Why Andrew Bridgen’s defection is different

Andrew Bridgen has formally joined the Reclaim celebration mere weeks after it was revealed he had been completely expelled from the Conservative celebration for a tweet which invoked the Holocaust to channel his criticism of covid vaccines. 

It makes Bridgen the Reclaim celebration’s first member of parliament and the most recent MP in recent times to “cross the ground”. “That is only the start”, Bridgen defined at a press convention on Wednesday morning. 

Bridgen’s unveiling is by a way essentially the most consideration Reclaim has garnered since its institution in 2020 — and it subsequently offered the right alternative for the celebration to set out its stall. 

Talking on the celebration’s press convention, chief and actor-turned-anti-vax activist Laurence Fox started by celebrating “Britain’s nationwide story” and its “renewal” at King Charles III’s coronation. He took goal at fellow thespian Adjoa Andoh who criticised the dearth of range on show throughout the royal household’s balcony look: “‘Terribly white’, Fox stated, “what a horrible factor to say”. 


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The tradition struggle tropes got here thick and quick. Fox adopted up with: “This isn’t a racist nation”, pivoting rapidly to the instances of “confused and depressed youngsters steered in the direction of gender reassignment”. He declared furthermore that “our basic freedoms of speech, meeting and course of are additionally being banned”. And attacked “crippling and failed lockdowns”, earlier than decrying that these “who raised authentic issues about covid vaccines are additionally cancelled”.

It’s this latter level that seems to be Reclaim’s predominant raison d’être. Certainly, turning to his new MP in Bridgen, Fox said: “as a result of he broke the silence surrounding severe harms even demise occurring on account of the MRNA jabs, Andrew was branded an anti-vaxxer, a conspiracy theorist and, sure, you guessed it, a racist”. 

However Fox needed to make a broader level. He accused the Conservatives of getting “bought out to Lib Demery” and appealed to “disillusioned Tories in North West Leicestershire [and] upset Brexit voters who need to see their Go away vote put into observe” to place their religion in Bridgen. 

Bridgen’s defection right here was therefore bought as one thing vital — an necessary second in political historical past when the tides of the tradition struggle started to show in Fox’s favour. However all indicators point out that the transfer can be a mere ripple. Certainly, regardless of Bridgen’s fierce bobbing at prime minister’s questions, watched on by patron Fox within the gallery, Reclaim was compelled to attend for his or her parliamentary debut.

After all, defections aren’t new to British politics and we have now seen many in recent times. …

Most likely essentially the most notable got here in 2014 when Douglas Carswell left the Conservative Celebration for UKIP, standing in a subsequent by-election and returned beneath his new affiliation. Carswell’s defection was adopted rapidly by fellow MP Mark Reckless and — with Britain slowly dividing into pro-EU and eurosceptic camps — the episode felt politically potent. Carswell has since stated he “jumped ship with the categorical objective of fixing the picture of UKIP and guaranteeing that it was an asset relatively than a legal responsibility within the referendum marketing campaign”. 

However in contrast to Carswell, Bridgen was pushed from the Conservative Celebration earlier than he jumped to Reclaim. And UKIP in 2014, on the peak of its affect, dwarfs the political clout of Fox’s Reclaim proper now. 

Furthermore, regardless of Bridgen’s protestations, there can be no Reckless who follows him into the wilderness nor any forthcoming political growth which the celebration may contribute to and feed off. His announcement that he can be suing fellow ex-Conservative MP Matt Hancock is unlikely to elicit a mass outpouring of public help. 

Bridgen has additionally already confirmed that he won’t be calling a by-election to check the energy of his constituency’s Reclaim convictions. Apparently, the MP as soon as rubbished “Anna Soubry and the remainder of the ‘individuals’s vote’ [Change UK] defectors” for not calling by-elections as a result of they know they’d be “bye-bye elections”.

However past the circumstances of Bridgen’s defection, the broader downside for “tradition struggle” events like Reclaim is totemic. Their political and rhetorical technique rests on the view that they’re one way or the other the true voice of the silent minority, representing a real conservative creed (Fox quoted Thatcher on the press convention as he slighted Sunakian “Lib Demery”). However they achieve this whereas failing to register in nationwide polling. 

The Reform UK celebration — by a way a bigger right-of-Conservative political celebration than Reclaim — received simply six seats on the native elections, averaging 6% of the vote within the wards the place it stood. Because the restyled Brexit celebration, Reform is a extra pure political receptacle than Reclaim for Sunak-sceptic voters and is at present honing its political pitch on small boats. Reclaim alternatively, in figuring out its pet topic as Covid vaccines, has issued one other loyalty check to these right-of-centre voters who disagree with the Conservative celebration’s current political path. 

And with the residue of UKIP and the anti-woke and anti-migrant Social Democratic Celebration all competing for a similar political territory, we’re reminded of that totalising downside for right-of-Conservative politics in the present day: too many events and never sufficient voters.