WELL, at least we know where we stand. The Conservative Party is now officially the Brexit party following Nigel Farage’s “unilateral” electoral pact with Boris Johnson.

Whether it really was unilateral is something historians will debate for many moons. Mr Johnson appears to have been doing a bit of unilateral pacting himself in advance of the announcement.

The PM let it be known that he will die in a ditch rather than allow the UK to remain under EU regulatory guidance after 2020, or accept anything other than a Canada Dry trade deal. Mr Johnson’s offers to expire in ditches have not exactly been honoured greatly in the past, but it was enough for Mr Farage to stand down his troops.

However, he is now hoist on his own Brexit petard. If Mr Farage is trying to keep the “Marxist surrender monkey” out of Downing Street, why is the Brexit Party only standing down in the seats that don’t matter to the result? Safe seats are, well, safe.

If the Brexit Party leader really wants to defeat Jeremy Corbyn, he should surely be standing down in marginal Labour seats. The Conservatives have to win these in order to secure a parliamentary majority and “get Brexit done”.

This is the paradox of electoral pacts. The logic of standing down in a greater cause, like Brexit, is that you really shouldn’t be standing in the first place. If all the parties were to seek optimum advantage by tactically standing down then we’d end up with elections fought only in the handful of marginal swing seats that make a difference in elections.

It’s not just the Tories who are forming pacts – all of the parties are at it right now. The Remain alliance, covering 60 constituencies, has Greens and Plaid Cymru standing down, mostly, to help the Liberal Democrats. The ostensible reason, once again, is that Brexit is too important to be left to party politics.

But this Remain alliance was halted abruptly at the Border. This is because of historic enmity between the SNP and Jo Swinson, which trumps Remain. It is an antipathy shared by the Scottish Greens who have reportedly decided not to stand in North East Fife to help the SNP’s Stephen Gethins fight off the Liberal DemoRATs, as some call them.

The LibDems “can’t be trusted” not to go into another pact with the hated Tories, as in 2010. The Greens are also not standing in Perth to help the SNP MP Pete Wishart cling on.

But where does all this leave the voters? Well, at the end of the queue once the political parties have decided when and where they are allowed to vote for the parties they support.

Environmentally-minded voters in North East Fife have been deprived of the right to vote for the Greens. Yet they may be extremely disenchanted with the Scottish Government’s handling of climate change.

Indeed, they might agree with the Scottish Green Party leader Patrick Harvie that the SNP is “not to be trusted” with the environment because of its addiction to North Sea Oil. Who do they vote for now?

“Aye, but it’s all about not splitting the indy vote,” says the chorus of voices on Twitter. Both the Greens and the SNP support an independent Scotland therefore, to nationalists, the logic seems obvious that the “wee Greenies” should just get out of the way.

But what if the Unionist parties said this? What if Labour and the Conservatives said that in this General Election it’s too important for the future of the United Kingdom to allow the Unionist vote to be split?

After all, Nicola Sturgeon is saying that this election is about delivering a “mandate” for a second independence referendum. For many voters, the Union is as important, or even more important, than party allegiance.

I admit that an electoral pact between the Scottish Tories and Scottish Labour stretches credulity to breaking point – the Labour constitution supposedly rules out such pacts. But if the Tories and Labour decided to revive the Better Together alliance, they could reap rich mutual rewards.

The Conservatives could hold their 13 seats and add seats like Argyll and Perth. If the Tories stood down – or just didn’t campaign – Labour could slaughter the SNP in a heap of marginals in central Scotland, like Airdrie, East Kilbride, Edinburgh North and Leith.

The SNP would take a huge hit. It might be enough to rule out any repeat referendum on independence for a generation. Indeed, perhaps I shouldn’t be giving them ideas.

But as I say, a Unionist pact between Labour and the Tories is not going to happen. However, something not dissimilar is happening over Brexit.

Many voters agree with Mr Farage that Mr Johnson’s deal is “not Brexit”. How many times has he said it? The Johnson deal is actually worse than Theresa May’s deal, according to the Brexit Party leader, because it puts a border in the Irish Sea, alienates the Democratic Unionist Party and keeps Britain under the thumb of the European Court of Justice in any future trade deal.

Unionist voters who don’t like Mr Johnson’s Brexit now have nowhere to go. Same with Remain Tories who don’t want to vote for their now-hard-Brexit Tory Party.

Electoral pacts are, in effect, a form of gerrymandering – which means divvying up parliamentary constituencies to create artificial majorities for one or other political party. This is usually done through manipulating electoral boundaries, but suppressing voters’ rights to vote for their party of choice comes to much the same thing. Moreover, electoral pacts, by narrowing choice, serve to turbocharge the very polarisation of politics that bishops and leader writers deplore, day in day out, in homilies about our divided society.

The Brexit Party has made England even more Brexity by forcing the Tories to concede a harder Brexit than they might otherwise. In Scotland, electoral pacts would polarise politics around the national question.

Of course, parties often have to form coalition pacts with their political opponents after elections, as in Spain where the Socialists and Podemos have just joined together. That involves compromise, cynical deals and horse trading.

But that is after the voters have had their say, not before. When political parties strike electoral pacts they effectively disenfranchise many voters. That is not democracy; that is vote-rigging.

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