Conservatives will pay for obsession with UKIP

One of the things I noticed during my brief involvement with it was that, far from being the brilliant electoral machine you might expect, the Conservative Party is one of the most ineptly run organisations I have ever come across – most obviously at a strategic level. That people in such an inept organisation are running the country is often quite alarming! Two recent areas in which they have become utterly confused strategically demonstrate this.

Firstly, there is the “UKIP issue” which seems to be concerning them. Tim Montgomerie tells us that the plan may be to “unite the centre right” by offering a straight in/out EU referendum at the 2015 General Election.

Even the Ulster Unionists couldn’t concoct a plan with such an obvious problem – namely that the centre right, even if it won the Election on that basis, would immediately collapse in on itself as it split right down on the middle during the referendum campaign itself!

It gets worse – because the “union” is completely unnecessary. The Conservatives keep going on about how UKIP cost them 21 seats at the last General Election. In fact, it was a maximum of five – a comprehensive demolition job of the ’21 myth’ appears here.

UKIP consists of a bungling bunch of fruitcakes whose Leader contrived to come third in a two-horse race against the Speaker at the last General Election! It attracts protest votes which were never going to the Conservatives in the first place, but no more than that. The Conservatives are worrying about completely the wrong foe. The Labour Party… now there is a serious electoral threat – any chance of taking it on?

Secondly, there is the boundaries issue. Conservatives have convinced themselves that the electoral boundaries are weighted against them, on the apparently compelling grounds that if they finished level with Labour on the popular vote they would still end up 50-100 seats behind. They came up with a plan to cut the number of constituencies to even up this weighting, which the LibDems then blocked in return for Lords Reform. The problem is, the current boundaries aren’t weighted against the Conservatives, so this is a battle they have no need whatsoever to fight!

The simple fact is that turnout in rural areas – right across the UK – is much higher than in urban areas. Rural areas tend to vote Conservative; urban Labour. Regardless of how you draw the boundaries, Labour will on average win seats with fewer total votes, because the turnout is lower.

The Conservatives are getting themselves tangled up with irrelevant parties and issues they simply don’t need to fight. Small wonder they are proving so incompetent in government! Is there any chance they could come up with a plan which doesn’t double the national debt, which actually brings our trading partners onside, and which thus delivers serious growth?

15 thoughts on “Conservatives will pay for obsession with UKIP

  1. I have a friend here in Brisbane at the moment who used to work with me in London, specifically a law firm. We were having a stroll, discussing UK politics in general and UKIP for some time.

    I am amazed at how much of a profile they all of a sudden have especially as they are a party without a real constituency and or homeland or anything by way of a party machine. Honestly, where would Farage ‘normally’ call his home constituency?

    Let’s be honest here, there are a lot of matters on the go here which has created this ‘moment’ for UKIP.

    i) Double dip recession/depression. Politics or the traditional parties are unable to effect the will of the people at the moment and voters shop around and look for change. Some go for the loons with the easy answers that largely tie in with their own biases, often parties that run on single issues, this is no different in the UK or anywhere else for that matter;

    ii) Are the Cons the ‘natural’ party of govt anymore? I am left leaning, we all know this, however, during the 80s and much of the 90s the Tories always came across as people who did have some ideological issues but often they would not let these override doing whatever it took to stay in govt and keep the people on side. Now, it is starting to resemble the Tea Party for ideological temperament and opinion, whether it is Owen Patterson (remember him) being in charge of the environmental portfolio while he is a renowned climate skeptic, something that not only goes against scientific opinion but most importantly for a pol, public opinion. Meanwhile, while a lot of people do not like Labour one iota, they do seem more and more to be on the side of public opinion. They should be in the wilderness yet there is every chance they could be in govt in a few years time;

    iii) Focusing on Europe…again! No one really cares about the EU in England, no one, it is always very far down the list of things of importance for these voters, I have no idea why the Tories are always so focused on this one matter, it’s bonkers and makes them look unable to govern without mention of this dog whistle issue for their members. Should they have an in/out referendum? Probably not especially when you are in the midst of a recession and should be concentrating on reviving the economy instead of holding a fractious and large referendum but if they want out then go ahead, become the ‘Norway’ of Europe.

    In general, the numbers do not look good for them, their new guys think that people want a turn to the right, which is nuts just looking at the figures. DC has to do something which no PM has done since WW2 in relation to increasing his share of the votes. In the next election they will LOSE seats, that’s a gimme, yet until the party is truly detoxified and the nut job ‘Sons of Thatcher’ are rooted out, they will simply face the same problems as the Republicans in the USA face (they’ve lost 5 of the last 6 popular votes in Presidential votes); appealing to a specific and diminishing demographic with angry politics and be viewed as a party unfit for government with a lack of ideas and who look after the privileged at the expense of working families.

  2. james McKerrow says:

    Ian, your latest blog reminds me of a comment by Lord Nolan during a James Connoly Memorial Lecture at St Malachi’s College. Referring to his time at the Bar, he stated,”Whether the person in the dock was a mendacious criminal or pillar of society deoended entirely on who was paying my fee”!

  3. james McKerrow says:

    Your argument about boundary changes is flawed. Due to demographic changes, constituencies within large cities throughout the UK, including Belfast but not including London, are well below average in size and overwelmingly vote Labour. Regardless of turnout, City dwellers are heavily over represented in Council.

    The Lib Dems, with whom Alliance are associated, pride themselves with their ‘fearless’ defence of equality. They have abandoned their own principles in blocking this aspect of Parliamentary reform.

    This reform would have seriously eroded Labour’s representation in the Common’s, which explains why the last Labour Goverment wasn’t concerned to remedy this glaring inequality, and why this Conservative Government is.

    • It is a relatively minor anomaly compared to the potential for a Labour government legislating almost entirely for England alone while reliant entirely on seats and votes gained outside England. If that were being seriously dealt with alongside re-districting, then it would be a valuable use of parliamentary time.

      You overplay the Alliance-LibDem links and I myself am gene-pool Conservative of course, but the fact remains the blue half of the coalition reneged on Lords reform. Punishment had to be forthcoming. Just as Unionists will have to be punished by Liberals for their recent aberrations.

  4. nationaliberal1972 says:

    I take issue with your use of the pejorative “fruitcake” in relation to UKIP

    This is typical of the modern day illiberals dressed as liberal tactic of closing the argument down when latter day “set in stone” givens as challenged such as EU membership

    Why does espousing leaving the EU incur such hostility and emotive and pejorative backlash?

    Casting aspersions on one’s opponents’ mental health is a very clever but immature and below the belt tactic

    The UK and its constituent parts have been nation state(s) for over a 1000 years. I am quite leaving a supranational entity such as the EU after only 40 would not that traumatic.

    By the way, I am pro EU. I just dislike the nature of anti UKIP rhetoric

    • “Fruitcake” was Mr Cameron’s own word. Why is he so obsessed now with people he himself describes as “friutcakes”.

      I have to say, I will tolerate everything except intolerance. With its offensive remarks about babies with disabilities, intolerant stance on gay marriage and ridiculous position on Europe, I can think of words a lot worse than “fruitcake” to describe Farage and co.

      • harryaswell says:

        You yourself seem to agree with the “fruitcake” description according to your past posts. You also claim you will accept anything except intolerance. It seems therfore that your criticisms of the Flag protests and also the importance of maintaining the Union with the rest of the UK, and also the need to resist manipulation by Republicans, all need considerable revision on your part.

  5. nationaliberal1972 says:

    I disagree with UKIP but I disagree with using words like fruitcake. By the way, are you saying its ok to use fruitcake just because David Cameron used it?

    Farage’s opinions do not chime with mine but his opinions are not born from mental health issues but from his life experience – just as our own opinions are.

  6. nationaliberal1972 says:

    Good point Ian but getting into bed with fruitcakes is a lot more understandable and palatable than getting into bed with bombers and murderers and their supporters who to this day, still think killing all those people was a good idea

  7. The next elections will be the European elections, so the usual lack of constituency based profile isn’t going to hurt UKIP, neither is the fact it is a PRSTV election. The issue with the PRSTV is the lack of an arrow’s law effect, people don’t need to vote tactically, which means third way parties can benefit. I’d be happy with UKIP to benefit from PR, the only other right wingers in parliament if you dismiss the yellow Tories and the Blue Labourites on the centre to left spectrum are the Unionists.

    Anyway by leaving the European People’s Party for the reason they couldn’t lead the European People’s Party they actually managed to create a bloc actually less influential than the one the Liberal Democrats belong to (and indeed Alliance and Fianna Fáil as well) .

    In a nutshell, the party has one thing to worry about and that’s the electorate, as footballcliches said voting is essentially a free market anyway. The European issue is a distraction, the UK is a pseudo-Eurozone country, but then again so is Switzerland who have had a crisis in their major industry and have pegged their Swiss franc to the Euro for trade, and that applies to little Liechenstine too. Iceland and the Ukraine have had to have IMF bailouts, the Balkan countries want to join the EU, Turkey as well of course, Russia and Belarus suffered massively from the lower oil and comododies demand and Moldova is sandwiched between that problem and Ukraine’s, even the little countries of Europe like San Marino, Andorra, the Vatican and Monaco maybe non EU but are Eurozone countries. So of course everyone wants to be Norway. A sudden Euro collapse would take out the world’s second largest reserve currency and ultimately lead to a Global Depression.

    So anyone wanting Britian to leave the EU, must come from the attitude leave the EU, but protect the Euro.

    I think Ian’s point that turnout percentage rather than figures are lower in inner cities, yes there’s demographic changes, but apathy is greater among young people and older people who do vote in cities move to more rural areas and smaller cities. Ian would know this first hand as a councillor in a “rural area”.

    On the economy, my own impression is looking at the cabinet, most of which have got their work experience from Conservative research agencies that brought us The Big Society flop, others have, including Cameron their experience from a media so corrupt and incompetent it has suffered the Leveson enquiry. Unfortunately for Labour, they seem to be populated with armchair Fabians and media gurus themselves. Where are the scientists and engineers? Where are the business leaders? Even school teachers, doctors and legal professionals?

    Instead we have democratic career politicians backing undemocratic career politicians and the latter funding and controlling the former by funding party research jobs in both big parties to get the electoral candidates they want.

    It says it all when the only Cabinent minister on the Conservative side with any substance is the Minister without Portfolio. Fine Gael can boast a Doctor as Minister for health, a teacher as Minister for Education, Minister for Agriculture qualified in Agriculture, Finance minister qualified in Economics, a Children’s minister who was a social worker, with Labour having a former architect essentially an engineering profession as Minister for Science.

    Say what you like about Thatcher, at least she had practical politicians around her.

  8. paul says:

    ian i have to say thats probably the best article you have ever wrote of late.Just take a look at the local tories here and see what a shambles they are yet my question to you is ian why does it look highly likely that both high profile uup mlas both big hitters basil mccrea and john mccallister will not join the alliance party but the ni tories.Can you answer me that because we all know why they wont join alliance itsnt it time alliance gave a statement a very clear statement to make clear a certain few policies which are all overr the place.because its causing utter confustion

  9. The Listener says:

    Oh Righteous One, how you put down those you despise. Is it because you were once a paid up member of the North Down Conservatives, and stood as a Tory candidate? Did you not once work for Ian Duncan Smith’s exploration of social issues? Presumably that was worthwhile, and a noble part of Tory effforts? What went wrong to make you so bitter about your former friends and allies? Is it because you wish to return to the Alliance Party?

    Maybe the question of the 21 seats is simply put around to scare the Tory faithful, and not to convince you. There is much in common on some issues between the right wing of the Tory Party and UKIP. If Tory type hearts are likely to be disturbed out of electoral apathy by UKIP, perhaps it is a good idea to get them on side to help the fight for the Conservative Party instead, thus avoiding a majority in the next parliament.
    for Labour.

    There is a groundswell in England for a referendum on the basis of staying in Europe or getting out. However most Tories would rather see the EU as a common market, without all the governance now allowed to Brussels, over our internal affairs. I for one quite understand the desire to underpin the European market with social legislation, i.e Employment law, and legislation affecting fisheries etc, in order to establish a level playing field. I think it is a good idea for the Tory strategists to see which way the mood swings on Europe and to make appropriate noises. That is the nature of politics.

  10. The Labour vote has been split by the Liberal Democrats, now the Tories are worried that UKIP will do the same to them. Heterogeneous politics can’t be expected and the general European move towards coalition politics is something the Conservatives will have to accept, if UKIP do manage to sort out a constituency strategy.

    Why does Northern Ireland have 18 Seats, disproportionate to the rest of the UK? Because of the Conservative connection, the Conservatives needed Unionist votes (the Orange Card) to back some of their reforms. Now one of the seats they were planning to take away would be a loss to a Party affiliated with the Labour Party, and the main Unionist party the DUP while being socially right wing are economically Neo-Keynesian like their Sinn Féin partners rather than Neo-liberal like the UUP.

    With European elections UKIP will be the party of protest and a major threat to the Conservatives. The Tories will have to balance as mentioned before the cause of Reform ahead of the cause of Exiting it. But here’s the thing, surely Labour and the PES are in a better situation to do so, by overtaking the EPP & ERC bloc.

    Entering the EU/ECC was Churchill’s dream, was the policy of the Conservatives in the first place, which only the likes of Enoch Powell (who later of course joined the UUP) opposed. LABOUR were against it, many far-left groups all across Europe are still against it, a few in the Labour party against it. So there is a question of what a resurgent left symbolized most by Francois Hollande will do in this situation.

    Socialists and Labour parties have been implementing Austerity measures across Europe, with the far left capitalizing on that, likewise Centre Right parties suffer from nationalistic extremists who feel the Austerity lies with the trading partners themselves. The irony here is that the European Parliament will come to a core center coalition of the center-left and the center-right with the center center in between based on national groupings rather than left/right divide, so don’t be surprised if at election the Conservatives see Labour as the enemy and when it comes to the European Parliament they become friends.

  11. james McKerrow says:

    ‘Fruitcakes’ is fast becoming a euphemism used by establishment parties (those who do get into government) for members of a ginger group asking inconvenient questions.

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