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A Tory-UKIP pact: inept politics, but don’t rubbish (all) the stats

A Tory-UKIP pact: inept politics, but don’t rubbish (all) the stats

🕔30.Nov 2012
English: Nigel Farage at Lord's cricket ground...

For a national party without a single MP and only a handful more members of principal councils than the Canvey Island Independents, almost any publicity counts as good publicity. For UKIP supporters, therefore, two national front-page stories on successive days in a triple by-election week must be close to bliss. For the rest of us, we can simply thank the wonders of coincidence, and try to make the most of it.

The Rotherham story broke first – with Education Secretary Michael Gove’s condemnation of the Council’s ‘indefensible’ removal of three east European children from their foster parents, on the grounds of the latter having joined the ‘racist’ UK Independence Party.

The justification of the R word can and will be much debated – but not here. Its only direct relevance to this blog is that the story will inevitably have served to remind voters why UKIP, for all its attempted rebranding and the convivial, iconoclastic appeal of its leader, Nigel Farage, still qualifies for the ‘nasty party’ tag that the Conservatives have tried so desperately to shed: as hostile to immigration and Islam as it is to the EU, and the party whose most memorable policy proposal in the 2010 Election campaign was to ‘Ban the Burqa’.

Within the Conservative Party it’s unclear whether UKIP is still seen as a bunch of ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’, to quote David Cameron’s famous description, or whether they’ve subtly morphed into ‘cranks, gadflies and extremists’, as in a more recent party document. Either way, if anyone should know the official line, it’s Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield and a party vice-chairman, which makes it the more amazing that he should choose that same Rotherham weekend to publish his discussion paper, The Pact?, proposing that the Conservatives guarantee a straight ‘in-out’ EU referendum, in return for a firm UKIP commitment not to field candidates against the Conservatives at the next General Election – plus possibly, though not mentioned in the paper itself, a Cabinet seat for Farage.

There are so many reasons why this idea, if there were one ounce of seriousness in it, should not have been made public, or now, or probably at all, that it’s hard to know where to begin. First, as Farage delighted in making instantly clear, he’ll not be doing any kind of business with the Conservatives as long as they’re led by Cameron, who, even if he retracted his comment about Ukippers being FL&CRs, would still be for ever distrusted for not delivering his guaranteed referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

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