Editorial: Ukip cannot solve the Tories' Europe problem


Related Topics

Through no particular merit of its own, the UK Independence Party (Ukip) is suddenly basking in the sort of sympathetic coverage that may never come its way again. The decision of Rotherham social services to remove children from a foster family, apparently because they deemed the parents' membership of the Eurosceptic party incompatible with fostering children from elsewhere in Europe, drew howls of indignation from all mainstream parties and from a public, rightly, hostile to fostering being politicised.

Among those protesting most loudly were Labour politicians, including the leader, Ed Miliband, who clearly sensed a risk that the party could be tainted by association, given that Rotherham is run by Labour. With a by-election on Thursday – called following the resignation of Denis MacShane over expenses fiddling – the fostering case compounds the possibility that hitherto loyal Labour voters may look for somewhere else to go. A safe Labour seat has started to look less so.

But Rotherham is not where the rise of Ukip either began, or – probably – ends. The fostering case has ensured the party a positive hearing for as long as it can be strung out, but recent by-elections and opinion polls show that Ukip was already the beneficiary of several separate and related trends.

One of these is the rise of Euroscepticism, as the euro crisis is blamed for many of the Government's current woes and the arrival of new European workers is held to account for a supposed jobs shortage. Another is the general discontent of the Tory grassroots, who blame David Cameron for selling out to the political centre – on Europe, as on much else. A third is the decline in support for the Liberal Democrats because of the promises it forsook to take part in the Coalition. And a fourth is the added value brought to the party by its media-friendly leader, Nigel Farage. For all these reasons, Ukip is riding high.

Which is why the call we report from Michael Fabricant MP, a vice-chairman of the party and chief of campaigning, should not be dismissed as mere bluster. He is proposing a pact with Ukip under which the Conservatives would promise a referendum on EU membership in return for Ukip giving up plans to field candidates at the next general election. In so doing, Mr Fabricant is admitting the damage that Ukip could inflict on the Tories, especially in the south, and suggesting a way to limit it.

Whether such a pact would be in Ukip's interests, however, is questionable. This is partly because Mr Cameron is already more or less committed to including an EU referendum in the party's next manifesto, without requiring any concessions from Ukip. And partly because Ukip would thereby give up hope of having its own MPs at Westminster. It would have to judge whether that was a sacrifice worth making in return for a chance of campaigning for its central idea: that Britain should leave the EU.

The dilemma that would face Ukip, however, pales into insignificance compared with the one already facing the Conservatives. Centrism was part of Mr Cameron's appeal to the country at the last election, and even then he could not secure an overall majority. Even if Ukip were to leave the electoral field and the Tories swung to the right, that might make an overall majority less, rather than more, likely – especially if the economic force was by then with Labour and Mr Miliband was starting to look a credible prime minister. In sum, Mr Fabricant has highlighted the Conservatives' plight over Europe, but his proposed pact is no solution.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

** Secondary History Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Secondary Geography Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Young Syrian refugees gather around a small fire at the Minieh camp in Lebanon  

Cameron and Obama may want to ‘destroy’ Isis, but what will they do about the growing number of refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria?

Kate Allen
“You're running away!” Nick said to me the other night as I tried to leave the hospital  

In Sickness and in Health: ‘There’s nothing I want more than to have you at home, but you’re not well’

Rebecca Armstrong
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments