By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter
Forget austerity. Forget Leveson. Forget the NHS reforms. Forget the welfare and school reforms. The biggest landscape-changing political event of the parliament so far has been the formation of the Coalition.
The first impact was immediate. Approximately two million left-leaning supporters of the Liberal Democrats walked into the arms of Labour. Some will return home but most won't ever embrace Clegg's party again – for fear they'll put the Tories in power again. Labour gained 4% to 5% in the opinions polls as soon as Cameron and Clegg shook hands – gaining more in five days than the Tories achieved in thirteen years of opposition. Ed Miliband leads a party that isn't 10% short of what it needs to win but only a few percentage points shy of being the largest party. He may be an inadequate leader in important respects but he doesn't need to have Tony Blair-sized political qualities to get the keys to Number 10. This week there are interesting signs that he's finally adopting the sun-rather-than-wind approach to the Lib Dems. Perhaps the younger Mr Miliband has a pact with Simon Hughes in mind given this week's much publicised wooing of the more reddish-coloured half of the yellow party?
The second impact has been more of a slow motion car crash than a big bang event. It's the splintering of the Right. Most Tories didn't want Cameron to form a coalition. In large numbers they urged him to go for a minority government (before they knew the result… and afterwards). Perhaps, instinctively, they understood that a coalition government would struggle to deliver the kind of economic policies that Britain needed and also the kind of more popular policies that the mainstream of the nation craved. Slowly but surely, as the months have passed, our party's supporters in the press and in the public have peeled off. The most dangerous manifestation of this has been the rise of UKIP. UKIP doesn't need to get 10% to cause us damage. A 5% or 6% vote share will be enough to stop us winning many of the marginal seats that are necessary for a Conservative majority.
We need game-changing events over the next three years to change the great fact that the Cameron-Clegg Coalition has united the Left and divided the Right.
In the latest edition of The Spectator (not yet online) the UKIP leader Nigel Farage talks to James Forsyth. He uses the interview to attack the PM:
"He’s a committed warmist and he wants to build wind turbines all over Britain. He’s so committed to the EU that he doesn’t want to have a referendum in case we give the wrong answer and he sees no difficulties at all with mass immigration, it’s cheaper chauffeurs and gardeners and nannies. He completely has turned his back on the concept of grammar schools to give people from poorer backgrounds the opportunity to get on."
In a bit of mischief-making Mr Farage also suggests that there could be UKIP-Tory candidates at the next election. There wouldn't be a formal deal but, he says, "what I do know is there are Conservative Associations up and down the country who think this could be a way forward." He continues:
"All I would say to you is that in terms of co-operation or deals or anything in the future, firstly it’s some way off. But secondly, I can see that there are associations thinking along these lines. If they approach us, would I entertain and contemplate such ideas? Of course I would."
My own view is that this will never happen but my guess is that many Tory members would rather have blue/purple candidates than blue/yellow candidates – a threat that Conor Burns MP worried aloud about this morning.