“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us and, sometimes, they win.”
In our present political turmoil, I find myself referring to these words by author Stephen King often. But political ghosts in particular may well hold the keys to success for those battling Brexit in the looming general election.
What is a political ghost? Let me tell you how I became one.
It happened in an unassuming Beaconsfield pub, where I – the local Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Lib Dems – was chatting with Dominic Grieve, a doughty political opponent I would have to battle in any upcoming general election.
Grieve, lest we forget, has been Beaconsfield’s Conservative MP since 1997, increasing his vote relentlessly until Brexit brought his career as a Tory MP to a brutal end. He may be a gentleman but he is also a fearsome political opponent to face, particularly in a safe seat such as Beaconsfield.
Yet, the morning after I was elected PPC, I was inundated with messages asking why I was planning to run against him. Twitter demanded to know why I was standing against a staunch Remainer who has paid a huge price for shielding Britain from a no-deal Brexit.
Twitter had a point.
To be honest, it wasn’t a great surprise. At my candidacy hustings, it had been put to me that this situation might arise. DominicGrieve has been one of the real heroes of Parliament in recent times, bringing his legal expertise and considerable experience to the table when we’ve needed it most. He's been a passionate supporter of a Final Say Referendum and has worked tirelessly in warning against the dangers that a damaging Brexit will do to this country.
On the other hand, I am new to politics, have much to learn and believe Brexit is the defining political issue of our time in the UK – even in the face of the climate crisis, an NHS under strain and myriad other domestic problems.
As organisations such as Best for Britain have warned repeatedly, taking a Brexit-shaped wrecking ball to our relationship with the rest of the world will make all of the above issues much harder to solve. Here in Beaconsfield, thanks to Britain’s ridiculous First Past the Post system, a Liberal Democrat vote would diminish Grieve’s chances of getting back into Parliament at this crucial time.
Best for Britain's solution is for Remainers on the ground to vote tactically. But, in special circumstances, candidates in particular seats can make the task even simpler by themselves rowing in behind the leading Remain candidate.
With all this in mind, it was an easy decision for me to stand aside and give my support to a person who, in less ridiculous times, would be my avowed opponent.
Having put time and effort into getting ready run for office, of course the decision has had an impact on me. It’s sad – I am sad and I feel a bit at sea with it all, a bit like a political ghost.
On top of that, I’m going to go out and support Dominic’s efforts with absolutely no chance of a political job at the end of the campaign. But there’s a long game to play and it suits my soul to break out of petty tribal allegiances and observe the bigger picture.
I think it will serve me well in the long term and I will have certainly earned the right to put some friendly pressure on Dominic Grieve when other issues arise during his next term as an MP.
For now, my message is quite clear: vote for Dominic this time, vote for me next time. Fair enough?
So a call to arms to all those who would be ghosts in this campaign. As with all ghosts, we still have unfinished business.
Rob Castell is a supporter of the pro-EU group Best for Britain.