The United Kingdom Independence Party have had a difficult time of late. At the last general election they lost 50% of their Members of Parliament and failed to make a single gain anywhere – despite all the forecasts and speculation. The delivery of the Conservatives manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on our membership of the European Union and respect the result has somewhat dinted their ‘Unique Selling Point’. With the departure of the UK from the EU it is difficult for them to identify their USP now.
Then there is the problem of the leadership. Regardless of ones view of Nigel Farage few would doubt that he is a charismatic character and was the one person who the general public could be able to name as a UKIP politician. Since his most recent departure the leadership has been a problem. The election of Diane Evans lasted longer than her leadership. Her replacement Paul Nuttall (no relation) failed despite being leader in his bid to gain a seat in Parliament. One of their chief funders Aaron Banks has quit to form a new political party of his own and now a new loss. Their sole MP Douglas Carswell the MP for Clacton has resigned and has said he will sit as an independent. It is difficult to see how they are going to break out of this downward spiral.
Not entirely unexpectedly my former colleague and now friend in another party Mark Reckless held on to his seat in Rochester and Strood. It would be churlish not to congratulate him and indeed UKIP on their success. I understand they become only the 4th Party since World War 2 to win two by-elections in the same Parliament so quite an achievement.
So what does it mean? It will undoubtedly cheer up UKIP members to have gone from zero to two MP’s in a short period of time but I would caution against too much euphoria. Their success will mean UKIP policies will come under greater scrutiny than they The margin of victory in Rochester was rather less than the polls had suggested and the bookies now have the Conservatives odds on to regain the seat in May next year.
As for the conservatives my view is that our task remains essentially unchanged we must continue to make the case for a strong and secure economy. The only way to having strong public services is to have a strong and growing economy. The economy is moving in the right direction but there is still much more to do. The next election will be about giving the British people a choice: do they want to go back to the Party of more spending, more borrowing and higher taxes or do they want to stick to the Party that is putting Britain back on the road to recovery. In short do they want David Cameron to be Prime Minister or Ed Miliband?
Oh and just in case anyone is wondering can I just mention again I have absolutely no intention whatsoever of leaving the Conservative Party and joining another Party Red, Green, Yellow or …Purple. ( I don’t expect it will stop the media speculation but hey they have got a job to do!)
I am both surprised and disappointed to hear that my colleague Douglas Carswell has decided to leave the Conservative Party and join UKIP. I have always had a great admiration for Douglas who has an independence of thought which is very refreshing.
I should say that I had absolutely no advance knowledge of this decision and at no time have I ever discussed this with Douglas.
Of course people will now be asking who will be next and as Chairman of the Better Off Out group of MP’s and Peers in Parliament I have no doubt my name will be the frame. I can say therefore that whilst I will continue to make the case for the UK leaving the EU – something I agree with Douglas and of course UKIP about – I intend to stay in the Conservative Party. We have made enormous progress since I was elected in May 2010. When I first put forward the idea of having an In/Out referendum in October 2011 there was a three line whip from all the main parties against the idea. Now the Conservative Party is putting a three line whip on a Private Members Bill which provides for an In/Out referendum in 2017. The only way we are going to get that referendum is to have a majority Conservative Government. Even UKIP accept there will not be a UKIP Government and there is a real danger that in many marginal seats voters will stop Conservatives being elected and allow Labour MP’s to be elected.