ConservativeHome - The Jury

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How should Conservatives deal with UKIP?

Members of the new ConservativeHome Jury offer their thoughts. These thoughts were first submitted a week ago and appeared in the ConservativeHome Party Conference newspaper.


ANGIE BRAY MP: We need a robust response on prisoner votes and, more topically, the rights of trade unions as they persuade the European Court of Human Rights to re-examine issues like rights to secondary picketing. We need action, not just words, on repatriating a swathe of regulatory powers.

LOUISE MENSCH: Not an in-out referendum - the Europhile's dream. Proposed by ex Euro MEP, this question almost demands a 'Yes' vote. We should have a referendum on new terms of membership - a semi-detached relationship. Cameron and Osborne should define the terms. Then the referendum should offer three choices. (Can you see UKIP's fox cowering in the corner? We're about to shoot it.) 1. Leave the EU altogether. 2. Demand new membership terms (as listed) and leave if we don't get them. 3. Remain as we are. Can anybody doubt a massive victory for point two?

This referendum should only be announced before the election, as the LibDems, knowing people will go for option 2, will leave government before they will allow it to be brought. They are radical Europhiles. Therefore, this is a game-changing, election winning strategy that George Osborne, master tactician, should keep in his locker for 2014. Enough Lab and Lib rebels will vote for it to get it through. Cameron knows the ecstatic reception this would get - and his enormous polling boost. He would, however, have to agree that we would leave the EU rather than not get our terms in option two if the Eurocrats revolt. It's an old fashioned game of chicken - but Europe, as we've seen in the Greek crisis, won't kick anyone out no matter what they do. With guts and firmness, Britain will be safe. And UKIP will be a florid-cheeked, tight-collared memory.

MAX WIND-COWIE: It’s a modern myth that the Conservative Party is ‘divided over Europe’.  Divided how?  Aside from Ken Clarke – and perhaps a few in the House of Lords – who are these pro-Euro or pro-federalism Tories?  That being said, we still behave as though we’re divided over Europe.  Cameron’s indecision on when, how and if a referendum might happen being a case in point.  The truth is that UKIP – with its wildly opposed conservative and libertarian instincts – is only united by Europe.  We can deal with UKIP by offering an in-out referendum in the first year of the next Parliament. We should make that promise now.

DOMINIC SCHOFIELD: The key to dealing with the UKIP threat is how we respond to the changing face of the EU. As the Euro Zone faces the chaos of a choice between fracture or federation, we must clearly stand for the comprehensive renegotiation of our relationship within this changing Union.   This, plus a clear determination to fight UKIP on the ground (rather than conduct backroom deals),  will stem the flow of ex-Tory voters to UKIP and win back voters we have lost. Our messaging needs to get tougher: Tory voters who vote UKIP will get Miliband pure and simple:  Vote Purple, Get Red.

LUKE BOZIER: A referendum on Britain's place in the European Union is a distraction and should be, although tempting, avoided. UKIP's appeal is among a group of people who Thatcher won and kept for the Tories for a long time. They no longer feel that the Tory Party is the party of the hard-working man; that has to change in order to neutralise UKIP. That means reducing the high cost of hard work - tax, in all its guises.

ANDREW BOFF: Giving attention to self-harmers merely gives them justification for their abuse. We should offer a referendum (tomorrow, preferably) because it's the right thing to do, not because we want to deal with attention seekers.

RYAN BOURNE: “Conservatives continue to dither on our future EU relationship. The Eurozone crisis rumbles on. UKIP win the popular vote in 2014, and Nigel Farage hails the British people have 'sent a clear message'. As leader of the best supported party, he demands a platform on the 2015 Leaders debates. Fantasy? It could well happen. The Conservatives therefore must have their desired new relationship with Europe, based on an opt-in model, mapped out by 2014. The 2015 manifesto should include it with an in-out referendum pledge if the EU fails to agree. It's what the public really want, and it's what we all want to.”

DAVID NUTTALL MP: By guaranteeing an ‘In/Out’ referendum on our membership of the European Union. This could be done by legislating in this Parliament for a referendum to be held early in the next Parliament. As Chairman of the ‘Better Off Out’ Group of MP’s and Peers  I know many will take the view ‘well he would say that wouldn’t he’. But if the polls are right the majority of the British People who have never had a vote on our relationship with the European Union want a referendum. I think the silent majority deserve the right to be heard.

SYED KAMALL MEP: We have to show how UKIP never engage seriously in the European Parliament. This tells the electorate all they need to know about how badly they would conduct negotiations for the UK to have a new settlement with the European continent. They often behave in a childish fashion and they have little respect. Of course those of us who believe in free trade and national democracy can get frustrated with the EU but you don't get the best outcome for your country simply by cocking a snook at the others; we have to command respect to negotiate the best possible terms of trade for the UK.

PAUL ABBOTT: Only a referendum will do it. However, if a referendum is not yet possible, the Conservative Party can and should pick fights with Brussels on symbolic issues. This would show character. The excellent EU Act 2011 is very clear that European law only applies to Britain, if Parliament wants it to. So why not be more muscular about areas like crime and justice? The Lord Chief Justice has said that he is "furious" about the delay in Abu Hamza's extradition. So are most of the public. So are most MPs. Why not change the law for these extreme cases, and speed up our deportation process?


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