A pact between the two right wing parties? I only see one
Many today have noted that the two right wing parties together topped 50 percent of the poll. But many UKIP supporters no longer see the Conservatives as a right wing party
Over the last year or two, a number of politicians and Conservative commentators have touted the idea that the Tories should do an electoral deal with UKIP, presumably taking the shape of both parties agreeing not to stand candidates in seats where the other party has a good chance of winning.
With the result in Eastleigh giving Cameron and his cabinet colleagues a huge headache this morning, those calls are likely to intensify over the weeks and months to come.
Almost everyone calling for a pact has reasoned that having two eurosceptic parties splits the eurosceptic vote, allowing pro-EU Labour and Lib Dems in through the gap. But that argument ignores the fact that much of UKIP’s support is not geared around the EU question specifically. Europe as an issue still features far down on voters’ lists of priorities, behind issues like the cost of living and immigration.
Quite apart from the fact that Cameron has destroyed his credibility on a referendum thanks to a certain 'cast iron promise', taking UKIP out of the equation won't necessarily hand the Tories their votes because UKIP supporters quite simply don't trust Cameron's Conservatives to deliver on their priority issues either. Last December Lord Ashcroft funded a poll exploring why UKIP's supporters like the party. 77 percent agreed with the statement: 'I agree with UKIP that Britain should leave the EU'. 80 percent agreed with the statement: 'UKIP seem to want to take Britain back to a time when things were done more sensibly'.
Many today have noted that the two right wing parties together topped 50 percent of the poll. But many UKIP supporters no longer see the Conservatives as a right wing party. 254 tax rises since 2010 point to abandonment of conservative fiscal values; gay marriage points to an abandonment of social conservatism.
A large number of former Conservatives now feel that UKIP is now the natural home for the conservative-minded, while many floating voters – the aspirational strivers that Thatcher appealed to so successfully in the 80s – are attracted by their straight-talking, 'on your side' message. The country may appear to be left-liberal from a ‘Westminster bubble’ viewpoint, but get out into the country at large and that view fades dramatically.
So in the event of any pact (which I find highly unlikely given the mood within UKIP today), a far more likely scenario is that UKIP supporters simply won't vote where there is no UKIP candidate, and as UKIP's supporters would feel betrayed by such a move, neither party would gain anything.
Far from UKIP preventing a Tory win in Eastleigh yesterday, it was in fact Tory votes that prevented UKIP from celebrating victory. Conservative-minded people should be asking themselves whether they want to support a party that only pays the remotest lip service to conservatism, or whether they want to support a party fully committed to delivering what the public want.
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