Mark Pritchard

The Tories and Ukip: deal or no deal?

I can understand why some of my Conservative colleagues are calling for a pact with Ukip. At varying times over the past few years I have been concerned that our party isn’t doing enough to respond to the electorate’s hunger for an EU referendum, and I agreed that Ukip put necessary pressure on all political parties, and especially on the Conservatives in getting them to commit to a European referendum. However, time has moved on and the Conservative Party—and the country—now has that pledge.

This is a time to hold our individual and collective nerve – and not to make knee-jerk decisions while we’re focussed on today’s results and not the broader political landscape.

The local election results have removed some able and experienced Conservative Councillors. We may lose also some good MEPs, but we should still not do a deal with Ukip. We do not need to do a deal and we certainly do not need or want to be tied by the shackles that such a deal would invariably demand.

Furthermore, a pact with Ukip would hamstring David Cameron in his negotiations with Brussels. He would become a hostage to Ukip’s endless demands, and he would be viewed differently by European leaders if the Conservatives allied themselves with Nigel Farage.

When David Cameron goes to Brussels to negotiate on Britain’s behalf he needs to be diplomatically agile. That means he needs public and private room to manoeuvre. This kind of diplomacy is not Nigel Farage’s natural suit.

Moreover, Ukip’s membership doesn’t want a deal, and neither, it seems from comments by Nigel Farage today, does its leadership. Some of Ukip’s supporters are Labour switchers and Farage doesn’t want to lose them because of a deal with the Tories.

The Conservative Party needs to use the twelve months before the general election to make the philosophical, political and emotional case which will attract Ukip voters back to their Conservative home.

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