Richard Benyon is a former Environment Minister and is MP for Newbury.
“It’s perfectly simple,” say some of my colleagues. “We Tories are on 35 per cent and UKIP are on 15 per cent. We do a deal with them – and then we’ll get around 50 per cent of the vote”.
I know that today’s polls are a moment in time and not an accurate reflection of what will happen in May, but it is surely worth noting that a recent YouGov poll showed that, if the Conservatives and UKIP formed an electoral pact, Labour would rise to a six point lead.
When I was a fresh faced newcomer in the early 1990s, I was trying to unseat a Liberal Democrat who had been elected because people had become rather fed up with the Conservative Party. I tried to make deals with the local UKIP representative and the Referendum Party (remember them?).
If I promised to say x, y or z, I asked, would they stand down and we could have a straight run at the vehemently pro-UI Lib Dems?
Well, it turned out x, y and z were never enough. It was like feeding a beast: they just kept demanding more. In the end, I had an epiphany when I realised that I was on the verge of saying things about the UK’s relationship with the EU that I did not believe. I also learned to loathe the small-minded insularity of UKIP’s message. As do most of my constituents.
I have a problem with a party that so relentlessly talks down my country. Do we really want to become fellow travellers with such relentlessly negative messengers? Most people have a more generous view of Britain and the opportunities that we have in the years ahead. People want to be proud that we are coming strongly out of the bad times and are likely to survive because we have young people entering the job market with better skills and a better attitude than ever before.
So to anyone who thinks that a pact or deal with UKIP is a good idea, I suggest they stop, take some deep breaths, and think for a second or two. Then they should do two things: a) read the YouGov poll, and b) have a look at any high street or group of parents at the school gate. Ask what the vast majority of these people really want from today’s politicians. Is it what UKIP go on about? Is it? Really? And then they should do a calculation of how many potential voters we would lose if we botched together some strange eleventh-hour deal.