It would have been a fraught marriage; a shotgun held to both headsby Edwina Currie / October 16, 2014 / Leave a comment
What if, back in 2012, Ukip and the Conservative Party had done a deal? It would have been a fraught marriage; the shotgun held to both heads. In Westminster corridors, strutting Ukippers and glum Tories would have cold-shouldered one other. The easy relationships of Nick Clegg and David Cameron would have given way to an uncomprehending cultural chasm. The U-Con pact would not have been a happy one—but it would have led to a 2015 general election victory. And that’s where the problems would really have started.
It would have signalled the end for Ed Miliband, of course. Labour would squabble about who should replace him and the contest, still with its fiendishly complex voting arrangements and unpredictable outcome, would entertain the nation for months. After an especially nasty contest, the sleek, feline Rachel Reeves would trounce Ed Balls—the unknown quantity triumphing over the known bruiser.
As for U-Con, Ukip demanded a referendum on Europe right away. But the time required to legislate and prepare for a nationwide vote would have frustrated Nigel Farage, whose nose would have been put out of joint on learning that the vote could be no earlier than 2016 due to red tape. That would have given Cameron time for some nifty footwork in Brussels. He would have known that he is not alone in wanting border controls; the recent resurgence of right-wing parties such as Alternative für Deutschland in Germany and the Swedish Democrats put pressure on governing parties to tighten up on immigration. He may have got some concessions quite quickly, after which he would have been happy to call for an in-out referendum on Europe.
Funnily enough, Ukippers and Tories would agree on tax policy—at least on the abolition of the 55 per cent inheritance tax paid on pension pots when the holder dies. Neither party wants a mansion tax: that’s dead and buried for a generation, since the Ukip faithful are mostly elderly Tory geezers who felt the green-leaning Cameronians were getting too wishy-washy and obsessed with climate-change. And for a while, government would have seemed easy, with the Opposition in disarray and growth continuing at its recent hectic pace, outstripping even the 2.7 per cent which was forecast for 2015 by the International Monetary Fund. Unemployment, below 6 per cent at the election, is already nudging downwards again, so real wages are rising and everyone’s happy.
On public spending, however, there would be rows. Kippers want the foreign aid budget slashed—or rather, abolished. Good British Pounds should be going nowhere near undeserving foreigners, they would say; especially the ones who are too lazy and indolent to make the effort to get to the UK. An up-and-coming contender for the Ukip leadership will say as much in a speech at Ukip’s 2015 conference, to be held in Rotherham.
Andrew Mitchell would be back in government, plebgate long forgotten, rewarded with Vince Cable’s old job. When it comes to military action against jihadists, however, both Tory and Ukip are noisily shoulder to shoulder: we will do whatever it takes, as long as it’s other countries with boots on the ground. That’s cheaper, and we don’t have to cope with funeral corteges through Wootton Bassett.
As for “English votes for English laws,” the Kippers and Tories couldn’t agree more on making that change to parliamentary voting practices. Despite Labour’s howls of anguish and some testy exchanges in the Commons, a new settlement would be voted through.
They were thoroughly trounced in Scotland, as a result of which the Scottish National Party (paradoxically) is fielding a lot more MPs at Westminster. This, combined with new boundary changes, drawn up by the all new and thoroughly independent Boundary and Constituency Review Board, which includes no politicians of any sort, leads to a new political map composed of almost entirely equal constituencies. Most of the vanished ones, the modern version of rotten boroughs, are inner-city seats. At a stroke, Labour’s built-in electoral bias is destroyed.
As for that vote on Europe: Labour would be for staying in, as would the somewhat battered Liberal Democrats, who would still have some 30 MPs and a formidable campaigning team. So also, polls would indicate, would be about half of Tory voters, especially those with a business background. Indeed, just as during the Scottish referendum, business would wake up to the dangers of a vote for independence and ring alarm bells loud and clear.
Cameron, after hesitating, would come out strongly in favour of staying in, not least because he would know, too, the damage that exit would cause. A last-minute amendment to the legislation, missed by Nigel Farage (busy hosting a Ukip fund-raising golf day) would allow EU citizens to vote in Britain’s referendum. The votes of Poles, Romanians and the rest would eventually help swing the outcome. Personally, I’ll put my money on a solid vote to stay in. Watch this space.