October 12, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
We are about to find out the extent to which the Conservative Party believe in power over all else. We are about to find out how many of their Conservative principles they are willing to abandon in order to keep their place in number 10 Downing Street. I almost want to close my eyes and not see the outcome, so concerned am I by the thought of a Conservative-UKIP election pact. This is not because I disagree with everything UKIP says, but because I believe David Cameron disagrees with most of what UKIP says, and the only reason for him to agree to the suggested pact is purely so that he can keep power. Sometimes, as a political party leader, you need to make a decision that upholds the principles of what YOU believe in, even if it means you temporarily lose the balance of power.
Because let’s be clear, what some right-wing backbench MPs are suggesting does make electoral sense. Here’s how it would work: In most of the constituencies in the North of England, the Conservatives have little chance of winning a seat. UKIP DO have a chance, as shown by what happened in Heywood and Middleton, where UKIP almost won, partly due to the almost complete collapse of the Conservative and Lib Dem votes. Now, it may be that Labour lost votes to UKIP but gained votes from Left-wing Lib Dem voters. But the fact is that the Labour vote actually ROSE there, and that UKIP would have won the seat had the Conservatives not fielded a candidate there. UKIP has a message that resonates with voters in constituencies suffering with unemployment and low wages. It may not be very palatable, being that immigration and the EU is to blame, but it is a message that resonates. So the Conservatives would step aside and not challenge for seats there. In return, UKIP would step aside and not challenge for seats in Conservative heartlands in the South, East and rural areas, where a vote for UKIP could let Labour win.
The result of this could be spectacular. If it works as it could possibly work the Conservatives could win all the marginal seats they are targeting in their heartlands and UKIP could win up to 30 or 40 seats they are targeting in Labour heartlands. Both could concentrate their resources on targeting Labour, not each other, and could end up with something nearing 350 or more seats together, a workable majority for a government. Many MPs would be in Parliament under the Conservative-UKIP ticket, but they won’t mind, as they are in Parliament.
So far so electorally good. But at what price? UKIP’s policies are about populism. They are not deliverable. We cannot unilaterally pull out of the EU, we cannot stop EU migrants coming here. We should not withdraw all foreign aid, we should not be trying to implement flat taxes, and we cannot isolate ourselves from the international community in the way that Nigel Farage will be demanding if he holds the balance of power in Government. They DO provide a voice and representation for the dispossessed in a way that Labour can’t (partly due to their refusal to link the cost of living crisis with the fall in wages caused by uncontrolled immigration), and it would be no bad thing to have this voice and representation in Parliament. But in government? Deputy PM Nigel Farage (although he has mentioned Europe Minister)? Is that really a price David Cameron wants to pay?
I think that patience is needed. Patience to stay in or near the centre of UK politics. Patience not to be pulled so far to the right that you create another generation, after those that lived through the Thatcher years, who will never vote Conservative again. Most of all the patience to remember that to be conservative is not to fix things that aren’t broken, but to keep government and politics stable. UKIP point to problems that really exist, but solutions that are undeliverable, and if the Conservatives attach themselves to their ship they really could sail off into an irretrievable political distance.