Friday, November 23, 2007

Iain Dale fails to understand what drives UKIP...again

Iain Dale at times comes across a little bit like Mary Whitehouse. He pretends time and time again to be above any consideration of UKIP, but like a dog returning to its own vomit he cannot help himself. In the Telegraph today he is trying to discern viable strategy for the Conservatives to handle the electoral threat posed by the party.

Stealing other parties' policies is almost de rigueur for politicians nowadays. Gordon Brown is the busiest magpie of all: none the less I suggest that David Cameron looks to the Lib Dems to steal a policy that might mean the difference between being the largest party in a hung parliament and being prime minister of a government with a Conservative majority.

Fair point, the only honourable theft is the political theft of clothes. That being said I can see the EU coming up with some regulation banning Intellectual Property theft in the field of politics.

For a decade, the Tories have struggled to develop a strategy to minimise the threat from the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). In both 2001 and 2005, UKIP's presence in marginals is estimated to have cost the Conservatives between 20 and 30 seats. If that were to happen in 2009 or 2010, it might mean the difference between a hung parliament and an overall majority, or even the difference between a hung parliament and a Labour majority.
Again Mr Dale is right in his analysis, given that the Tories won the popular vote in England but not the majority of seats, the existence of 600,000 votes going to UKIP had a serious effect on plenty of key marginals. For this to happen again in the event of a tight election the Tories have to think of something

One thing the Conservatives have learnt is that you can never appease UKIP. No matter how Euro-sceptic you appear, it wants only one thing - withdrawal from the EU. Nothing else matters. You can argue with it until you are blue in the face that, if it puts up candidates in Labour marginals, it will only achieve the increased likelihood of a Europhile government. But it can't see beyond its short-term blinkers.
I love his use of the word appeasement. As if UKIP were a bunch of Hitlerites bent on world domination. The clue of course is in the name Iain. United Kingdom INDEPENDENCE Party. Unlike the political class so memorably flayed by Peter Oborne UKIP actually believes in what it says and will not compromise its core belief. Maybe if he understood that he and other members of the Tory glitterati might understand why the old parties are held in such contempt. Driven by focus groups and riven by professional fear of failure they sway with the breeze. UKIP however is nothing if it does not stick to its core principle. That of National self-determination, an honourable cause. Yes we are building an interesting portfolio of other policies (remember which party called for an abolition of inheritance tax Iain, another policy nicked), but today all policies by national political parties are circumscribed by EU regulation and Directive, thus are inherently transient. Not so UKIP. The jockeying with ideas about how to gain short term electoral credit by countering the UKIP threat, vis-a-vis UKIP's stated position is rank hypocrisy. UKIP's position, working for almost no gain and shouldering the antagonism of bien pensant opinion because we believe that our country should govern ourselves is in its essence a long term view. We do not expect to pick up ministerial limos, we do not have sinecures in our gift, but we give up our time and money to fight for what we believe. Only about thirty members of UKIP receive any money for what we do. What do you do Mr Dale?

UKIP's leader, Nigel Farage, has said he will not put up candidates against MPs and candidates from other parties who sign up to the Better Off Out campaign, but even then he adds that UKIP will stand down only if it judges the candidate to be genuine. How nice of it.
Here I quote Simon Richards of The Freedom Association that runs Better Off Out, "For the record, contrary to Iain's assertion, Nigel Farage's support for the BETTER OFF OUT campaign has been unequivocal. Mr. Farage should be congratulated for agreeing without condition not to stand against the (mostly Conservative) MPs who have had the guts to sign up to BETTER OFF OUT. His actions will not only help a number of Conservatives in marginal seats but demonstrate a readiness to put country before party which Iain should applaud." The point is of course and Iain knows this all too well, those who are already sitting MP's have put country before personal gain. Cameron's pledge to refuse for promotion anybody who signed the declaration proves their honest intentions. However those who are candidates are not covered. It would not be the first time that a politician has lied to get elected. And he claims that UKIP are naive!

Since David Cameron became leader, he has tried to avoid the European issue dominating political debate. It is only the European constitution that has encouraged him to speak. Which rather makes the point.

When he talked about Europe it has been equivocal, apart from when he and his team lied about
leaving the EPP (in weeks not months or years remember)

He - alone among the three party leaders - has re-committed his party to holding a referendum on the European reform treaty.
Oh you have to be joking. he has committed the Tory party to hold a referendum before ratification. Which is not in his power to offer. The ratification will take place under the ursine managment of Mr Brown, he knows that so this is a hollow promise. Recently there has been enormous confusion as to whether an incoming Conservative government would hold a post ratification, confirmatory referendum. One day yes, one day no. Iain, you seem to know the answer, please do enlighten us, will he or wont he, or will he like so many Tories before him fudge the issue, pray that he will be thought to be a Eurosceptic and then betray us once again. As Dan Hannan has eloquently pointed out, there are no Eurosceptics in Government.

But he has been outgunned by the Lib Dems, who have refused to offer a referendum on the treaty and instead have said there should be a referendum on EU membership itself, to settle the issue once and for all.

Most commentators reckon it's a little odd for a Europhile party to come up with such a policy, but by proposing a referendum on "In or Out", the Lib Dems have made it mainstream and acceptable. Some Labour MPs also think it is a good idea.
If the Conservatives had proposed it when Michael Howard was leader, it would have been written up as yet another sign of a move to the Right. Now that the Lib Dems back it, such a tag would be more difficult to make stick.
Of course the issue of withdrawal would never have been on the agenda at all if it were not for UKIP. It is their constant work in the years since the Maastricht Treaty that has lead to this being in the public weal at all. Somehow I suspect it is beyond you to give the credit, but we do not ask for that. Of course the Lib/Dems, having like the Government reneged on their manifesto promise to offer us a referendum on the Constitution are now trying to formulate the debate on the one European question that they might win. They know that they wouldn't have a chance of winning any other vote, but this one today would, with the assistance of the BBC, the TUC, the leadership of the main political parties, the CBI and so on, this one they might just carry.

So what would happen if Cameron borrowed this Lib Dem policy? Well, in one fell swoop he could kill UKIP and negate its reason for existing. No one seriously believes UKIP can ever wield power. It can never achieve its ultimate aim. Its supporters are by no means all former Tories, but they all have one thing in common: they vote on a single issue. But wouldn't it create yet another split on Europe within the Conservatives, and make it appear divided? Well, not if the leadership repeated the stance of 1975 and allowed its MPs and candidates to campaign according to their consciences. Face it, there are Euro-sceptics in all political parties, not just the Conservatives.
In 1993 nobody could believe that UKIP could win anything, but 17% and 12 seats in the European Parliament the last time that Europe was the focus of a vote only 3 years ago- rather puts that claim to bed. He is right that most UKIP voters vote on a single issue. Never achieve its ultimate aim eh?. So what do you think is its ultimate aim Iain? Do I detect political elite reasoning again? I am a politician. I want to be elected. I want to be able to govern the country according to my interests. That is not what drives UKIP, and this bears repeating. UKIP want to change the debate. If it gets candidates elected then that is a beneficial side effect, rather than the prime purpose of the exercise. Its ultimate aim is to restore our country's independence. Once that is achieved, and as you point out the question is now out there which it never have been even a few years ago then a large majority of us would go home to tend the roses. Some, myself included would continue to fight for smaller government and a host of other things, but they are peripheral to the "ultimate aim". You just don't understand what we are about do you?

At the last election, UKIP gained more than 600,000 votes. It is entirely conceivable that this number could halve anyway, even without any Conservative commitment to an "In or Out" referendum. The party has failed to make any headway recently. Already, some of its leading lights are speculating that it won't be able to field more than a couple of hundred candidates at the next election. Its desire to expand its policy platform beyond its unique selling point of EU withdrawal means that its efforts are diluted.
I wonder which leading lights he is speaking to here, must be those insistent UKIP type voices in his head, because not one of the leading lights of UKIP are thinking that way. Indeed we have over 120 PPCs in place, and expect to have 3000 by Easter, well ahead of UKIP's historic selection curve. The defection of a couple of peers has made an impact in the House of Lords, getting people like Tim Congdon to join has hardly been a downside. Treading water we are not.
So it may be argued that the Conservatives need do nothing, and just watch UKIP wither on the vine. This would be a mistake. Ignoring parties such as UKIP is invariably something the major parties live to regret. Their arguments need to be taken on and countered. If Labour had taken on the BNP in Burnley and other towns in the North, the BNP might have been strangled at birth.
Agreed, no withering going on from where I see the vine.
There may well be other ways of countering the UKIP threat, apart from following the Lib Dems down the road of an "In or Out" referendum. But the Conservative Party needs to work out what they are, and implement them quickly. It cannot afford to write off half a million votes, and 20 or 30 seats.


Mike Wood said...

But Farage always argues that UKIP takes votes equally from the other parties

Darren said...

Well of course he argues that. He'd hardly be likely to say, "We only win supporters from the Tories. The Labour lot aren't interested in coming to us."

Anonymous said...

Good post! Show the bastards for what they really are!

Anonymous said...

In the meantime, vote online about the EU.

Vote YES or NO to Free Europe Constitution at!

Elaib Harvey said...

Yes we do take votes from across the board, and most importantly from the "I've given up voting, the bastards are all the same" section of the population. That being said, at the last genearll election there is no doubt it was the Tories that suffered most. I don't pretend to have done the number crunching in Labour marginals, it might be interesting to see what effect we had there.