LONDON (Xinhua) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hopes of winning a majority in the general election were given a massive boost Monday.
Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU Brexit Party announced at an election rally in northeast England that the party will not contest more than 300 Conservative seats in the December election.
Farage had earlier indicated the party would contest almost all of the 650 parliamentary seats, a move that could have harmed the Conservatives prospects of winning an outright majority next month.
While Johnson welcomed the Brexit Party decision, it came under attack from other parties, including the main opposition Labour Party.
Farage said his party will not stand in the 317 seats won by the Conservatives in the 2017 snap election which left former Prime Minister Theresa May leading a minority government.
The Brexit Party said it will focus instead on fighting seats held by Labour and other parties that support Britain remaining in the EU.
Explaining what has been seen by political commentators as a U-turn, Farage said he had concluded that standing in 600 seats could lead to a hung Parliament and pave the way for a second EU referendum.
“We will concentrate our total effort into all the seats that are held by the Labour Party, who have completely broken their manifesto pledge in 2017 to respect the result of the referendum, and we will also take on the rest of the Remainer parties,”he said.
Johnson said the decision was recognition that another gridlocked hung Parliament would be the greatest threat to getting Brexit done.
“If we have another hung Parliament it would lead to two more chaotic referendums next year. The Conservatives only need 9 more seats to win a majority and leave (the EU) by the end of January with a deal,” he said.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister who also leads the Scottish National Party (SNP) said the Brexit Party decision proves “Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are joined at the hip.”
Speaking in Aberdeen, Sturgeon said: “Any form of Brexit that is acceptable to Nigel Farage is going to be deeply damaging to Scotland and I suspect there are many traditional Conservative voters in Scotland and across the UK that are appalled to find that the party has effectively become the Brexit Party.”
Brexit Party Chairman Richard Tice dismissed talk of a humiliating climb-down by his party as “absolute gibberish”.
In a radio interview Monday evening, Tice said the decision was a strong sign of courageous leadership, aimed at ensuring there was no prospect of a second Brexit referendum. Describing it as a unilateral decision, Tice said: “Not standing against Conservative candidates will take that off the table.”