Saturday, May 05, 2012
John Redwood points out, again, that UKIP is unlikely to form a government and take us out of the EU. This is obviously true. At the same time, the Coalition is just as unlikely to take us out of the EU, or even secure any repatriation of powers. The defection of Eurosceptic activists from the Conservative Party to UKIP has weakened the anti-Brussels tendency within the ranks of the governing party without strengthening an alternative party of government... I'll say it one more time: the way forward is through a Canada-style Unite the Right accord. Both sides would stand to gain. UKIP would get its In/Out referendum; the Conservatives would be far more likely to be in power. Much more important, the United Kingdom would be wealthier, freer and more democratic.When most Tories talk about uniting they mean UKIP getting the promise of a referendum ("cast iron and this time you can trust us" I assume) and thus all signing up as loyal Tories.
The first problem with this is that it isn't going to happen. UKIP are no longer merely an anti-EU lobby. We have a wide range of policies completely at variance with the Conservatives - seriously cutting government and the deficit; new nuclear; a right to referendums; a transport policy not based on subsidising rail; not starting foreign wars; scepticism about alleged catastrophic warming; proportional representation etc.
This divergence can only increase since Lord Monckton is committed to ensuring we have the best policies of any party.
To whom in that position would giving the Tories a blank cheque, even under a new leader, be an attractive option?
The 2nd and even bigger problem is that it wouldn't work.
According to John Curtice (on the BBC but he is a respected academic), where UKIP gets above ten per cent, the Conservative vote falls by five per cent.That means that UKIP are picking up a fair number of non-Tory voters. If I've got my arithmetic right that implies we picj up one vote from Labour, the party the Tories % is measured against, for every 3 Tories. If UKIP were to fold they would go back to Labour. The Tories need a lot more than 50% of the UKIP vote to beat Labour now.
Worse than that is what the abysmal 28% turnout implies. Labour's vote has not increased, if anything it is falling. What has happened is that the LibDem/Tory vote is visibly collapsing. Their supporters are staying home not voting Labour. Only a minority, so far, are moving to UKIP, though that could well change as, with gathering momentum, we look ever more capable of winning. If UKIP folded it would not persuade a single one of these stay at homes to vote - in fact it might well increase the cynicism.
So is there a way out?
I think so. Taking a lesson from British politics at the last big realignment. The Liberal/SDP Alliance. Toy Jenkins had originally suggested he join the Liberals but David Steel persuaded him that an Alliance between the Liberals and SDP would attract much more attention. Despite the fact that it ended in tears when David Owen took his ball home it worked very well for several years. The Alliance consistently polled as the most popular group, moreso than the Tories or Labour and on occasion more than both combined.
It failed because in the end it had nothing new to offer and Labour, after 15 years, came out of their pseudo-Marxist sulk. In the end there is no substitute for competence and standing for what people want.
However if the Tories want to win the next election they will have to choose a full hearted electoral Alliance with UKIP. More than that it will have to be committed to sensible policies, not the destruction of 80% of our electric capacity and the lies about catastrophic warming the currrent Conservatives are.
There are steps in the right direction.
Senior right-wingers David Davis and John Redwood will issue an "alternative Queen's Speech" reflecting traditional Conservative values, calling for an end to "wind-turbine Toryism".
On the one hand this is a responsible act - 2 former leadership candidates saying exactly what the alternative is. Not merely carping but offering a reasoned alternative. I very much doubt if Ed Miliband, the official Leader of the Opposition is capable of constucting a similarly coherent programme - he certainly hasn't so far. On the other hand it is a direct challenge to the current leadership. If they produce a good programme and knowing Redwood I think they will, and Cameron doesn't then he is deservedly toast.
But if, once the Tories have got rid of Cameron they think they can just go back to business as usual and the electorate will wear it they will fail at the ballot box.
Indeed even if a UKIP/Conservative Alliance were formed it would have to unflinchingly commit to not only get out of recession but also into at least world average growth or, even combined, they might well fail.
And succeed or come close it they wanted to stay.