Why Ukip could be a true scourge of the Tory Party

FreeView from the editors at i

Share

In his seminal book The Progressive Dilemma, the historian David
Marquand lamented the splitting of the centre-left vote in Britain.

The existence of both the Liberal Party (later the Liberal Democrats) and Labour had ripped asunder the country's centre-left majority, bequeathing a Tory-dominated 20th century.

This split was painfully evident during the recent referendum on electoral reform. Though Labour joined the Lib Dems in proposing a switch to the alternative vote, a seemingly endless procession of Labour dinosaurs made the conservative case for retaining the current system. This was probably crucial in dashing hopes for change.

Marquand's analysis is right about the past century. Three-party politics scarred the centre-left. What's interesting about Westminster's current configuration is that four-party politics is on the way, and will probably scar the centre-right.

Ukip – a "libertarian, non-racist party seeking Britain's withdrawal from the European Union" – is the product of civil war in British conservatism during the 1980s, one victim of which was Margaret Thatcher's reign as Prime Minister.

Europe divided Thatcher's Tory Party into a soft, modernising faction and a harder, resistant one. The modernisers won the Tory Party. The resistant bunch deserted it. As the writer Peter Oborne put it recently, "Ukip is in reality the Conservative Party in exile". That is one reason why it now regularly achieves 7 per cent in national polls.

Ukip has policies far beyond Europe, and its members are generally patriotic, pinstriped types. Their views on immigration are stupid and myopic, but that is true of much of the public. As the whole European federalist project disintegrates, Ukip will appear prescient, and voters will give them credit.

This will damage the Tories in two ways. First, by depriving them of crucial votes in marginal constituencies; and second, by pulling the Tories away from the centre ground, where elections are won.

It follows that anyone who thinks of themselves as centre-Left, including all Labour and Lib Dem voters, has an enormous incentive to strengthen and promote Ukip. I have a feeling that, disgruntled at the manner of his departure from the Cabinet and the tedium of backbench life, Liam Fox might fancy switching to Ukip if offered its leadership.

Though barely noticed, the progressive dilemma has acquired a tenacious sibling across the political divide. In the 21st century, the conservative dilemma will be disastrous for conservatism.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas