Farage Friday?

by Andrew Stuttaford

That’s what the Daily Mail has been calling it.

Counting the EU votes does not start until Sunday, but in the meantime, the UK’s local election results are coming in.

The Daily Telegraph:

With over a third of councils having declared, Ukip had gained nearly a hundred seats – already exceeding expectations of around 80 wins. By 6am on Friday, with 100 of the 172 councils up for election in England and northern Ireland still to declare, the Tories had lost 93 seats, Labour gained 74, the Lib Dems lost 72, Ukip gained 84, the Greens gained one and other parties were up seven.

Mr Farage said his party will now be “serious players” at next year’s general election. Ladbrokes, the bookmakers, immediately gave the Eurosceptic party odds of 1/2 to win a Westminster seat at the next election. Ukip ate into a series of Conservative strongholds. The Tories lost control of eight key councils including Maidstone, Southend-on-Sea, Basildon and Brentwood. Despite growing criticism of Ed Miliband, Labour managed to take a number of seats away from the Conservatives including Hammersmith and Fulham, previously described as David Cameron’s “favourite” council…

One Tory MP, John Baron, sees at least part of the picture:

Whilst accepting that Ukip is in part a protest vote, the political establishment has been too complacent over the EU. It must now heed the message from these elections. No 10 must learn from past mistakes. First it tried to ignore, and then insult, Ukip. It then took our backbench campaigns to get a referendum, and then support for legislation. But even now mistakes are being made. We have immigration targets, yet cannot control the major EU component.

To be fair, there is nothing that can be done about the ‘EU component’ in immigration so long as the UK remains in the EU (‘free movement’ is a core component of EU membership), yet David Cameron persists in arguing, with absolutely no evidence to support him, that this is something that can be renegotiated. It cannot. In or out, that’s the choice.  As for Baron’s comment about the way that Cameron has responded to UKIP, well, that’s spot on. When all is said and done, Cameron has not been the worst of prime ministers, but as a party leader he has been a catastrophe.

Baron continues:

We also need to make clearer that there will be no deal with Ukip.

That’s not so smart, but cutting a deal is going to be a stretch, not least because of the disdain that so many of the UKIP faithful feel for the current prime minister. I saw that for myself at the party’s 2012 conference. The dislike for Cameron was profound and it was, so to speak, personal: the obvious contempt with which Cameron views UKIP has been noticed. And there’s something else: UKIP’s success in recent years has meant that there is now an increasingly large number of people who have invested their hopes, their political energy and, in a growing number of cases, ambition (think of the growing number of UKIP councillors) in the party. They will not like the thought of going into a deal in which they would, inevitably, be a very junior partner.

But if there is no deal, the Tories’ chances of remaining in government after the general election next year look very slim indeed.

Heckuva job, Davey.