If you can't beat them, join them...
The long discussed Conservative-UKIP pact will today become more of a reality. The questions arise therefore, how, when and where?
It would be quite something if you hadn't already heard everything one could possibly hear about the impending UKIPocalypse set to befell the formerly denial-ridden Conservative Party.
From Murdoch meetings to dirty tactics, it seems the Tory-UKIP rollercoaster is determined, like most rollercoasters, to have us a) wondering how and why the hell we got on this ride and b) despite some vomit-inducing moments, hoping it will never stop.
But at some point it has to reach an equilibrium. That's not to say that the ride will be over, but that at least for a moment there might be some respite for Cameron's Conservatives and the left of the Tory party.
It's evidently not going to be this year, with the local elections and South Shield by-election today. It's not going to be 2014, when UKIP is expected to trounce its Tory counterparts again in the European Parliamentary elections. And many cannot fathom the idea of a culmination of combat operations between the two parties before the next General Election.
But for the Conservatives, it must be achieved.
Honest and obvious points aside (like the fact that UKIP couldn't win many, if any, seats at a General Election), the Tory machine must surely now be making the calculation, "When can we start talking to UKIP, and not look like hypocrites or buffoons?"
The answer to the question of course, is never. The Conservatives can never now not look like hypocrites or buffoons in dealing with UKIP. There will always be the inevitable, "I told you so" moment, and that is a pill that the Tories will just have to swallow.
UKIP votes may well have cost the Tories a majority at the last election. Surely the hither-to fingers-in-ears approach cannot continue to lead the party into electoral oblivion (again?). In and by 2015, there will be little other choice.
Yes, Conservatives could try to bank hard on a strong performance, at best scrape a small majority (I mean really, at best!) and at worst concede defeat in a Labour landslide. In reality we'll land somewhere between the two extremes. The details will doubtless be how much damage limitation the Tories can do. At that point, the scars of 2013 or 2014 will still be fresh - and a repeat will be avoided at nearly all costs.
By late 2014, if not earlier, Conservatives should be in talks with UKIP counterparts. The matter at hand will no doubt be where Conservatives and UKIP can give each other a 'free run'. And don't let its size fool you: UKIP will want some uncontested areas itself as a part of any deal.
I would suggest, in order to save much time, money, and hassle, the Tories withdraw from all but a few Scottish seats, allowing UKIP try its luck where Tories continue to suffer and expend pointless resources. Yes, sorry Scottish Conservatives, but how about you all focus your efforts on five seats north of the border this time. Who knows, you might actually win some - then we'll talk again in five years?
This plan is of course predicated on the fact that Scotland doesn't opt for independence (and subsequently declare nuclear war on the rest of us... with our own nukes).
In exchange for Scotland, UKIP could give Tories a thumbs up in Tory target seats like Birmingham Northfield, North East Derbyshire, Wirral South and a couple of dozen others.
To my mind, the strategy makes for a lot of fun, and at the same time, it makes political and strategic sense (that's my order of priority at least). Pitting UKIP against the SNP and Labour would make for one epic electoral brawl, allowing UKIP to rack up some alternative campaign experience and give Scottish voters an alternative to those two parties that isn't, "the bag o' shite Tories".
But of course it relies on whether or not Nigel Farage can tango with David Cameron, which so far he has said he's not willing to do. Whether Cameron is willing, as he should be, to drop the whole Guardian-grooming detoxification policy that landed him in bed with Clegg is doubtful too.
Neither of these two things look like they're currently on the cards, of course. But today is potentially the most exciting day in British politics for a very long time. And it should be a day that sharpens Tory minds to the old adage, "If you can't beat them, join them... er, if they'll have you, that is."
Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of TheCommentator.com. He tweets at @RaheemJKassam
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