He’s like someone with an itch who just can’t stop scratching it. Why is it that the Prime Minister just can’t help himself? You’d think he would be trying to attract support from as many people as possible, yet he delights in insulting UKIP members and supporters. A few years ago he told my LBC colleague Nick Ferrari that UKIP were a mix of ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’. Today he was at it again, saying that UKIP is full of very odd people. He’s right. There are indeed some very odd people in UKIP. And do you know what? There are some very odd people in the Conservative Party too. The Conservative Party also has its fair share of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists. And do you know what? So do Labour and the LibDems. Political parties attract some very odd people.
Nigel Farage, never knowingly underoutraged, took great offence and has never really forgiven David Cameron. He’s not someone he will ever do business with. Cameron doesn’t care and regards Farage as a spiv. This is a huge misjudgement on the part of the Prime Minister. Instead of insulting UKIP’s leaders and its members, he should be developing a strategy for attracting them back into the Conservative fold. If he doesn’t realise it yet, he will soon have to recognise what is obvious to the rest of us, that the Conservatives simply won’t be able to win a majority at the next election without the extra 3-10% of the vote UKIP supporters could give them.
UKIP is on a roll at the moment. I don’t for one moment believe they are really on 16% as the Mail on Sunday says today, but I do believe they are approaching double figures. It’s not a flash in the pan when a political party consistently polls 7-12% for six months. And as the 2014 European elections approach, the Conservatives need to develop a strategy for coping with what may well be a UKIP victory at those elections. It’s highly likely the Conservatives will come a poor third. I’d say 50% of my Conservative friends intend to vote UKIP in 2014, and although they will virtually all stay loyal to the Tories in a general election, David Cameron ought to recognise that if you’ve strayed once, it’s so much easier to do it again a second time. And a third.
It’s no good developing a strategy for dealing with UKIP after June 2014. It needs to start now. And being nice to UKIP might just be a start.
UPDATE 10pm: Paul Goodman has some similar thoughts in an excellent article on the Telegraph website.