Why The Conservatives Must Do a Deal With UKIP in the National Interest
Cllr. Derek Tipp
After the last General Election the Conservative Party made a monumental decision to govern in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, a party with which the Conservatives shared little in common. The reason for this was said to be "in the national interest" - to provide stable government in order to tackle the financial crisis facing the country. Many members reluctantly accepted this decision, as it was at least a better alternative than a Labour-Lib Dem coalition. Now three years on many members are fed up with coalition as they see how much influence the junior partner is having, preventing the Conservatives from doing many of the things they might have done if governing alone.
Now we are facing another crisis. If the opinion polls are right we look like being defeated at the next election. True, we are not a massive way behind Labour, and the Lib Dems look like a spent force, but UKIP, who at the last election were at around 4% are now at around 16%. After the last election pollsters said that UKIP cost the Conservatives at least 30 seats; that figure must be at least trebled, meaning that we cannot win if things are left alone.
If a post election deal can be done with the Lib Dems, then why not a pre-election deal with UKIP, a party with which we have many things in common, indeed many of our own members are defecting to it? I suspect that the answer lies in the beliefs of those currently running the party which are actually much closer to those of the Liberal Democrats than those of UKIP. In this they are very different to those of the bulk of members.
Last Saturday when I attended the MEP selection meeting, the question of a deal with UKIP was one of the key questions that was asked of all the candidates and none were publicly prepared to come out and agree to such a proposition. When I tried to put the case to one of them in a question from the floor I was booed by members in the hall. And that was in a meeting where euro-scepticism was strong enough that Richard Ashworth, the leader of the Conservatives in the EU parliament failed to win the approval of over 60% of those present. So clearly there is considerable opposition within the grass roots as well as the leadership.
I am in no doubt that we would have to give a good deal to UKIP to gain their trust and support and this is hard to do, but the prize is a potentially strong, right of centre government. The alternative is to see Ed Miliband in power, setting the country in totally the wrong direction with high spending and moving closer to the EU. This is the real stark choice. It is that simple!
It is all very well remaining pure, and holding up our noses at the idea of doing a deal with Mr Farage, but as Francis Maude once said "we are a party of power". I take it that he meant that we must be prepared to make compromises to gain power, and he was right.
Conservative Councillor and Deputy Chairman, New Forest East