NIGEL Farage’s decision to mount an all-out assault on Labour heartlands in Yorkshire and the north leaves the party with an uphill struggle to make the gains it needs to unseat the Conservatives and form a Government.
The Brexit Party leader clearly believes there is substantial support to be gained in seats which voted heavily in favour of leaving the EU, especially since Labour, after months of indecision, has committed itself to a second referendum.
Until yesterday’s announcement, Mr Farage’s greatest threat had been to the Conservatives by potentially splitting the anti-EU vote in seats the party had needed to win. Now, though, it is Labour that is bound to be on the defensive. Yorkshire was always going to be one of the key battlegrounds in the election, and the Brexit Party’s challenge now makes our county even more crucial in deciding who gets the keys to 10 Downing Street.
A number of seats traditionally loyal to the red rosette are now marginals, and it will not take substantial swings by leave-supporting voters unhappy at Labour’s position on Brexit for them to change colour.
Mr Farage has long asserted that many formerly committed Labour voters have been left politically homeless by the party’s stance on Brexit and consequently the constituencies where they live are there for the taking.
Though the Conservatives ruled out a formal pact with Mr Farage, his not running candidates in seats they took in 2017 amounts to a deal of sorts that improves their chances of winning.
Nevertheless, there will be a degree of trepidation in Tory ranks that Mr Farage’s intervention could backfire, and any split in the anti-EU vote in marginal Labour seats allows the Lib Dems or Greens to snatch victory.
The outcome of a delicately-balanced election remains as unpredictable as ever.