It will be difficult for the Tories to win in 2015 without UKIP; with them, it would be impossible
November 26, 2012 1 Comment
By Alex Bryan
Ever since UKIP emerged as a credible political party under the tutelage of Nigel Farage, talk of some kind of agreement or pact with the Conservative party has never been far from the lips of columnists. It is only recently however that both sides have begun to speak of such a possibility in a serious way. Michael Fabricant MP, Conservative vice-chair for Parliamentary Campaigning said this week that he would like to have a ‘discussion’ with UKIP. The most popular suggestion for an arrangement between the parties appears to be an agreement that UKIP will not run in the 2015 election, and that in exchange there will be an in-out referendum on the EU.
Nigel Farage has immediately distanced himself from such talk, saying that ‘it’s war’ between the two parties. However, considering the current popularity of UKIP (specifically amongst disillusioned Conservative voters), Farage has no need currently to publically say that such an option is on the table.
As the election draws closer though, it would be no surprise if UKIP hands begin to twitch. For all the talk of the rise of UKIP from laughing stock to serious party, they are still polling in single figures. The chance of them gaining a significant number of seats is small. They are also dependent upon the continuation of the Eurozone crisis in order to maintain their popularity; while Greece will not be stable by 2015, it may well be by 2020. The perfect storm has been raging for 5 years, yet UKIP are still a minor party. It will not rage much longer, and the party must face reality. An alliance of some kind with the Conservative party is their best chance of achieving their central policy.
So what of the Conservatives? As polls show Labour 11 points ahead, as the economy continues to flag, as the boundary review is thrown into the long grass and as ‘omnishambles’ is named word of the year, an increasing number of commentators are beginning to wonder whether the Conservatives can hope to beat Labour without UKIP. Indeed, the combined total of Conservative and UKIP polling figures suggests an alliance would significantly narrow the difference of popularity between the two parties.
Despite this, it would be a grave mistake for the Conservative party to make an alliance with UKIP in the next election. Though the polling gap between Labour and the Conservatives becomes tantalisingly close once the UKIP vote is added to the existing Tory total, this does not mirror reality. There are a significant number of Conservative voters who used to vote for Labour when Tony Blair was leader, and this demographic would be immediately turned off by a pact. UKIP’s Euro-scepticism may be a policy which many agree with, but it must be remembered how radically right-wing many of their domestic and social policies are, particularly on law and order and defence.
By agreeing to any pact with UKIP, the Conservatives would immediately be seen as endorsing some of the same domestic policies as UKIP. It has become fashionable for some conservative commentators to suggest that the way for the Conservatives to win the next election is to emphasise traditionally conservative policies – in effect, to more to the right. However, to do this would be to make the same mistake that the Republicans made in the U.S. elections. The Conservative party must remember why they do not have the same policies as UKIP – because the British public at large is no longer supportive of such policies.
As a political entity, the Conservative party is the most enduring force in Britain. Part of the reason for this is that it has shifted as popular opinion has. To attempt to gain a parliamentary majority by making a pact with UKIP would not only be unsuccessful, but would also show a highly inaccurate analysis of the political climate. The best chance the party has of winning in 2015 is by concentrating on discrediting Ed Miliband and Ed Balls and on the economy. The more the Conservative party flirts with UKIP, the further it gets from a majority.