Only about seven percent of UKIP supporters favour the party for its uncompromising stance on the EU. The rest are simply politically homeless conservatives looking for salvation from the wreckage of the Tory party.
About ten percent of those who voted Tory in 2010 have already switched their allegiance to UKIP – by the time the next election rolls along, I hope the last Tory voter will remember to turn off the light and lock the door on his way out.
The combination of these two statistics is exceptionally good news, both for UKIP and for the silenced, ignored, desperate British conservatives.
The first bit of news shows that UKIP is shedding its vote-losing image of a single-issue party. Such parties never do well in national elections, and nor do they deserve to.
Single-issue politics is unsound regardless of the merits of the single issue. None of them exists in isolation from others – they are all parts of the same land mass, rather than little islands in an archipelago.
Parties defined by adherence to a single issue are born losers; individuals like that are stark mad. I may agree, for example, that mass immigration of cultural aliens is destroying the country. But at the same time I steer clear of anyone who constantly bangs on about this particular problem to the exclusion of others. He’s either a BNP member doing untold damage to conservatives because unsophisticated people think we’re like him, or else a nutter who may bite me if I disagree.
Exiting the EU is the right thing to do, but it has to be inextricably linked to many other right things in any political platform. Sane people don’t just want Britain to regain her sovereignty – they are desperate for Britain to regain her sanity first and her soul second.
That is the big goal made up of many small ones, none of which can be broken off and dismissed. They certainly form a single whole in the mind of any conservative.
I can’t, for example, imagine a true conservative who wishes to leave the EU but sees nothing wrong with homomarriage, the consecration of women, runaway social spending, massive borrowing and ‘quantitative easing’, foreign aid as a means of padding the Swiss accounts of assorted tyrants, comprehensive education that doesn’t educate, a national health service that doesn’t serve health, a government almost exclusively made up of selfish spivs, the virtual disarmament of Britain, the destruction of her ancient constitution – just tell me where to stop.
Views on such issues only partly derive from rational deliberations. For the most part they spring from an intuitive longing, a certain emotional predisposition. This, in turn, informs the subsequent intellectual process. In that sense, every rationalisation is in fact post-rationalisation.
It is such intuitive, visceral conservatives who have found themselves disfranchised since Dave declared himself to be ‘heir to Blair’. He was as good as his word, for under his leadership the Tory party has become indistinguishable from New Labour, in fact sometimes finding itself to its left.
By broadening its stand on vital political issues, UKIP has effectively offered a glimmer of hope to the people Dave’s Tories have tossed away like so many used snot rags. Finally, at the positive end, they’ve found a viable alternative, a party for them and people like them. At the negative end, they’ve discovered a way of paying Dave’s Tories back without compromising their own principles – and we should never underestimate desire for revenge as a powerful political stimulus.
The only thing that has so far stopped conservatives (me included) from voting UKIP is the fear that ‘a vote for UKIP is effectively a vote for Labour’, as a venerable Tory front bencher put it to me a few years ago. So we must be grateful to Dave and his jolly friends for making this fear invalid by turning their party into Labour Lite. A vote for UKIP is now a vote for UKIP – and against social democracy, whatever it calls itself.
This means Lord Ashford is probably right that a promise of a referendum on the EU wouldn’t by itself plug the widening leak from the Tories to UKIP. It would, however, be a good start – provided of course that it’s a good referendum.
By this I mean a straight in/out choice, not one between staying all in or having ‘a loose, trade-based relationship’ with Brussels so dear to Dave’s heart. This wouldn’t be a referendum. It would be pulling a fast one on the electorate.
Ours is not a plebiscitary democracy. The only issues on which people ought to have a direct vote are those of lasting, especially irreversible, constitutional import. Dissolving the country’s ancient sovereignty in a foreign body is definitely one such issue; having 80 percent of our laws imposed on us by foreigners who think ‘common law’ means it’s for the plebs, is another.
The country’s trade policy is not. We elect representatives whom we trust to make such technical decisions on our behalf. We have to believe that our elected leaders will choose the country’s trading partners wisely, and trading with the EU certainly would be wise.
But this decision doesn’t belong on the same ballot as EU membership. The EU is a political setup, with economic considerations strictly secondary – as proved by everything said by the EU founders and everything done by the EU today. If the economy were a primary concern, the EU wouldn’t be driving Europeans into penury in the vain attempt to keep the political union intact.
In/out is the only rational and moral choice in a referendum. Which is why it’s a safe bet that Dave et al won’t offer it. I suspect that UKIP supporters realise this, which is partly why they don’t limit their desiderata to this one issue.
The same poll produced one amusing result: most of those switching from the Tory party to UKIP say they’ll come back if the Tories sort out immigration, welfare and the deficit. Alas, the Tories would’ve done those things already if they had the kind of statesmen capable of wise and decisive action.
As it is, the precondition could be worded more concisely: we’ll come back when pigs fly.