Most of my posts in recent weeks have been broadly hostile to UKIP. If they hadn’t taken part in the election, the Conservatives would probably have had an outright majority. There would not be a Liberatory coalition in government, and the Conservative so-called ‘right wing’ would have been in a strong position. There would be more chance of the EU’s advance of power being stopped.
My eurosceptic Conservative-supporting electoral strategy was based on there being two chances of eurosceptic success, not one. The first was that Cameron would be more strongly eurosceptic in his actions in office than he is in his rhetoric. He has indeed refused to bail-out the eurozone, and has said he would be willing to veto a bail-out Treaty. But doing anything else would have been politically fatal. Under Labour, Brown might have joined up in a bail-out, but for a Conservative to support an EU bail-out would have been terminal.
UKIP would have been catapulted upwards in the polls by such a step.
Cameron, has yet to really demonstrate that he has a eurosceptic heart beating in his chest. He still might have. Events will tell us soon enough.
The other chance was that if it came to be seen that Cameron was only a token eurosceptic, and not really up for seizing back the powers to govern ourselves once more, his leadership could have been ended by a 1922 Committee vote, and he could have been replaced with another leader.
This week, that second chance has been severely reduced. By the payroll vote being allowed to vote in any attempt to unseat Cameron, it will be very much harder to find a majority to remove him. It was encouraging that 118 of the backbench MPs voted against this change, but sadly a clear majority pushed Cameron’s changes through. Why did MPs roll over so easily?
A lot depends on the new intake of MPs. Are they mere Camerclones, recruited off the A-List and type-specified by Central Office to be likely to do as required by the Whips? Or are they gutsy independent-minded folk with the strength of purpose to stand their ground and vote for what they believe in?
If they continue rolling over as they did this week ending or severely restricting their own power to remove and replace the party leader, then there is really not going to be much hope.
At this last election, it seemed crazy not to give the Conservatives a proper try, and to pack the House with as many backbench MPs as possible. Had there been another 30 backbench Conservative MPs from outlier seats, there could have been a lot more independence of mind in the House Of Commons right now. Cameron might have lost this vote, and the second chance of a non-Cameron Conservative government still a viable option.
But UKIP, for some reason which still defeats me, saw fit to restrict these sorts and effectively bring about coalition politics, strengthening Cameron’s hand against his party’s ‘right wing’ and weakening the backbench potential to influence events, which to my mind was a gross strategic error by UKIP.
But looking ahead from where we are, and not from where we’d like to be, where will we be next time, from the eurosceptic viewpoint?
If the coalition government turns into a popular and successful government, the next election might see a continuation of the coalition, even extending it into an electoral alliance, which is one possibility according to Peter Oborne in The Mail. If Europe becomes the internal bone of contention within the coalition, which seems likely, and the Conservatives emasculate themselves in favour of the coalition, the frustration would spill out UKIP’s way.
It is far too early to call the next few months, let alone years. My love/hate relationship with UKIP will go on a while yet.
John Rentoul in The Independent writes knowledgeably about the history of the 1922 and the future of the coaliton Here.
EXTRACT – the coalition will succeed and the Tories and Lib Dems will fight the next election separately in five years’ time. Under the Alternative Vote system, they will each urge their supporters to give their second preference votes to the other party. Labour has further to go than it thinks to climb back against such opportunism.
I can imagine a number of second votes going to Minor Parties, if AV is brought in. Liberal Democrat and Green. Conservative and UKIP. AV might help keep Labour out in favour of the coalition, but it could let in some minnows.
LATEST – The 1922 Committee fights back.
From Conservativehome –
“The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that MPs on the ruling executive of the backbench 1922 Committee are planning to openly defy the Prime Minister by throwing out his attempt to change the group’s rules… Mr Cameron forced through a vote last week to allow ministers to take part in the 1922, which normally acts as a forum for backbench opinion… However, executive members have told this newspaper that they believe the rule changes forced through by the Tory leader are invalid. The 18-strong executive is holding discussions by telephone this weekend to discuss throwing out the changes, and will meet in the Commons on tomorrow morning before announcing their position.” – Sunday Telegraph
“There is anger at the change to the 1922 Committee that Cameron has forced through, which ends its role as the voice of Tory backbenchers. Such a move was bound to provoke opposition. But the way it was done with the parliamentary party bounced into an instant vote has generated considerable ill-will. Some 118 MPs, 39 per cent of all Tory MPs, defied their leader to vote against it. There is even one Secretary of State who is claiming, privately, to have cast his ballot against the measure. It is quite remarkable to have dissent against a new Prime Minister on this scale even before his first Queen’s Speech is unveiled. It will take a long time for some Tory MPs to forgive Cameron for riding roughshod over the rules of the Tory parliamentary party.” – James Forsyth in the Mail on Sunday
“As MPs trooped into the committee room to make their choice, it was clear that Patrick McLoughlin, the Tory chief whip, who is in charge of maintaining party discipline, was taking no chances. Two of his henchmen stood by the battered metal ballot box with their arms crossed, as MPs posted their voting forms. “It was supposed to be a secret ballot, but it was hard to fill in our forms without the whips catching a glimpse of where we had marked our crosses,” said one MP. “This was more like Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe than the mother of parliaments.” – Sunday Times
Come on, MPs. Let’s see some real action for once. Send Cameron packing, or get a Ukip revival in your Constituency. It’s called democracy.
The executive of the 1922 committee is likely to meet tomorrow and decide what to do next but is highly likely to bar ministers from a vote even if that was the intended wish of the high command, precipitating the fiercest battle of wills between the new government and its backbenchers so far.
Another committee source said: “It’s like people who are not members of a members’ club have come along and said it should change how it runs. They can’t, because they are not members.”
This is why we voted Conservative, to see MPs who will not act as mere lobby fodder to the executive.