Nigel Farage’s populist instinct has failed him over lockdown | Torsten Bell

A few weeks back, I was pondering whether it’s a case of once a sceptic, always a sceptic. Specifically, what the overlap might be between Euroscepticism and lockdown scepticism in Britain. It’s this exact overlap that Nigel Farage is seeking to exploit with his rebranding of the Brexit party as the anti-lockdown Reform UK.

Luckily, a timely piece of political analysis from Professor Tim Bale and Dr Alan Wager sets out to assess how many people sit with Nigel in “the centre of that Venn diagram” of scepticisms.

Their report rightly notes that inside parliament most lockdown sceptics are ardent Leavers – 30 out of 34 Tory MPs who voted against the second English lockdown also voted Leave in 2016. It’s their libertarian bent that has led them to rail against the business impact of lockdowns while pushing a hard Brexit that will, even its biggest supporters agree, have a large business impact.

The more interesting conclusion is that the public aren’t serial sceptics certainly having voted Leave doesn’t make you a lockdown sceptic. While age was a strong predictor of how you voted on Brexit, the same cannot be said for those who think lockdown has gone too far (which includes one in five of under-24s and over-65s).

There’s also the fact that more than seven in 10 Britons support lockdown. So, scepticism does not appear to be a lasting habit. Oh, and Farage’s relaunch ambitions are on a hiding to nothing.

Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at resolutionfoundation.org

The Guardian

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