Craig Barrett 3.59pm
This whole hoo-hah over an electoral pact with UKIP is a pile of old nonsense. The Conservative party does not need a pact with them; it needs to tackle them head on and dispose of them (like our other opponents).
First of all, UKIP has zero MPs and thus zero influence. In order to make any jot of difference to this country’s relationship with the EU, they would need to defeat all three hundred or so of our MPs and cobble together the rest from the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party. We can conclude safely enough that this is not going to happen. One of David Cameron’s failings is in taking a line to the electorate and sticking to it, but this is one he must be clear on: UKIP is a wasted protest vote that will make no dent on the electoral map.
Secondly, there is no sensible evidence whatsoever that shows UKIP takes more votes from the Tories than it does from other political parties. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: UKIP is a home for the disaffected. It is a franchise organisation of people in search of somewhere to go because their views no longer fit in the mainstream. That or they’ve been de-selected. If their activists didn’t have UKIP, they’d soon find somewhere else from where to campaign.
Thirdly, UKIP is a vanity organisation with merely one recognisable face – when have you seen anyone else represent UKIP on Question Time? So much for their current claim to be the third party. Its leader and former Tory activist, Nigel Farage, is clever and charismatic but ultimately powerless. Moreover, he is lazy, preferring to make blue-moon grandstanding speeches attacking Herman van Rompuy than turn up to work on a regular basis. He has one of the worst attendance records of any MEP.
Fourthly, a pact with UKIP would be a golden gift to our opponents because it permits them to paint the Conservative party as irascibly right-wing. The Liberal Democrats might be utterly wrong about Europe but that shall not stop them representing their Europhilia as “standing up for Britain in Europe”, and our alliance with UKIP as a coalition of the frothing mad.
What’s more, has anyone ever bothered to read UKIP’s policies (or those that exist)? They are ludicrous, with even more fantastical views on fiscal power than the Labour party.
Britain would be better off out of the EU because it is an enormous black hole for our cash, propping up increasingly inefficient foreign countries and a bureaucracy that revels in excess (Chateau Angelus for a summit meeting, anyone?). Yet we are where we are. In Europe, for the moment at least.
Elections are won from the centre ground, not on the fringes, but that should not stop Mr Cameron from adopting a sensible yet firm European policy and above all getting the very best deal for Britain. That is largely his goal and was certainly the write up he has received following last week’s EU budget negotiations. Evidently, the very best hope of a good deal from Europe is to re-elect a Conservative government. If UKIP were serious about our position in Europe, that is what they would campaign for.
Voting for UKIP, on the other hand, can only ensure the election of pro-EU MPs. What is allowing UKIP to gain an apparent foothold in the country at large is not their people, performance or policies, which are largely B-rate, erratic and berserk; it is a perception that the Conservative party is drifting without a coherent European policy.
Fix that and there’s no need even to entertain something so abhorrent as an electoral pact with UKIP.
Follow Craig on Twitter @mrsteeduk