How Cameron could shoot UKIP’s fox

… and why he probably won’t

There is a rift in the Conservative Party.  A fissure.  A gully.  A chasm.  A canyon.  A gap so wide it potentially represents an existential threat to the Party, and perhaps justifies radical action.

I speak of course about the gap between the leader and the led, between CCHQ and the grass roots.  I believe I’m in touch with grass roots opinion.  Three times over the years I’ve been selected as an MEP by Party members in the East Midlands, who largely agree with me about Europe, and more recently about energy and climate change.  An overwhelming majority want a more arms-length relationship with Brussels, while many, like me, believe we’d be Better Off Out entirely.

I have argued for years that despite appearances, the Party is fundamentally eurosceptic.  That we sceptics are better off staying in it and fighting our corner from within.  That eventually we’d get a leader who would get a grip on the issue.  I had high hopes of Hague (who now seems to have gone native), and then of IDS (who is doing great things on welfare but is no longer a standard-bearer on Europe).  Then along came Cameron, whom I supported in the Leadership election, in part because he guaranteed to take Tory MEPs out of the federalist EPP.  He delivered on that promise, albeit belatedly.

But he broke his “Cast-Iron Guarantee” on an EU referendum.  His administration has been handing powers willy-nilly to Brussels.  We’ve had the Veto-That-Never-Was — and seemingly he’s failed to learn the lesson from that surge in the polls that greeted the news.  And he’s sat across a table from me and told me face-to-face that he doesn’t want an EU referendum “because he believes that the UK is better off in the EU”.  That proposition is wrong twice over.  First, he shouldn’t deny the British people a referendum on a major constitutional issue because he fears he’ll get a result he doesn’t like.  And second, of course, the costs of membership hugely exceed any potential benefits, and we’d be Better Off Out.

Conservative Party members in the region have long been bewildered and frustrated by the dissonance between the party and the leadership, but felt there was little they could do about it.  But recently, I’m hearing on the ground of formerly loyal members giving up in despair, leaving the Party and going to the United Kingdom Independence Party.  This is perhaps reflected in UKIP’s opinion poll ratings, now in high single figures, an exceptional level outside the euro-election season.

And it’s not just Europe.  Energy (and wind farms) have become a big issue, and the Coalition’s policies are causing huge anger in the shires.  It’s good that Chris Huhne has gone from DECC, that 101 MPs have demanded a cut in on-shore wind subsidies, that the Treasury is reportedly concerned about green subsidies.  But the EU’s renewables targets, and the infamous Climate Change Act, are still on the Statute Book, and despoiling our countryside while they undermine our economy and drive families into fuel poverty.

Peter Oborne has described UKIP as “The Conservative Party in exile”, and it’s true that on Europe and on energy, their stance resonates with instinctive conservatives.  And not just the EU and energy.  Their positions on defence, immigration, “human rights”, HS2, local planning and a range of other issues appeal to conservatives outside the M25.  UKIP will do well in the 2014 euro-elections.  There are many Conservatives, including party officials and elected members, who would always vote Conservative in General Elections, but are perfectly happy to vote UKIP in the euros.  I remember two Conservative councillors who openly admitted to me that they’d voted UKIP.  I asked if I weren’t eurosceptic enough for them.  “Oh yes, Roger, you’re all right” they replied, “but we’re sending a message to Central Office”.  It seems that the message hasn’t got through yet.

We still have time to put things right.  As I believe Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell have argued, if the Conservative Party goes into the next General Election with a firm commitment to an EU referendum, Cameron can shoot UKIP’s fox.  But it will be a tough job to convince the electorate of our sincerity, after the long trail of broken promises from all major parties on referenda.  To persuade voters, we may need legislation ahead of the election.  In any case I doubt this will happen — Cameron, as noted above, has set his face against an in/out referendum.

As long as Cameron continues to consider the prejudices of Guardian readers ahead of the convictions of his party members, I fear the haemorrhage will continue.

This article first appeared on ConservtiveHome

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7 Responses to How Cameron could shoot UKIP’s fox

  1. Roger Helmer said: “But it will be a tough job to convince the electorate of our sincerity,”

    When you’ve been lied to, and been deceived, as much as we have, it is too late. Sorry.

    I’m far from convinced that UKIP is a viable alternative but maybe if some quality figures were to join it, it might change.

  2. Malcolm Edward says:

    I agree.
    Cameron threw away the last election, and it looks like he’s going to throw away the next election because too many policies (but not all) are too much a continuation of New Labour.
    Owing to electoral inertia, it is likely the conservative party will get more votes than UKIP, so it is all the more important that the conservative party has a genuinely euro-sceptic, climate-sceptic, immigration controlling, pro-British leader before then.

  3. Phil H says:

    Roger – you are 100% correct. I first voted Tory in 87 just after I turned 18. I have been a loyal supporter of the party until Cameron hi-jacked the party. I am in despair at what is happening to this country and the lies and deceit emanating from Cameron. I have given up and joined UKIP. I really dont care if it lets in Labour. What difference will it make?
    You forgot to mention that the only area that the goverment has been rigorous in cutting is Defence – the one area that urgently needs extra spending.
    A word of advice – sensible patriotic policies on the EU, immigration, defence etc would massively appeal to the “patriotic working class”. This massive constituency is desperate for change and leadership and are instinctive Tory voters. Cameron is trying to appeal to “soft left” Guardian readers who will never vote Tory and comprise of an insigniificant percentage of the electorate. PLUS as you said all the UKIP voters (like myself would come back).
    Cameron is a lying Europhile traitor. Start plotting Roger – he needs to be removed. Your country needs you.

  4. Peter Hulme Cross says:

    Absolutely right, Roger.
    The so called ‘UKIP effect’ where people voting for UKIP have denied seats to the Tories that they might otherwise have won has certainly influenced the outcome of the last two elections and may well be part of the reason the Conservatives didn’t win outright last time and now find themselves saddled with the Coalition with the LIb-Dems.
    Another part of the reason is Cameron himself and his ‘modernising’ team fighting every constituency, even ‘true blue’ ones, as though they were a marginal, putting off Conservative voters (with a capital C) who didn’t bother to vote for him.
    Also, support for him dropped off consistently after he reneged on his ‘cast iron’ guarantee of a referendum on the LIsbon Treaty.

    A more intelligent leader would have taken these points on board and changed tack. Cameron is too full of himself, thinks he knows all the answers, and doesn’t listen to anyone outside his ‘modernising’ team. If enough pressure was brought to bear he might change but I doubt it because it wouldn’t be from conviction. He really needs to be replaced, preferably before the next election, but I don’t see that happening either. It’s all very depressing!!

  5. leg says:

    DC’s dead at the next election, I hate that slimy lying twat!

    If we get another hung parliament it’ll be between UKIP and the Cons, no-one’s going to elect Milliband to lead. How the hell could DC loose to him?

    I don’t trust DC on the IV Reich, where the hell is our Churchill, the Churchill for our generation?!

  6. OGGA1 says:

    Roger heard you speak in Louth Linc’s,very good.
    As for Lab,Lib,Con the three in one party,the unholy trinity, extensions of the E.U,no thanks.
    Although in one respect they have made it easy for the electorate, if you are pro E.U then it’s
    Lab/Lib/Con if anti E.U it’s U.K.I.P.
    OGGA1.

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