Conservative Voice: UKIP votes

In the shape of "Conservative Voice", yet another Tory group has emerged designed to head off the electoral threat of UKIP

Don Porter at the launch of Conservative Voice (courtesy of ConHome)
Gawain Towler
On 11 September 2012 15:31

So can somebody please explain what is going on with this new improved internal Tory ginger group, the Vocal Conservative Fresh Enterprise Group? It's just that I am a little confused.

Late last year, with a small parp of a fanfaring trumpet, saw the launch of the Fresh Start Group (FSG). Headed by Chris Heaton Harris, Andrea Leadsom and George Eustice it is designed to create a Eurosceptic Grouping in the Tory Party, but allows others such as Kate Hoey to 'caucus' with it. (For 'Eurosceptic' read - we are worried about UKIP's poll ratings and we really need to be seen talking about these things.)

This is the same George Eustice who appeared on Newsnight to say, "UKIP were relevant 15 years ago. But, now we have a robust Eurosceptic as Prime Minister, they are irrelevant". He also wrote about the FSG on Con Home, saying

"The challenge now is to expand the principle so that more policies in the EU become optional and identifying those areas which ought to be returned to national parliaments is what the new group we have formed aims to achieve.  In short, we want to reverse the process of integration and create a new relationship between Britain and the EU."

So far so much chaff; reversing the process of integration is just not an option, all he has to do is talk to anybody in Brussels. The charming fiction of Cameron's robust euroscepticism caused at the time a combination of laughter at the gall and nausea at the sycophancy.

FSG is run by Duncan McCourt, who describes himself on LinkedIn as 'Fresh Start Project Director and Office Manager for Andrea Leadsom MP'. It claims to have over 100 adherents. Its website has been silent since the 21st of June.

Next up is the Free Enterprise Group (FEG). This one came with two parps on that bit of brass, and who do we see here? It is headed up by the recently promoted Ms Truss; but oh look, there is George, Chris and Andrea, only this time they have brought their friends, Dominic Raab, Priti Patel and a host of others.

And what does it have to say for itself? It is in favour of encouraging a competitive and free economic environment, raising the global economic standing of the United Kingdom, challenging monopolies and oligopolies, and freeing individuals to create, innovate and take risks.

Quite so Ms Truss, quite so. So why should the Tory Party need such a body, after all most of its members thought that they were the principles of the organisation they joined?

The answer is because it no longer has people who think that way at the top. Instead it needs this group to argue that small businesses are being crippled by red tape and so on. It also has a strong tinge of Euroscepticism, producing a paper on what to do when the Euro balloon goes up, 'Plan E: Preparing for Euro Exit'. Over all, very much on the Ukippy wing of the Conservatives.

Conservative Home has predictably fawned over this group.

Its website and activities have also been dormant over the summer and now that Ms Truss has moved to higher things its management must be called into question. Maybe its call for not merely a third but a fourth runway at Heathrow prompted the promotion?

And today we have the launch of Conservative Voice (CV). Oh brother. This one in the reportage is more specific in its purpose. As its founder Don Porter – who recently left Conservative Way Forward, an earlier incarnation of these groupsicles – says, "keen to win back former members and voters attracted to UKIP - and to start dealing with that party head-on".

This will be interesting since their main platform seems to be looking at the UKIP manifesto and trying to rebrand the UKIP policy platform as their own.

- Free Market Economy: deregulation, standing up for small businesses and entrepreneurs – Check.

- Social Mobility 'advocating equality of opportunity and encouraging aspiration to ensure that each individual, regardless of their background, can fulfil their aspirations by working hard and doing the right thing' - that'll be grammar schools – Check

- Reducing the state – Check.

- Standing up for the UK: Immigration controls and proper Law and Order – Check.

- On the EU: "reflecting the public's support for Britain as a sovereign nation state" – Errr yes; I think that that one is one of ours too.

They then have a rather sweet idea that they will be working together with all sorts of people to promote; just a shame that nobody at the top table is listening.

What all these groups have in common (apart from their personnel of course) is that they're all in their way an attempt to head off the electoral threat of UKIP. They all support motherhood and apple pie, and they are all coming to grief upon the rock that is the conviction of David, “'Britain must remain in the EU’, but you can cannot have a referendum on the idea”, Cameron.

The Conservative Party is currently at a loss about what to do. UKIP's poll ratings are slowly creeping up and are now hovering between 7 and 9 percent. In 2010 UKIP managed to pick up no seats at all, but collected just under a million votes on 3.1 percent. Under current polling it would win between 2 and 2.7million votes in a general election. These figures are made worse given that the next election is planned to be a year after a European election where the Eurosceptic Party is being tipped to win with up to or over 25 percent of the votes cast.

The Tory answer seems to be panic. To the outside world one can never be sure, but is Mr Eustice a member of the Peoples Liberation Front of Judea, or was he a member of the Judean Peoples Liberation Front? I really don't know.

Gawain Towler is the Press Officer for the UK Independence Party. Follow him on Twitter @GawainTowler

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