By Tim Montgomerie
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The event of the year – according to more than 2,500 ConHome readers – was the rise of UKIP. Readers had a choice of four events in our Picks of 2012 survey and these were the results:
- The rise of UKIP: 51.5%;
- The "omnishambles" Budget: 21.8%;
- The ending of the reform of the Lords and boundaries: 14.0%;
- David Cameron's Party Conference speech and its vision of conservatism: 12.7%.
One of Paul's four big reasons for thinking that David Cameron cannot win a majority at the next election is the first post-war split on the Right of British politics and UKIP's rise is the key reason for that split. Lord Ashcroft's recent polling on the UKIP threat underlined the reality that Nigel Farage's party won't easily be countered – even if Cameron makes a bankable commitment to hold an In/Out referendum. UKIP is now a broadly-based protest party – gaining recruits from people who are angry about the direction of the country, especially on immigration, political sleaze and now, it seems, gay marriage. The hope must be that if the next election looks close then the heavy Tory bias of UKIP's voters (confirmed in Lord A's mega poll) will encourage many of them to support the Conservatives in order to stop Ed Miliband becoming PM. Cameron must use the next two years to ensure that they feel it's worth them doing so.
Only 14% of members thought the collapse of boundary reform was the event of 2012. I would have voted for it as even more significant than the rise of UKIP. I did, after all, argue that I thought it was the biggest single reverse that the Conservative Party has suffered since Black Wednesday:
"Without the boundary review we have to win about 3% more at the next election because the Conservative Party needs a 10.5% lead to win an outright majority on existing boundaries but a more modest 7.6% on what were to be the new boundaries. 3% is not a small amount. It's not much less than we gained from the whole 2005 to 2010 effort."
The episode has also injected a significant poison into Coalition relations.
22% of you identified the so-called omnishambles budget as the event of 2012. The latest evidence is that the Tory reputation for economic competence is recovering (see Atul Hatwal over at LabourUncut for more) but the pasty, caravan and charity tax U-turns that followed the March budget and the toxic effect of the 50p tax cut rivalled each other for creating bad political news.
Only 13% of readers thought that David Cameron's party conference speech deserved to be the winner of this category. Its impact will only be felt if Team Cameron finds a way of bringing it alive but the speech was very well received by nearly all conservative commentators at the time. In that speech Cameron successfully combined a compassionate and economically ambitious conservatism for perhaps the first time. He put IDS' welfare reforms and Michael Gove's education agenda at the heart of his definition of his political purpose. Compared to Ed Miliband's one nation speech it was content-rich. The challenge for David Cameron is to develop and communicate it in 2013.
> The five other Picks of 2012 announced so far are Jesse Norman as Backbencher of the Year; Nick Clegg as Yellow B**tard of the Year; Boris Johnson's re-election as
Conservative Achievement of the Year; Owen Paterson as the One to Watch in 2013 and the benefits cap as policy of the year.