What Happened In Ramsey? This is going to be the question which gets asked amongst strategists, particularly Cambridgeshire Conservative ones, over the next few weeks. The By-Election held there last week delivered a "surprise" (I wasn't particularly surprised, but I suspect others will be) at both District and County levels when UKIP stomped home with a double win. On paper, Ramsey should be a Conservative seat. The Lib Dems have always provided a respectable opposition. But times, as Mr. Dylan used to say, they are a-changin'. The scary thing as far as I'm concerned is that far too few of my fellow Conservatives seem to appreciate just what this threat actually means and just how serious it is becoming.
The common thread among many Tories runs something like this: "UKIPpers are Conservatives casting a protest vote about Europe. They are in the minority, they are a single-issue party and they are all looney-tunes anyway." It is generally assumed that they will come flooding back to the Conservatives come a general election and help us towards a dramatic win.
I've been challenging this received wisdom for a while, but my arguments fall on deaf ears. It is true that many UKIP supporters' natural home is the Conservative party and that some will vote with us at a general election. The rest of the supposition is wishful thinking which belongs firmly in the "sticking head in sand" school of political discourse.
We Conservatives are collectively terrified of campaigning on an anti-EU platform because when we tried this in years gone by it did us no good whatsoever. I respectfully suggest that was then, this is now. A mood change has washed over the British public in recent years. At every level and in every area resentment at the meddling in our affairs is growing.
Many people are horrified that we systematically give away authority over our proud sovereign nation to foreign powers.
Conservative leaders hope that the rise of UKIP is a temporary phenomenon – that it will wither away over time. I don't believe that is the case. The fact of the matter is that there is only one party who can overturn their relentless growth – the same party who is suffering as their core membership dissolves away. The Conservatives.
I do not believe that any good can come of electing UKIP councillors in Cambridgeshire. I suspect the good folk of Ramsey will come to regret their decision and I feel dreadfully sorry for the excellent Conservative candidates who were denied the seats.
The reason I am a Conservative and not a 'Kipper is that I believe in the core Conservative messages. UKIP messages are not massively different actually, but they have put on our clothes without having the depth and scope of our ideas. Nevertheless I have a great deal of sympathy with their stance on Europe (as, I believe, do the majority of Conservatives).
The Conservatives could have put a stop to all of this months ago. We could have taken both the Ramsey seats in a landslide had we not continued to ignore the European problem. Some moves have been made
to strength our stance on these issues, but so far it's been too little and too late. We need to speak loudly and clearly what the majority of Conservatives believe. We have had enough of the failing European project and we believe in British independence. The Lisbon Treaty and the argument about Europe in general are not going away. We ignore this at our peril.