Conservative Diary


20 Sep 2013 11:48:39

Introducing...UKIP's White Company

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-09-20 at 11.38.12
Guido has the better headline: "It'll be All White On The Night."

And as he acknowledges the spot was originally our very own Mark Wallace's.

16 Sep 2013 06:13:03

The Molotov-Ribbentrop, Miliband-Farage Pact

Screen shot 2013-09-15 at 20.42.08
By Paul Goodman
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Lord Ashcroft wrote yesterday on this site, while analysing his latest poll from Conservative-Labour marginals, that he is more optimistic about the Tories' chances at the next election than the survey "might at first glance give reason to be".  A brief look at its findings indeed provides no cheer for David Cameron, since "Labour’s lead in these seats has grown from nine to 14 points over the last two years, largely because of the defection of Tory voters to UKIP". Our proprietor's reasoning is that since leadership matters to voters, and David Cameron continues to lead Ed Miliband in that respect, Labour's lead in those marginals will fall as the election approaches.

Continue reading "The Molotov-Ribbentrop, Miliband-Farage Pact" »

3 Sep 2013 08:04:47

UKIP is part of a global splintering of the Right and is probably here to stay

By Tim Montgomerie
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Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 16.58.21Andy Coulson, David Cameron's former head of communications, has written an article for the October edition of GQ (out this week) in which he gives some advice on how the Tories might counter UKIP. In summary...

  • David Cameron, Ken Clarke and every Tory should abandon "dismissive, arrogant and downright rude" attitudes to UKIP's members.
  • UKIP's key selling point is not Europe or even immigration but the way it has presented itself as a home for voters unhappy with mainstream politics and politicians.
  • UKIP's key vulnerability is that it is inauthentic in presenting itself as politics' outsiders - "A party that claims to be anti-sleaze," he writes, "is riddled with the same problems of vanity and self-interest that inflict all the major parties... and before any real power has been secured or scrutiny applied."
  • Nigel Farage should actually be seen as Nigel "Mirage" - many of his party's MEPs have had questionable ethics records, his economic policies don't add up (they have a £120 billion black hole, Coulson claims) and, far from improving politics, UKIP adds to the crudeness.
  • A still tougher and more sceptical line from the Tories on Europe ahead of next year's EP elections is needed as well as a focus on competence. Overall: "The Conservatives should tread carefully on immigration but never tire of talking about fairness, particularly on jobs, welfare, health and the cost of living."

Continue reading "UKIP is part of a global splintering of the Right and is probably here to stay" »

21 Aug 2013 14:18:26

UKIP have been on a roll, but their latest infighting shows they aren't invulnerable

By Mark Wallace
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UKIP_mag 3UKIP is no stranger to internal disputes. I can think of no fewer than six bouts of bitter in-fighting over the years, peppered with dozens of smaller factional skirmishes. It also has a disturbing tendency to banish rather than simply agree to disagree when faced with a difference of opinion. 

To a certain extent, that's a symptom of being a small party. Small ponds seem like an attractive residence to middling-sized fish cursed with whale-sized self-regard.

But UKIP's case has always seemed more pronounced than the tussles in other smaller outfits. Undeniably, a good part of that is down to Nigel Farage. 

The UKIP leader is certainly talented at what he does, but he has also risen to the top by dealing adroitly with various people who pose a threat. A keen fisherman, he hasn't been averse to a bit of angling when it comes to his rivals.

As we said in our "Getting to know U-KIP" series, that attitude has softened in recent years, particularly with his decision to allow some other party figures to share the media limelight.

However, there are signs that he hasn't entirely abandoned his old ways. Today it is reported that Will Gilpin, UKIP's Chief Executive, has left his job after only nine months, citing a fundamental disagreement with Farage as his reason for departing.

Gilpin was much-touted as the man to professionalise UKIP, taking it from its Godfrey Bloom-esque roots to the next stage as a more serious, consistent outfit. Instead, he says that he ran up against Farage's objections to the process: "I was not being allowed to do the job I was hired to do".

He told the Telegraph that an essential part of that job was that "Nigel has to have less power", warning that the Leader "does his own thing without the party knowing where he is or what he is doing". At the moment apparently UKIP is "structured like a flying wedge, pushing Nigel forward".

I'm sure numerous commenters will produce the word "smear" below the line, and/or explain that Gilpin was some kind of establishment fifth columnist within UKIP, which is the traditional approach when someone falls out with their leadership, but the tough reality for Ukippers is that he has a point. Farage's talents have got them so far, but he cannot do everything, nor will he be around forever.

As I wrote in May, loosening his grip on UKIP makes them "more successful as a party, appealing to different demographics and covering more ground as a team". That he has driven out someone who was their golden hire only nine months ago suggests that while Farage may be on a roll at the moment, his territorial instincts could still foul up his insurgency. Their rise has been swift, but they aren't invulnerable.

5 Aug 2013 08:24:49

UKIP's people are less flawed than its policies

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-08-05 at 08.21.316.30pm Update: I see that the Daily Mail has details of "the UKIP candidate who supports sharia law", plus more on some of the party's other candidates.  None of the information is very recent, so perhaps the hand of Crosby is at work...

One former UKIP MEP, Ashley Mote, has been imprisoned for benefit fraud and another, Tom Wise, for expenses fraud.  This is a rather bracing imprisonment rate for a Party that regularly scoops a dozen or so seats in Euro-elections, to say nothing of its highly competitive defection rate  - step forward, Marta Andreason, David Campbell-Bannerman and Nikki Sinclaire - and novel worldview rate: one is spoilt for choice in this last category, so I will stick to the party donor who said that women wearing trousers exhibit hostile behaviour.  It is therefore scarcely surprising that Lynton Crosby has been musing aloud about what might be found were the stone to be lifted beneath which UKIP's 139 local councillors are crouching.

The results will be entertaining.  On a more high-minded note, the Conservative strategist should also cast a glance for what passes as UKIP's policy prospectus.  As Tim Montgomerie pointed out at the time of the Eastleigh by-election, this essentially consists of a) the promise of huge tax cuts for everyone and b) the promise of big public spending increases - for pensions, for childcare, for the police, plus a return to student grants from student loans.  The incoherence of quickly funding a mass of new programmes from a 31 per cent flat tax rate should bring a blush to the cheek of even the most convinced supply-sider: UKIP's manifesto isn't a so much a political programme as a wish list.  And that, of course, is its charm.

Continue reading "UKIP's people are less flawed than its policies" »

30 May 2013 07:01:42

The Tories must learn once more how to express patriotism, or the future belongs to UKIP

By Andrew Gimson
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Conservatives have somehow lost what should be the natural and instinctive art of appealing to our patriotism.  Edmund Burke was not so inhibited. As he says in a famous passage in his Reflections on the French Revolution:

"To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind."

Burke recognised that patriotism is not an exclusive emotion: it comprehends many others attachments, including the love of mankind. But he also prized and wished to show others how to prize the ancient liberties which we have seen since Magna Carta as our inheritance:

"We have an inheritable crown; an inheritable peerage; and an house of commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises, and liberties, from a long line of ancestors. This policy appears to me to be the result of profound reflection; or rather the happy effect of following nature, which is wisdom without reflection, and above it. A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views."

Continue reading "The Tories must learn once more how to express patriotism, or the future belongs to UKIP" »

25 May 2013 23:21:50

Sunday's polling: UKIP ride high, but face a gender split

By Mark Wallace
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The first of the Sunday newspaper polls to land in my inbox is that done for the Mail on Sunday by Survation.

As some close followers of political polling may recall, Survation dropped a mini-bombshell earlier in the week when they reported the Conservatives on 24% and UKIP snapping at their heels on 22%. As with any outlying poll there were suggestions it was a blip.

Tomorrow's MoS poll, though, repeats the pollster's earlier finding:

Conservative: 24% (no change)

Labour: 35% (-1)

Liberal Democrat: 10% (-1)

UKIP: 22% (nc)

Another Party: 9% (+1)

Within Survation's panel and methodology the surprisingly close gap between the Tories and UKIP is consistent.

The methodology is worth a mention. While most polls only mention the three traditional parties upfront, requiring respondents to volunteer UKIP as their choice,  Survation prompt UKIP in a four-party choice. They also weight the results based on respondents' likelihood to vote - given UKIP's higher support among older voters, that boosts their Survation results further.

The detail buried in the tables is interesting, too. (They're here in PDF format if anyone's interested). As Mike Smithson of Political Betting points out, UKIP's support includes a massive gender divide - 27% of men to 16% of women. It's very possible Farage's blokey image is contributing to that by deterring female voters.

The poll also includes questions about the aftermath of the Woolwich terrorist attack. Encouragingly, it shows that the public are opposed to the possible return of the Snoopers' Charter by a margin of 47% - 40%. It seems the days of kneejerk introduction of legal restrictions on our freedom in the aftermath of such atrocities may be behind us.

23 May 2013 08:09:12

Getting to know U-KIP 4) How has Nigel Farage changed?

By Mark Wallace
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UKIP_mag 3It is impossible to mention UKIP without Nigel Farage springing to mind, a pint in one hand and a fag in the other. He has ridden to national fame on the UKIP wave, and played a huge part in driving it forward.

By differing in every way from the main party leaders - dress, manner, style of speaking, lifestyle - he has cast himself successfully as the anti-politics politician. 

As an MEP for the last 14 years, and a co-founder of his party 20 years ago, it is a surprising coup. Plenty of local Councillors are dismissed as mere members of the political class as soon as they are elected, but he has somehow slipped the label despite his last "proper job" - to use a favoured Farage turn of phrase - being in the 1990s.

It is far from his only achievement. "Some of the [UKIP] members treat him almost as a messianic figure," says one longstanding activist, sounding slightly concerned at the idea. Messiah or naughty boy, Farage has proved a regular hit on Question Time, and in the last few months it feels like he has been living in the nation's news studios. In March, Ipsos Mori found that he is the only party leader with a positive approval rating.

It is starting to feel like he might enter that select group of public figures identifiable by their first name alone - not something many would have predicted for a Nigel.

But he has been UKIP leader before, from 2006-2009, without such a media breakthrough for himself or his party. What has changed?

Continue reading "Getting to know U-KIP 4) How has Nigel Farage changed?" »

22 May 2013 09:28:13

Getting to know U-KIP 3) What are UKIP’s policies?

By Peter Hoskin
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UKIPPolicies? What policies?! That used to be the cry when UKIP were less a political party and more a pressure group for our departure from Europe. But such scoffs and sneers are, if not entirely unwarranted, certainly less relevant nowadays. The party’s website provides a fairly clear list, split in to several sections, of their thinking on defence, on welfare, on energy, and most of the other areas where governments actually ought to do a spot of governing. There are gaps to mind – some hastily covered over with promises of reviews to come – but what party outside of government couldn’t say the same, two years away from a general election? Indeed, if you compare the UKIP website with, say, Labour’s, it offers a firmer sense of ideology and of policy. Can we even be sure that Ed Miliband’s policy on Europe won’t change before 2015? We can be sure that Nigel Farage’s won’t, and of more besides.          

The Big E

While Europe may not represent the sum total of UKIP’s aspirations, let’s start this five-point distillation of their policies on the Continent, as it were. After all, leaving Europe’s political union is not just the totem they bow before, it also provides the basis for many of their other policies. It’s all about freedom, you see. Apparently, once we’re free from what Mr Farage would no doubt describe as the “shackles” of the Brussels bastille, then so many other opportunities would present themselves; whether it’s opportunities to cut taxes, to severely reduce immigration, or to trade with the rest of the world.

Continue reading "Getting to know U-KIP 3) What are UKIP’s policies?" »

21 May 2013 08:16:16

Getting to know U-KIP 2) How do UKIP campaign?

By Mark Wallace
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UKIP_mag 3It is easy to blame the media for UKIP's recent run of success. "Of course they did well, Farage is on TV and in the papers all the time", runs the common narrative. Such an explanation may be widespread but it is not altogether accurate.

Certainly their high media profile contributed greatly to their showing in the local elections and the South Shields by-election a couple of weeks ago. But they did not enjoy so much time in the spotlight during the by-election campaigns in Corby, Rotherham, Middlesbrough or Eastleigh, and yet did well at each all the same.

In fact, it was their surprise success in those battles which forced the media - and swing voters - to take them into consideration. Their campaign machine has bought them airtime - which establishes a feedback loop. More votes means more coverage means more votes and so on.

So how do they do it?

Continue reading "Getting to know U-KIP 2) How do UKIP campaign?" »