In the European Parliamentary election of 2014, UKIP scooped 27 per cent of the vote and returned 24 MEPs. The contest this became the first in which a political party other than the Conservatives or Labour had won the popular vote in a British election since the general election of 1906. There was frantic talk of a Tory/UKIP pact.
A mere year later, UKIP won only one seat in a general election, and David Cameron’s Conservatives gained an overall majority for the first time.
In last week’s European Parliamentary election, the Brexit Party grabbed 31 per cent of the vote and gained 29 seats. And this time round, there is talk of a Tory/Brexit Party pact – driven, within the Conservative Party, mostly by fear of its collapse and partly, in some quarters at least, by a belief that Nigel Farage and his new party have dumped their excesses on what’s left of UKIP, and are now fellow travellers.
A big question that follows is whether or not this calculation is correct, and the Brexit Party will or won’t perform any better at the next election than UKIP did in 2015.
Our panel’s answer doesn’t tell us whether the respondents who want a Tory/Brexit Party pact believe it to be prudent or desirable or both. But it does suggest that support for it among Party members falls just short of a majority.
That view is obviously shaped partly by the staggering proportion of activists who voted for Farage’s party on May 23. Our recent survey found that 60 per cent would. A new YouGov poll conducted in the wake of the poll found that 59 per cent did. (Does anyone mind us highlighting, yet again, new evidence for the accuracy of the survey?)
Sixty per cent is obviously a larger figure than 40 per cent, so it follows that a significant slice of the 22 per of Party members who our survey said would stick with the Conservatives last week are now in favour of a pact. Which highlights the role of self-preservation as a motive.
We expect that every single one of the Tory leadership candidates will rule out a pact, believing it to be an anathema to the electorate of Conservative MPs who make up the first stage of the contest. But our guest is that some of them will privately believe in keeping the door open.
You may or may not think that this further degrades what Owen Paterson, writing on this site today, rightly denounces as an election that isn’t rising to the scale of the challenges which the Party faces.