Brussels Diary: Tickled by a Tory-UKIP election pact Edition

If someone as smart as Dan Hannan is making noises about a possible pact then the Tories must be a little scared. Now that Clegg has killed boundary changes, the next General Election might be rather fun

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Daniel Hannan (centre) pounds the pavements during election season
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Alexandra Swann
On 17 August 2012 10:44

This has been rather a wonderful week because for the first time in months I have spent a bit of time with my father, wandering and eating in Barcelona. I flew home Tuesday evening and it is utterly brilliant to be home, see friends and do a bit of work.

The Europarl autumn term starts in two weeks and I cannot wait -- time off is great, I'm sure, but I miss working and am not entirely comfortable with taxpayers, including myself, paying me for a five week fully funded holiday. Unfortunately, despite the entire parliament being on holiday, they have still found time to send 34 million euros to Algeria in the name of climate change.

The world is cooling, energy prices are pushing thousands into fuel poverty, but the fight against "man made global warming" never sleeps.

The one thing that has tickled me this week is the idea of a Tory-UKIP election pact.

This is interesting on two levels; the Tories are a touch scared about losing “their” votes to us. The fact that we have not accepted such a poisoned chalice illustrates that UKIP are far more than Tories in exile. Having just been selected to stand for a Surrey County Council seat next May, where the proverbial donkey with a blue rosette could win, I find this vaguely amusing. 

In Surrey, a full 16 wards went uncontested at the last local election. Of the 50+ council seats, every single one (aside from one independent) is Conservative. Needless to say, following this selection, when I went to pick my father up from Farnham Conservative Club the reception was not entirely friendly -- Farnham Tories do not want their complacency to be challenged -- but within five minutes eight people, ostensibly Conservatives, had promised to not only vote for me but deliver UKIP leaflets.

We are putting up candidates in every ward and I think we have a pretty good chance of taking a few; a main street in Farnham is being redeveloped without consulting local residents, the Conservative Councillors don't take enough interest in the views of their constituents to turn up to meetings, and UKIP's policy of local referenda on planning issues appeals.

Dan Hannan, undoubtedly the best of the Tory MEPs, has written often about the possibility of a Tory/UKIP deal or coalition in the past and has now ramped up his campaign in a TV interview.

Of course, most real conservatives (note small “c”) becalmed in the Tories find UKIP policies closer to their hearts than those of their own party today – grammar schools, lower taxes, national sovereignty – but unfortunately the first past the post system does not favour smaller political parties.

It is natural that Conservatives such as Dan would want an alliance with UKIP rather than sandal wearing, vegetarian, Guardian reading Liberal “Democrats”, but unfortunately many Conservative voters from my home town vote Conservative by default due to a combination of nostalgia for a Thatcherite Party that has long since died and from being brought up by Conservative parents.

UKIP will probably top the 2014 Euro elections but this is not enough. We need to take on Westminster and the now dropped proposed boundary changes have thrown up a peculiar situation. 

There was a strong handful of Conservative MPs considering defecting to UKIP – Tory MPs who were due to lose their seats as a result of the changes, and thus had nothing to lose by being honest– but now they have been shelved this probably will not happen.

Sitting MPs want to keep their seats; fair enough. But although this might seem bad for UKIP actually it might work out rather well.

We are currently polling between six and 10 percent; there are over 100 constituencies where the difference between the two largest parties is between six and 10 percent, ignoring the inevitable collapse of the Lib Dems, and 60 percent of Tory members in a recent Con Home poll have said they would rather have a deal with UKIP than the current coalition.

The ur-Cameroon, Matthew D'Ancona, has already highlighted the danger that UKIP's recent success poses to the Tory party if the boundary changes fail to go through. Writing in the Standard this week he pointed out, "Without the boundary review that would have delivered the Tories 15 to 20 extra seats, Cameron is bound to be more receptive than usual to warnings that he dare not risk a UKIP surge in marginal constituencies".

If the boundary changes do go through, we may gain a few defections but if they don’t we will put the fear of God into around 100 Tory MPs. Win, win.

If someone as smart as Dan Hannan is making such noises about a possible pact then the Tories must be a little scared. Now that Clegg has killed boundary changes, the next General Election might be rather fun.

Alexandra Swann lives and works in Brussels as a Parliamentary Assistant for a UKIP MEP. She is an active member of UKIP and works for the EP solely to ensure its inevitable demise. Alexandra tweets at @alexandralswann

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