William Hague is the man with a plan to deal with Ukip at next year’s European elections. At a fringe event hosted by the Conservatives in the European Parliament group this evening, Hague urged the assembled MEPs to take a tough message to the country, making sure they know what the Tories have done to reform and enhance our relationship with the EU.
As James Forsyth suggested in the Spectator last week, the message the Tories need to adopt is part carrot, part stick, to unite the right. The Foreign Secretary seems to have listened to his advice. On the the electoral carrot, Hague suggested a pact was needed with the voters:
‘It’s only by David Cameron being Prime Minister, not Ed Miliband, that we get a referendum on Europe in the United Kingdom. Therefore other parties, or people are inclined to support other parties, should be inclined to support us.
‘I think of it as making a pact with the voters of other parties. That’s what we’ve often done in the history of the Conservative party, with aspirational Labour voters in the past, and I hope again in the future.’
The stick part is to remind the electorate that voting Ukip (and other parties) is unlikely to lead further EU reform in our favour and even make a referendum less likely:
‘Only the Conservative party can change Europe. Only the Conservative party can deliver the in-out referendum the British people want and deserve. The Labour party and the Liberal Democrats are happy with things as they are…Ukip aren’t interested in renegotiation, a new deal that would work for Britain. They’re also in no position to deliver the referendum people want.
‘Someone who would otherwise vote Conservative but is contemplating voting for Ukip needs to vote Conservative at the next general election if they want a referendum…we have to put that choice directly and eloquently rather than a pact with other parties.’
His message was clear: by voting Ukip you don’t just get Labour, you also get a worse deal in Europe.