If you vote for the United Kingdom Independence Party you will cheer up Tony Blair. So said Michael Howard on Tuesday, and he is clearly right. The Conservatives are the only party (apart from Labour) that can remove Mr Blair from government; they have made impressive progress under Mr Howard’s leadership, and their momentum will at the very least be slowed by a strong showing by Ukip. Therefore the most astute protest vote which can be registered in next Thursday’s European elections is for the Conservatives.
British democracy has long worked so well because by the time people have concluded that the party in government has become insufferable, the opposition has been obliged to make itself electable. That is the glory of the two-party system, which itself rests on the first-past-the-post form of election. The government which once appeared so pristine and so popular becomes tired, complacent, arrogant, out of touch and prone to grotesque errors of judgment. This process has overtaken Mr Blair much more rapidly than his admirers expected. He has become an embarrassment even to many of those who elected him.
At the next general election the health of British democracy can be restored by throwing out Mr Blair and his cronies and by putting in Mr Howard’s lot. This is not to pretend that the Conservatives are perfect — perfection is scarcely to be looked for in human beings, let alone in politicians — but simply to observe that the Conservatives have been tempered by a decent spell in opposition. Much against their will, they have been spared the corruptions of power, including the ineffable self-righteousness of the Blairite ruling class which has spent the last seven years fleecing the British taxpayer in order to pay hundreds of thousands of extra bureaucrats to pursue policies which sound marvellous when propounded at the dinner tables of north London.