Inevitably, given Ukip has made strong gains overnight, some Conservative MPs have been renewing their calls for a Tory-Ukip pact. Conservative ministers have been quick to brush this off, with Grant Shapps arguing:
‘We’re not going to have a pact or joint candidates, or whatever. It can’t happen on a technical basis because we do not allow joint candidates to stand… It’s not going to happen because we’re the Conservative party; we are the best chance to offer an in/out referendum, the only chance.’
Michael Gove was also asked about this on Good Morning Britain, and he said:
‘Absolutely not. I don’t think we should have a pact.’
The Tories had been quite bullish about the local results in their briefings in the run-up to these polls. But they, like all the main parties, have so far seen their share of the vote drop. Perhaps their attitude in the run-up to polling day will make it a bit more difficult to calm MPs.
They will need to offer something more reassuring than just a straightforward declaration that they’re not going for a pact with Ukip. Some suggestion of a serious strategy to win back those Ukip voters that will keep MPs who are anxious busy so their hands are not idle would help.
But it’s worth noting that those who have renewed their calls for a pact – Peter Bone, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Douglas Carswell – have been making this argument for a long time. They are not jittery MPs in marginal seats, and Number 10 will be far less worried for that. It is more significant that Carswell, who has been rather loyal recently, is making the suggestion, though.
I argue in my Telegraph column today that David Cameron has far less to fear from some of the biggest troublemakers in his party. But in order to stop them causing trouble after these results, the Prime Minister does need to do more than reject their ideas: he needs to very quickly show that he has ideas of his own so that his angry men don’t become dangerous again.