One of the reasons why we have kept asking about a possible Conservative-UKIP pact in our monthly survey was to observe the result after the European elections.
I expected UKIP to win the poll, and support for a deal to rise – as readers scrambled desperately for a means of halting Nigel Farage’s bandwagon.
This seems to have been right as far as the site’s readers in general are concerned. Here is their response from last month to the question: “Should the Conservative leadership arrange some sort of pact with UKIP ahead of the general election?”
Yes: 34 per cent.
No: 59 per cent.
Don’t Know: 8 per cent.
And here is this month’s finding:
Yes: 41 per cent.
No: 54 per cent.
Don’t Know: 5 per cent.
But the responses of party member respondents is very different. Two months ago, it was Yes: 30 per cent; No 62 per cent, and Don’t Know: 8 per cent. Here it is from last month:
Yes: 31 per cent.
No: 64 per cent (63.6 per cent).
Don’t Know: 5 per cent.
And here it is from this month:
Yes: 30 per cent cent.
No: 64 per cent (64.3 per cent)
Don’t Know: 6 per cent.
Three points on these findings.
- They show yet again that there is a difference between site reader responses and Party member responses. Some of the former will be UKIP supporters and disillusioned Conservatives. As a group, their view has shifted in favour of a Tory-UKIP pact.
- Party members have held their ground. If anything, their attitude to a possible UKIP pact has hardened: opposition this month is at a record high, although the move is one of less than a percentage point.
- The results suggest that the latter have come to see that UKIP is not so much an Outist movement, motivated mainly by desire for EU withdrawal (a goal that many of them agree with) but a rival political party, motivated less by the desire to quit the EU than an urge to protest against the political class.
In short, the more many party members see of UKIP, the less they like it – let alone want to arrange a pact with it. Campaigning against it in the European and local elections will have hardened this view.
Some on the centre-right want a pact with UKIP now. Others seem to be against a deal with any part of that party at any time, and to despise its voters. Both are wrong.
Any pre-election pact with UKIP would be not only undesirable but unworkable, though there may be local arrangements at individual constituency level.
A post-election deal with the more rational parts of that party will probably be necessary if it scores anything near ten per cent – as I have written before.
However, such a settlement could take many, many years to reach. (In Canada, it took over ten for the Conservative Party to emerge.)
A Labour Government may first be required to fire the required sense of urgency, and it may be that one doesn’t win office until 2020 or later.