enjoying, are some inescapable facts. Some 53 per cent of people still regard the prime minister as untrustworthy, and Remain consistently leads Leave in the polls.
For the country to return someone it does not trust to office, to carry out a job it no longer wants undertaken, would be a tragic outcome. But it is precisely what our first-past-the-post system will contrive to make happen unless Remainers act together to overcome its distortions.
The arguments about whether Remain parties should have opposed each other in this election are well rehearsed. Limited co-operation has taken place at the margins, but differing political traditions and old enmities mean a pact of the scale the Brexit Party has made with the Conservatives have not proved possible on the Remain side.
With the parties having failed on this count, it is now up to voters to pull Britain back from the Brexit brink. And they still can. Best for Britain’s latest analysis shows that while the Conservatives are currently heading towards a majority, there are 57 constituencies in which less than 4,000 voters can defeat the Conservative candidate. If those seats turn, Boris is out. In 42 of them, the Leave vote is split by a Brexit Party candidate standing, meaning that unity among Remainers will be even more effective.
We recognise that tactical decisions present huge dilemmas for voters. The age-old election wrestle between head and heart is one which is woven into our outmoded political system. And the situation is more complex still in Scotland.
With his customary pithiness, Professor Sir John Curtice has summed up the essential choice at this election very well. He says: “This is a pretty binary contest. Either Boris gets a majority and we’re leaving the EU on the terms he’s negotiating, or we get a hung parliament. In which case we have to anticipate that a minority Labour administration will apply for an extension and there will be a referendum.”
Both our own MRP analysis, and that of YouGov – which correctly predicted the outcome of 2017’s election – suggest that Boris would win that binary contest in an election held today. But his doing so in 11 days’ time is not written in the stars. Polls reflect where voters are, not where they have to be. If just a very few more will go to the polling station with this essential choice in mind, and a laser-like focus on getting the outcome they prefer, Boris can still be stopped.
Best for Britain will undertake another big survey of this kind in the few days before polling day, helping voters to choose the best challenger via GetVoting.org to the Conservatives in their constituency. Those of us who want Boris out of Downing Street and Britain inside the EU must vote together to make it happen.
Naomi Smith is CEO of Best for Britain, a UK campaign group for remaining in the European Union