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By Peter Hoskin
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FarageOnce
upon a time, only a small gaggle of commentators – including the Express’s
Patrick O’Flynn – gave Ukip much thought. That, of course, has changed over
recent months, and it seems to have developed even further during the past
week. On Friday, my old boss Fraser Nelson devoted
his Telegraph column
to Nigel Farage and how he’s “extending his message
beyond Brussels-bashing”. And today the Sun on Sunday contains an
editorial about the same man
that is noteworthy in its effusiveness.

“Nigel Farage talks nothing but common sense,” starts
the Sun’s leader, before continuing, “It’s hard to argue when he trashes David
Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, three supposed ‘leaders’ who spend their
days being buffeted around by feedback from focus groups.” But, however that
sounds, the piece doesn’t end up as a full endorsement of Ukip. It concludes by
suggesting that, to win the next election, Mr Cameron should work up a pact
with Mr Farage: “Because unless those two can strike a deal, Ed Miliband could
wake up in Downing Street on May 8, 2015.”


This editorial is another reminder
that the Tory leadership don’t just face competition from Ukip in the polls,
but also in print. The way things are looking at the moment, I’d be surprised
if Mr Farage’s party weren’t endorsed by at least one national at the next general
election.

But it’s also a sign of things
that will come much sooner. With next month’s local elections poised as they
are – indeed, a poll in today’s Sun has it that the Tories will lose 380
councillors, with three-quarters
of deserters
going to Ukip – the backbench pressure for a pact with Ukip is
likely to grow. Either that, or there will be demands for policies to undermine
Ukip’s appeal. A new
paper
from Conservative Way Forward, although it’s not directly such a
demand, proposes a tougher approach towards immigration, which is one of the prime
concerns
of Ukip supporters.    

In which case, it’s worth reading another
Ukip-related article
in today’s papers. It’s by Nick Cohen, who reckons
that Mr Cameron won’t resist the pressure – and I fear that he may be proved
right. We at ConHome have tended towards a sceptical
view
of any pact with Ukip, and I personally believe that another coalition
with the Lib Dems is the party’s best hope of power after the next election.
But it’s not just a choice between two potential bedfellows for 2015, but about
what sort of Conservative Party will win elections beyond that.

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