If UKIP is the insurgent, we need a counter insurgency

If UKIP is the insurgency, we need a counter insurgency. Attacking UKIP as clowns, or sneering because their fiscal plans might not add up, will not do

UKIP: On the rise
Douglas Carswell MP
On 3 May 2013 08:33

We Conservatives need to be cool. I don't mean in a Notting Hill, get-down-with-the-kids kind of way. We need to be cool in the sense of level headed.

What happened in yesterday's election is big. It has all sorts of implications for the General Election in 24 months’ time.

It is not fundamentally about personnel. Ignore malcontents who whisper that this is all about David Cameron. It isn't. Seeking to repeat the catastrophe of November 1990 will make us less, not more, electable.

"We must beef up policy X" Boodle tells us. "No. It's all about being tougher on Y" insists Doodle. No it isn't. Even if Better Off Outers like me managed to get the rest of the party to agree to campaign for EU exit this week, we would not solve the problem.

Why? Our problem is plausibility, not policy.

For too many people, both Labour and the Conservatives seem to be two sides of the same debased political currency. Both parties seem to be run as Westminster-based operations, with a handful of local franchises.

Both seem to select candidates who speak and think in the same way. On many of the big issues of the day – public service reform, the role of the state, EU membership – it is hard to spot the difference.

UKIP is a reaction to the lack of authenticity amongst the smug, politics-as-usual elite who rule Westminster.

If UKIP is the insurgency, we need a counter insurgency. Attacking UKIP as clowns, or sneering because their fiscal plans might not add up, will not do.

Digital technology ought to allow us to organise locally for campaigns, bringing together bands of activists for that purpose. So why is the party still run as a large, costly to run, standing army, with little to do between elections?

There are over a quarter of a million folk on Facebook and Twitter who say they are Conservatives. So does party membership mean having to pay £25 and meet in a golf club? Why not have a £1-a-year iMembership? And why not let iMembers vote to decide candidate shortlists and vote for the party board?

Why not, come to think of it, invite all those voters to have a say in choosing who gets to be the Tory candidate in the first place? How many more by election defeats must we Conservatives have before we use an open primary to ensure our candidate has a head start?

What if our candidates started to run as the anti-SW1, anti-politics-as-usual candidates?

UKIP is, tweeted the Telegraph's Chris Deerin, "a rejection of a certain way of doing politics by a certain type of politics".  So let's change it.

Douglas Carswell is the Conservative Memeber of Parliament for Clacton. This article originally appeared on talkcarswell.com

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