MORE than three years ago, Yorkshire and the Humber voted to leave the European Union by a narrow margin – 1,580,937 votes to 1,158,937 – but there is a significant constituency who don’t want Boris Johnson to get his half-baked Brexit “done”.
People here are good judges of character and they see through Mr Johnson. Visiting Doncaster’s flooding victims, residents told him: “You took your time.” They recognise that this is a man who cares not about them, but power.
They see, too, how divisive his brand of politics is turning out to be. Tellingly, Johnson’s candidate for Leeds North East has been suspended from the Conservative Party after he said British Jews were “brainwashed extremists” when they return from travelling in Israel.
It’s not just the hatred. Businesses in the region are also increasingly concerned about the Government’s handling of our planned departure from the EU – even Leeds United might have to wait until after the January transfer window for new investment, citing Brexit as one of the factors delaying the owners of Paris Saint-Germain getting involved at Elland Road.
A key decider in this election will be the youth vote. The overwhelming majority of 18- to 24-year-olds are bitterly opposed to leaving the EU – 73 per cent nationally – and they have been galvanised into campaigning to stay in the EU.
But the real question is how they, indeed all voters, most effectively make their voices heard when candidates with the realistic chances of winning are mostly from either the Tory Party – who have to sign a ‘pledge’ to never question Johnson and his unelected advisers on policy – or Labour, whose position on Brexit under Jeremy Corbyn remains at best ambiguous.
The only answer is to vote tactically. The last thing anyone should want, irrespective of how they voted back in 2016, is a House of Commons packed with wall-to-wall Tories giving Johnson carte blanche to impose the most heartless and ideological Brexit imaginable.
This is the objective of my independent, data-driven, tactical voting website www.remainunited.org – to stop that from happening. I appreciate that voters are often having to choose between the lesser of two evils, or, worse, two pro-Remain candidates which will split the vote and plays into the hands of Tory Brextremist candidates; but tough times require tough decisions. In this region, in a number of key seats, our website is recommending Labour candidates who have shown good sense, if not also courage.
In Colne Valley, for instance, we are recommending people vote tactically for Labour’s Thelma Walker. She voted for a referendum on a Brexit withdrawal agreement, and for a customs union with the EU.
Likewise, in Wakefield, where the principled Mary Creagh has a predicted vote share of 35 per cent, trailing the Conservatives on 39 per cent but well ahead of the Lib Dems on eight per cent. Creagh supported Remain in the EU referendum. She was also one of the few MPs to vote against the triggering of Article 50 in February 2017.
In Leeds West, we are also recommending a Labour vote where their spirited pro-EU candidate Rachel Reeves is predicted to win 44 per cent, well ahead of her Tory challenger on 27 per cent. She has gone on record as saying: “I would like Labour to be clear that if there was a referendum, we would campaign to Remain.”
In Harrogate and Knaresborough, our recommendation is currently realistic in saying “for the best chance of reducing the Conservative majority, vote Lib Dem”. Why? Because on the ground there is palpable voter volatility.
Andrew Jones, the Tory candidate, voted against leaving the EU in the referendum but put his party before his country when he voted for a no-deal Brexit in March this year and is now fully signed up to back Johnson on Brexit come what may. Judith Rogerson, his Lib Dem opponent, is sensing a “sea change” in the constituency.
As the election campaign progresses, we will update our website to reflect the real-time voter sentiment.
Democracy only works when enough people are interested. We can and must stop the Commons becoming a citadel of Brextremism. Remember that just five minutes in the polling booth will give you the chance to have your say in how our country is run in the next five years. Theresa May took voters for fools in the last general election and paid the price.
Believe me, anything is possible in this election, but first, no matter what the weather, we have to turn out to vote and to vote tactically.
Gina Miller is a Remain campaigner and backer of the tactical voting website www.remainunited.org.