Several years ago at a particular Tory conference, I organised an event around whether the Coalition was a good or a bad thing from a strictly Conservative perspective (incidentally, I think history has conclusively come down on the “good thing” side of that argument). I asked Peter Bone whether he felt closer to David Cameron or UKIP. No pounds for guessing what his answer was.
The Eurosceptic wing of the Tories has always felt the tug of UKIP. The two party system within the boundaries of First Past the Post is the only thing that keeps many of them in the Conservative Party, I think (we’d have to change the system to find out for sure). After the rancour of the past few months, this has become even more apparent, as Boris and Farage have become the best of pals along the Vote Leave campaign trail.
If we vote to stay, then Cameron has the job of putting the ship back together. If Leave wins, that will be someone else’s job. And if it isn’t Cameron, the next leader will do it differently. I’ve said before that I believe a Leave vote equals a win for the right of the Conservative Party. What does that mean then for Tory-UKIP relations if the Cameroon project is jettisoned?
A move to UKIP has been shown to be a bad idea. Carswell is okay because he has such a personal following, while Reckless cost himself his seat by crossing the aisle. He acts as a warning to right wing Tories about leaving the fold. Both Carswell and Reckless were in the Conservative Party previously and could be again, if the Tories were a different kettle of fish. And as I say, if Leave wins they almost certainly will be.
I never really understood why if Farage was serious about changing the country, he wasn’t a Tory in the first place. Yes, the referendum is happening mostly because of him, but the guy wasted a lot of time trying to prop something up that could have been used gathering support as a Tory backbencher (this is why I’m so glad this never occurred to him – history could have been a lot different). A Eurosceptic Tory party, in the shadow of a newly won Leave vote, in government for the foreseeable future, would be a great lure to Farage and his mates. Having the UKIPers on side would possibly extend Tory hegemony and allow UKIP to take seats the Tories have no hope of getting. With our place in Europe no longer a question, why not?
Either an election pact of some sort between the two parties, or UKIP just completely folding into the Conservative Party sounds ludicrous at present. In a post-Brexit reality it may make perfect sense for both sides of the equation rather quickly.