By Tim Montgomerie
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Lord Ashcroft's latest megapoll found that 10% of the people who supported the Conservative Party at the last election are now supporting UKIP (see item three). Peter Kellner has warned that the rise of UKIP could cost the Tories the next election. If Nigel Farage wins 2,000 to 3,000 unhappy Tories in each of the key marginals, he has written, the party could lose thirty seats and install Ed Miliband in Number 10 Downing Street.
On Friday evening I spoke alongside Dan Hannan* at a meeting of Surrey Conservatives and the region's popular blogging MEP painted an even more gloomy picture. He reminded his audience of what happened in 1993 when Canada's Tories were all but wiped out and they were devastated, in part, because the Right was split. The Reform Party had emerged from Alberta and other parts of conservative Canada and a long period of Liberal Party rule began. Dan Hannan didn't quite say that the same fate awaited the British Tories but he urged David Cameron to unite the Right if he is to have a chance of victory at the next election. 'Uniting the Right' has been a persistent theme of his recent blogging for The Telegraph.
It won't be long before Tory MPs start to pursue their own arrangements with Nigel Farage's party if Tory HQ stays above the fray. The UKIP leader was profiled in The Observer today and kept the door open for some sort of arrangement with Tory Eurosceptics. "It's not completely impossible there will be some SDP-type moment," he said, "a coming together of different people over this one issue. Eventually, this question will have to be resolved."
Tory MPs have been willing to rebel in record numbers during this Parliament. Many might ignore CCHQ instructions and forge deals with UKIP. Would the Conservative leadership then deselect such candidates? It would get bloody if they did.
* I was talking about the ideas of Majority Conservatism in general rather than Europe/UKIP.