Nigel Farage has stirred up talk again this morning of joint Conservative/Ukip or Labour/Ukip candidates. This has been doing the rounds ever since the Ukip leader mooted it in an interview with James in the Spectator, but neither main party is keen. The reason is that this would effectively outsource candidate selection to someone outside the Conservative or Labour party: only candidates Ukip considered sufficiently ‘sound’ according to its own standards would get the Farage kitemark, and therefore local parties with Ukip breathing down their necks might be tempted to choose a more Ukippish type to stand for them than otherwise.
But there’s another point worth making about the joint ticket. It’s Farage’s second best option now that he’s failed to persuade any Conservative MPs to defect to his party. It’s still a powerful option, as outlined above, but nowhere near as dramatic as a big fish defection.
Coffee House revealed recently that one MP who had serious discussions about a defection decided that he could not switch party because he did not trust Farage himself. The MP told me:
‘When I looked Farage in the eyes, eyeball to eyeball, I felt this was a person I could not trust and do business with.’
Defecting is a serious business, of course, but there was a stage in the febrile few years that the Conservative party has had in government where some MPs were so angry that they seriously considered and made plans for moving over to Ukip. The problem is that they didn’t like what they saw on the other side sufficiently to make the jump. They might still be interested in a joint ticket if that helps their case in individual constituencies, but pressure in the Tory party for that has also diminished since last year. And with Osborne attacking Ukip today as a danger to the economy, it doesn’t look as though the party leadership is warming to the idea either.
More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.