One way to avoid making a difficult decision is to try and force someone else to make it.
By saying it was up to Boris Johnson whether the Brexit Party contests seats across the country, that’s effectively what Nigel Farage did today.
There had been some speculation that Mr Farage would use his campaign launch to either wholly commit to a full field of candidates, or announce a more targeted push in leave-leaning seats where the conservatives have no hope.
Instead, he issued an ultimatum to the prime minister – that the Brexit Party will stand across Britain unless Boris Johnson scraps the withdrawal agreement he secured with Brussels.
Mr Farage gave him two weeks to decide.
In an interview with Sky’s Sophy Ridge, the prime minister rejected the offer outright, but that would have come as no surprise to Mr Farage.
As he almost certainly knows, the prime minister is not currently under sufficient pressure to make such a dramatic move (and, yes, jettisoning the deal he negotiated, and no doubt incurring fresh ruptures in the Tory party would indeed be dramatic).
Latest polling by YouGov suggests 63% of Leave voters do not blame Boris Johnson for failing to deliver the 31 October Brexit he promised. Neither do 37% of the general population, according to today’s snap survey.
Breaking the “do or die” promise does not appear to have dealt him anything like the political blow opposition parties were hoping for.
As far as the Withdrawal Agreement Bill goes – despite Mr Farage claiming “it is not Brexit” – the Brexiteer conservatives, like Steve Baker and Mark Francois, whose criticism so damaged Theresa May’s efforts, were today confronting Mr Farage’s assessment and standing by Mr Johnson.
But even if the ultimatum strategy was never going to bear fruit immediately, it has been politically useful for the Brexit Party leader.
It has bought him time to defer his decision on the extent to which the party will contest this election.
The reason that decision is so significant and difficult for Mr Farage is this: fighting all seats might keep the ‘clean break’ Brexit he desires on the table, but with it comes the risk the Leave vote is split in key constituencies, which could herald a Labour majority and a second referendum.
If Boris Johnson holds firm to his refusal to make a pact, the alternative to fighting everywhere is following the suggestion of Brexit Party MEP John Longworth, and focusing on 20 to 30 seats where they may be able to take seats from Labour that the Conservatives are unlikely to win.
Making such a move might increase the chances of some form of Brexit happening, but it would be a tacit acceptance that Boris Johnson’s deal is the only realistic chance of that. Mr Farage does not appear ready to concede that point just yet.
The best case for the Brexit Party in that scenario is that it would be small but vocal presence in the Commons that could be a thorn in the side of the government if the parliamentary arithmetic continues to revolve around tight or non-existent majorities.
Neither of these options look particularly attractive given the kind pressure Mr Farage has been able to exert in the course of the last 5 years.
But polling could start to look different 14 days into the campaign.
Particularly if Mr Farage is effective in his pledge to use the time to pick apart the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement and expose leave voters to the problems he sees in it.
If, come the 14 November ultimatum deadline, the Brexit Party’s standing is not withering but eating into the potential conservative voter base in key seats, some kind of arrangement with the Conservatives might look more plausible.
Reduced to its simplest form, it is a strategy of hoping that something comes up.
But given the unpredictability of this election, that may not be the worst approach for the Brexit Party.
Watch the full interview with Sophy Ridge on Sky News at 8.30am on Sunday
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