Nigel Farage’s very public willingness to explore a UKIP-Tory electoral pact in exchange for a pledge from David Cameron to hold a referendum on EU membership is, I suspect, designed to achieve two things. First, it is meant to flush out Cameron. If Cameron declines the offer, Farage will be able to claim that only UKIP are the only party to vote for if you want an In/Out choice on the UK’s EU membership. It’ll undercut the Tory offer of a renegotiation referendum.
Second, by floating the offer he makes it more likely that individual Tory MPs and candidates might sign up to the offer themselves, pledging to back an In Out referendum in exchange for no UKIP challenge. Back in May, Farage told me ’All I would say to you is that in terms of co-operation or deals or anything in the future, firstly it’s some way off. But secondly, I can see that there are associations thinking along these lines. If they approach us, would I entertain and contemplate such ideas? Of course I would.’
It would be hugely destabilising to the Tory campaign, and a coup for UKIP, if at the start of the next election campaign a dozen or more Tory MPs announced they were going to stand as joint Tory/UKIP candidates. Cameron would then have to decide whether or not to expel them from the party, which would not be a simple choice.Tags: Conservatives, EU referendum, Nigel Farage, UK politics, UKIP