UKIP Uncovered
What motivates the leaders of the United Kingdom Independence Party?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 

Simon Heffer warns Cameron on UKIP

The headline to Mr Heffer's Telegraph column, linked here, this morning is as follows:

Cameron mocks the 'loonies and fruitcakes' of UKIP at his peril

The column concludes as follows:

The three people pulling Mr Cameron's strings — his party chairman, Francis Maude, his policy guru, Oliver Letwin, and his image-master, Steve Hilton — revile what they call "the core vote". The core vote reads this newspaper and some of it reads the Mail, which may further explain why the Tory leadership finds it so deceptively comforting to shrug off Mr Dacre. Messrs Maude, Letwin and Hilton have, with the aid of the unrepresentative focus groups with which they are obsessed, led Mr Cameron into a world of mostly metropolitan and adolescent concerns. There, social liberalism is advanced through the party's new devotion to the rights of minorities and its determination not to find fault with Labour's incontinent spending policies. No plan that might evoke the "nasty" party of old — such as cutting taxes, or advocating strict immigration controls — can be brooked. As the front man for and prisoner of these three deeply un-conservative men, Mr Cameron is compelled to present a face to the public that more people than just the editor of the Mail find uncongenial.

There is, though, a more fundamental point about UKIP that the Tories disregard at their peril. It is no longer a single-issue party, campaigning for withdrawal from Europe. It also believes in low taxes, a smaller state, immigration controls, grammar schools and an English parliament. As such, it is very attractive to conservative-minded people. Worse for Mr Cameron, its new leader, Nigel Farage, is highly articulate, plain-spoken, experienced (he has been an MEP for eight years), attracting much media attention and highly politically motivated. As they do with the editor of the Mail, the Tories can shrug UKIP off, but they would be making another big mistake.

In a supremely smug article on this subject last Friday, the weekly bible of the bien-pensant class, the Economist, warned Mr Cameron about UKIP, saying that "to bend even slightly in its direction, however, would guarantee not only defeat, but ridicule". Really? I would concede that for the Tories to announce withdrawal from the EU would be a little breathtaking. But what about the rest that UKIP stands for? Would a Tory shift towards grammar schools, lower taxes, a smaller state, controlled immigration and democratic equality for England really have the party's opponents howling with hysterical laughter, and the voters stampeding for Gordon Brown? Somehow, I doubt it.

The BBC wouldn't like it, and neither would Miss Toynbee, nor the Economist (whose long and unembarrassed devotion to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism I still, after all these years, recall with great fondness). But will these people really swing the next election? If Francis, Ollie and Steve tell Dave they will when they next indoctrinate him, he would be well advised to ask them, quite firmly, whether they might perhaps be better employed elsewhere.

posted by Martin |8:59 AM
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