If David Cameron is serious about losing the next election he'll cuddle-up to UKIP

1 March 2013

1:14 PM

1 March 2013

1:14 PM

OK. Remember this: by-elections are always liable to be interpreted too keenly. Elections often fought on local issues then have their results scrutinised as though the election was a miniature general election. It isn’t. People who should know better this morning are forgetting that.

You know what else matters? The candidate. They matter much more at a by-election than they do in a general election. The Tory candidate Maria Hutchings might have won Eastleigh in a general election. But a by-election brings greater scrutiny. A good number of voters are minded to pick the best candidate. I suspect few of those voters endorsed Ms Hutchings.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems chose a perfectly decent-seeming chap while UKIP’s candidate seemed more like a presentable Tory than the Tory candidate herself. Indeed on any number of issues Ms Hutchings seemed – from this distance – to be closer to UKIP’s views than to her own party’s official line. It is hard to think how the Tories could have chosen a worse candidate than one whose every utterance encouraged people to sympathise with UKIP. Ms Hutchings – a calamitous candidate – might as well have wandered around Eastleigh brandishing a sign saying “Vote UKIP, They Are The Real Thing”. That or, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Because we know that one works.

Coming third is not, obviously, a very cheery result for David Cameron. But, my, don’t you get the sense that a good number of Tories are secretly quite pleased by this so-called disaster? The head-bang wing have long thought Cameron a hopeless squish (see James Delingpole, for instance). Anything which embarrasses Cameron is happy news to them.

Meanwhile, Stewart Jackson, MP for Peterborough (poor Peterborough!) a comically reductive agument. It was the gays what lost it. That and the fact English people are terrified of Romanian barbarians. Jesus.


These people are so obsessed with not being out-flanked on their right that they become disconnected from the centre. Chasing the UKIP-minded vote is not a cost-free exercise. Not if it loses you votes in the middle it ain’t. A Tory-UKIP pact would be a disaster for the Conservatives. If you think they’re damaged by coalition, wait until voters see the Tories being bullied by a minor, eccentric, party such as UKIP.

Gay marriage has, it is true, split the Tory party and every Tory MP can tell you he knows people who have given up volunteeering for the party as a result of Cameron’s enthusiasm for equal marriage. So it has had an impact. But the notion that gay marriage is going to have much of an impact upon the next election is a stretch. The issue will have faded by then and lost whatever salience it ever had. More important: the Tories just weren’t as well organised as the Lib Dems. A point Nick Denys makes well.

My old chum Iain Martin is closer to the mark when he notes that drawing more families into the 40 per cent tax bracket (for a portion of their earnings) has caused the Conservatives more trouble with the aspirational, successful middle-classes than is sometimes appreciated. The rumpus over child benefit has doubtless played a part too. All true. But Iain fails to menton Osborne’s single biggest political blunder: cutting the top rate of income tax from 50 per cent to 45 per cent.

Politics is often a matter of signalling. And that tax cut – however neutral in revenue terms – shouted: We are the party of the super-rich and we will look after our own. It drowned out any benefit the Tories might have hoped to gain from increasing the personal allowance (a Lib Dem policy anyway). To the extent anyone can ever recall anything the Chancellor does, I’ll bet that people remember Osborne’s desperation to cut income tax for the wealthiest 3 per cent of Britons. (He’s lucky more people don’t remember that he also increased VAT for everyone).

People are fed up. Even in prosperous southern England (though, sure, Eastleigh is not a wholly typical southern seat). No wonder there’s a plague on all your houses mood. But, look, there is no UKIP tsunami (though they will certainly do well at the European elections). Lord Ashcroft’s invaluable exit poll reports that only 43 per cent of yesterday’s UKIP voters will stick with Monsieur Farage’s gang at the general election. 80 per cent of UKIP voters admit their vote was a protest.

You can’t make a deal with these voters. Nor can you win a general election if your chief aim is to pander to people who hate you.

So is Cameron in trouble? Sure. An increasingly large part of his own party can’t stand him. But that doesn’t mean the country as a whole is ready to embrace Prime Minister Miliband. At least I hope not.

Still, perhaps the biggest thing to note is that the combined Tory-Labour vote barely scraped above 33 per cent in Eastleigh. That’s not very different from the result at the Bradford by-election when the two traditional parties combined support amounted to just a third of those who bothered to vote. As Isabel suggests that’s more important than chasing the UKIP vote.

How much more can Cameron & Co offer the right anyway? On Europe he’s done his best to give them what they want. Ditto on immigration. So, as both Dan Hodges and Jeremy Cliffe ask, what next?

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • snorker

    Cameron will lose the next election by ignoring what UKIP and the electorate are saying 43% of 28% will guarantee that . 3% lost him 25 seats last time. He is still insisting on open door immigration and no one believes him when he says he might have a referendum on EU sometime . Cameron is determined to destroy the Tory Party in 2015 .

  • AlexanderGalt

    Good point about the candidate.

    But you’re as wrong as Cameron about not taking a “lurch to the right”.

    The centre is crowded with as Farage said three social democrat parties.

    The single time the Conservatives were beating Labour in the polls since the election was when Cameron seemed to get tough on Europe.

    Right wing policies on immigration and Europe would be popular.

    Incidentally, on a related subject there’s a great take on how the crime of treason is likely to make a comeback in the wake of the Birmingham terror plot in: “Humpty
    and his Numpties” at:

  • Gareth Roberts

    It’s not about “left, right, centre” . We are now governed by career politicos who are detached from reality and have far more in common with other politicians in different parties and different countries than with the public.
    That is why Cameron is disliked and distrusted by his own party – and he dislikes and distrusts the Tory grass roots. Labour has much the same problem.
    UKIP has grown by recruiting ordinary people. It has made a reasonable effort to analyse problems before formulating policies. It offers hope in desperate times.

    • Jambo25

      Correct, there is a political class operating in this country with no real personal convictions but well developed senses of entitlement.. We now have three main parties which, in varying degrees, are offering policies based on social liberalism and a weird form of austerity sado-masochism. Strangely enough increasing numbers of the electorate reject both and are either withdrawing from politics altogether or are looking for alternatives of varying degrees of seriousness. So, in Scotland, you have the SNP which could become if it already isn’t the dominant Scottish party. You have, in England, one-off jokers like Galloway and possibly more serious contenders like UKIP.

      • Noa

        I wouldn’t dismiss Respect as a one off.

        More a portent of the islamic parties like Hibz al Tahrir which are in course of development and which will make serious inroads into the Labour industrial heartlands in the coming years.

        • Jambo25

          Quite possibly correct. I think that an out and out Islamic grouping (It needn’t be a separate party.) would do rather better than ‘Respect’. It might be Islamic ‘sections’ within local Labour parties rather than a discrete Islamic party. One of my closer relatives who was a senior local government officer saw this kind of thing emerging in parts of the Midlands.

  • disqus_IoelivnRUE

    He might as well cuddle up to the UKIP Party as by listening to Non Tories he has managed to lose the next Election in any case.

  • global city

    another of the commentariat who fail to understand that the ‘centre ground’ is in fact nothing other than a ‘common ground’ and that this constantly shifts. Would Thatcher have won the 1945 election? Would Blair have won in 1979? Cameron aping precisely Blair’s tactics is a woeful mistake, as by 2010 everyone had seen through them and were sick to death of it.

  • AlexanderGalt

    There is no need “to cuddle up to Ukip” just to be real Conservatives.

    The single time the Conservatives were beating Labour in the polls since the election was when Cameron seemed to get tough on Europe.

    Right wing policies on immigration and Europe would be popular.

    Incidentally, on a related subject there’s a great take on how the crime of treason is likely to make a comeback in the wake of the Birmingham terror plot in: “Humpty and
    his Numpties” at:

  • Foeu

    It’s not Farage but Cameron who will put Miliband in Number 10.

    • PaderB

      You are partially right. Farage will split the Tory vote. However, the biggest cause is the reneging of the agreement by the Libdems in supporting the Boundary Change Commission’s proposals. Clegg withdrew his support not for any ideological reason but merely in a fit of pique because he failed to properly draft his proposals for the House of Lords reform in the Coalition Agreement.

      I am not an advocate of Scottish independence. I believe that it will be disastrous for both the Scots and the United Kingdom. However, I am tempted to prefer that disaster to the one of another Labour Government as secession will deprive the Labour Party of a swathe of seats and perhaps leave room for both the Tories and UKIP.

  • Fidel Castro

    Forgive my words, rabish for rabish, we british majority, would prefer Gordon Brown, instead of Cameron.

  • Fidel Castro

    Mr. Ceron is revenging on disabled people, because he lost his disabled child, that’s very sad for a man, guilting inocent people, for nature law.

  • Fidel Castro

    I rather vote for hitler or robert mugabe, than the tories, they steal from poor to make the rich, more wealthiest. They are opposite of Robin Wood, , who steal from the poor, has no moral values, tories are a shameful party.

    • Mark Cooper


      • Steven

        No, he isn’t. Cameron and Osbourne quite clearly have it it for the most vulnerable in our society. What could possibly explain Cameron giving that vile man IDS control of such a sensitive government department as the DWP? IDS is an unfeeling, cruel and vicious person who demonstrated this ‘quality’ on Question Time just a few weeks ago when he rudely interrupted another pannelist who was saying about the case of a father in Scotland who had died due to Atos hounding him.

  • Youbian

    ‘Nor can you win a general election if your chief aim is to pander to people who hate you.’ Exactly. And all socialists hate Tories and always will, so Cameron stop pandering to them. And that includes commentators like you Allan. He needs to connect with his core voters not listen to you because I presume from your postings you would never vote Conservative? Am I right?

  • Jovan

    It’s not a dual choice between carrying on as the Tories are doing or embracing UKIP’s agenda.

    Remember that the Conservative Party is despised, literally hated and loathed, by around 40% of the electorate. These people would rather vote for an alternative party led by Hitler, Stalin and Maria Hindley than the Tories. As it happens, most of these people live and vote in the north of England and Scotland, and nothing can be done about them.

    In order to assemble a winning plurality from the remainder of electors available, the Tories have to offer economic growth and an improvement in living standards. Neither the current program of austerity nor UKIP’s proposals will deliver this. The best things that could be done are:

    a massive simplification of the tax system together with overall cuts (that may actually be relatively modest) to increase incentives;

    the elimination of green levies that are needlessly pushing up energy prices and the cost of living;

    killing off the zombie companies that should have gone to the wall in 2008-9 and freeing up bank’s resources to lend to viable companies;

    ending quantitative easing – the most regressive policy in decades, which inflates asset prices, erodes savings and delivers 40% of its gains to the richest 5%.

    That is an agenda I think UKIP and Conservative voters could unite around, and compared to which gay marriage and the like are a complete irrelevance.

    • Jambo25

      I’m one of those people who live in Scotland, who hate the Tories and about whom nothing can be done. Possibly it’s something to do with the way successive Tory administrations did sod all for Scotland from the time of the appalling Heath, through the glory days of ‘La Thatch’. Possibly it’s because Heath, ‘La Thatch’ and Major were totally Southern English oriented as are the Cameroonians. Possibly it’s the way they closed down huge chunks of the economy, never bothered to work out any kind of industrial policy to regenerate those areas they devastated and seemed perfectly relaxed with mass unemployment as long as it was outside their electoral heartlands. Possibly it’s to do with the barely disguised contempt with which ‘Heath, ‘La Thatch’ and their crews viewed us Jockos.

      Now, here’s the thing, I’m no lefty. I’d describe myself as socially conservative and somewhat fiscally ‘dry’ on the European Christian Democrat model but I will never vote Conservative. If you drive up the A1 from the border you pass through mile after mile of lush farmland, rolling hills and pretty country towns. You then get into some of the more affluent suburbs of Edinburgh. In England this would be natural Tory territory all the way. Up here, not only are there no Tory MPs but there are hardly any Tory representatives of any sort. What few Tory MPs, MSPs etc, there are in Scotland, are going to vanish over the next few years

      • Grrr8

        Interesting obs. In your view, how do the impeccably Londonist Bros Milliband win seats like South Shields?

        • Jambo25

          Political inertia and a lack of any viable opposition. The reality is that England is splitting apart into separate political spheres. with large areas of the North completely devoid of Tory voters, members and organisation. As Eastleigh showed, last week, ‘One Nation’ Labour are extinct in large areas of the South.

          One of the things which does surprise me is the lack of any regionalist party in the North, particularly the North East, given the lesson of the SNP from just over the border. Labour has done little for the North for years and simply uses the area as a source of safe seats. It needn’t be an entirely new party but you would think that some kind of powerful Labour group of MPs would have emerged to push for action on the North’s problems. Mind you, since creeps like Mandelson, were parachuted into Northern seats that would seriously weaken any chance of a specific Northern group emerging.

    • Grrr8

      The political diagnosis is correct. The economic medicine is nonsense. At least you got one of two. Much like Gideon.

  • Daniel Maris

    In the final analysis, politicians and political parties are mere cyphers for the tectonic movements of technology, markets and populations.

    It doesn’t really matter much what I or others here think about something like mass immigration – the reality is that we are importing at least 500,000 people from other countries every year and 75% of new jobs created over the last 10 years have gone to immigrants.

    The rise of UKIP is very much associated with that reality and the effects that mass immigration are having across the country – effects seen in terms of housing, jobs, transport and education. Does anyone really think with current policies that those effects are going to reduce and recede? No, one way or another the parties are having to address this new reality which in my view is destabilising this country.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Hey Alex, is this a job application for a post at the Beeb?

    • david.geddes1

      You’re right, its complete garbage.

  • Austin Barry

    “How much more can Cameron & Co offer the right anyway? On Europe he’s done his best to give them what they want. Ditto on immigration. ”

    Eh? Cameron hasn’t even started to address the coming invasion by Romanians and Bulgarians, and he can’t do that without addressing Europe.

    It is rather amusing to see you leftists dealing with Eastleigh. It’s like watching the England cricket team trying to render Warne harmless. It can’t be done.

  • Bob Thomas

    I think it is difficult to reconcile these two comments:

    “80% of UKIP voters admit their vote was a protest.”


    “You can’t make a deal with these voters. Nor can you win a general
    election if your chief aim is to pander to people who hate you.”

    In a representative democracy, voters send ‘signals’ to the politicians via the ballot box. When a significant number of people (more than enough to have swung the outcome in favour of the Tories) issue a protest vote that expresses displeasure with the government’s policies, you council would be to ignore it and not ‘pander’ to the view expressed by the voters?

    A curious position to take. It is the willingness of the political class to ignore people’s legitimate concerns that have led us to this sorry state. The three main parties agree on too much and people would like to be able to make a choice.

    Big issues include:

    1) The economy: A conservative government would be trying to reduce the deficit by spending less, not inflating away the debt with QE that weakens Sterling and robs the hardworking and the thrifty who have saved to pay their own way.

    2) Immigration: I know that Mr Massie does not share their concerns, but people on lower and middle incomes in particular are concerned about the rate of immigration and the sense that it is not under control and that they are not being listened to.

    3) Which brings us to, whether voters tell pollsters they think it is a major issue or not, British membership of the European Union: A conservative government would seek to have a serious conversation with the British public about the extent to which the United Kingdom has ceded its sovereignty to the European Union.

    These are complication issues, about which one would expect some disagreement, yet the major political parties all offer the some tired old bromides and nothing changes. So, people ‘protest’ at the ballot box, yet Mr Massie cautions the Conservatives against a change of policy.

  • AB

    The thing about UKIP which Cameron could try to move towards is what lies beneath. Moving towards replicating UKIP’s surfaces – its policies on the EU, immigration, SSM and so on – won’t do a thing, as the hapless Hutchings demonstrated. Where there is a disconnect is at the deeper level of UKIP’s support. It has been able to provide an appealing home for the legions of small c conservatives who were the bedrock of Thatcher and Major’s election victories – the non-professional middle and working classes who aren’t bothered about specific policies but judge by whether they feel a party is looking out for things which matter to them.

    The substance of those policies is almost irrelevant. Those same people embraced Blair in 97 with policies and basic beliefs quite diametrically opposed to UKIP’s but felt that he was offering a better way for them.

    There’s still time, and it may even be that things like the 45p top tax rate can deliver part of the right message come 2015 – . But only if the overall effect of the government’s actions since 2010 looks to be on the right track then. The 2015 campaign should be “they said, we did” and show in unwaffly, unwonkish pithy language the tangible benefits for ordinary people of all that has passed.

  • Grrr8

    V. nice survey of the literature here, thanks.


    FARAGE, THE SICK MAN AND THE UKIP(The fascist party of Britain), IN

    • Wessex Man

      My you do get about you strange person you.

    • Austin Barry

      Sir, I suggest treatment by caring professionals in a safe and secure environment. Good luck to you.

    • drhrtd

      They are now not only the fascist party but the ZioNAZIst party since they have been infiltrated by the Israel fanatics.

  • andagain

    Politics is often a matter of signalling. And that tax cut – however neutral in revenue terms – shouted We are the party of the super-rich and we will look after our own.

    They could have sent a counter-signal. Introduced that mansion tax, for example.

  • LB

    People are fed up. Even in prosperous southern England (though, sure, Eastleigh is not a wholly typical southern seat)


    And nothing is going to change

    7,000 bn debt
    550 bn tax
    700 bn spend.

    They are bankrupt.

  • LB

    The don’t have to.

    What should happen, is if there are contentious issues, then they get put to a referenda, say every 2 years.

    That way, the Tories and UKIP are off the hook.