Connect the Dots

by Andrew Stuttaford

A new poll shows that in constituencies that look set to be a close fight between Labour and Conservative in the 2015 general election, 31 percent of UKIP support comes from voters who voted Tory at the last general election, and only 18 percent from those who voted Labour. 

As a reminder, a three percent showing from UKIP in 2010 was enough to doom the Conservatives’ hopes of an absolute win.

Meanwhile, in the Daily Mail, Simon Heffer (a journalist very much on the right), notes:

Facing the nightmare prospect that Ed Miliband will win next May’s general election – partly because hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of former Tory voters are so disillusioned by Mr Cameron’s style of government and by his version of Conservatism that they plan to vote Ukip – the party’s grandees will, I am convinced, make a humiliating U-turn. Although they have doggedly refused to entertain the idea, they will have to consider an electoral pact with Ukip, or face at least five years out of government. The man who, I believe, will have to tell Mr Cameron is his increasingly powerful adviser Lynton Crosby. Already, the pressure is mounting, with the Tories’ electoral prospects looking increasingly grim.

First, the voting system is skewed in favour of Labour after Nick Clegg disgracefully broke a promise to support overdue reform of parliamentary boundaries. Second, the continuing strength of support for Ukip, with most of its backers being disgruntled Tories, greatly enhances Mr Miliband’s chances of getting into Downing Street. Indeed, Ukip is registering 14 per cent of support in some voter surveys, and one poll this week suggested that Mr Miliband could become PM if just 9 per cent vote for Ukip.

It will take even less than nine percent to achieve that.  Will there be a UKIP/Conservative pact in 2015? I doubt it. Too much bile has passed under the bridge. The electoral calculation is also more complicated than Heffer suggests (“Together, the two parties polled more than 51 per cent of the vote in May’s elections, against 25 per cent for Labour. This proves that, at heart, we are a right-of-centre nation.”): a Conservative/UKIP pact would please many supporters (or potential supporters) of both parties, but it would antagonize quite a few too.

And now, what’s this? Why, Boris Johnson, the Tory mayor of London, is shambling onto the scene, a Brutus, possibly, to Cameron’s Caesar (no, that’s too kind: Caesar actually won things) with this (reported in the London Sunday Times):

Boris Johnson will warn David Cameron this week that he must be prepared to leave the European Union if he wants to get a better deal from Brussels.

In what will be seen as a throwing down of the gauntlet, the mayor of London will say the UK should “not be frightened” of quitting the EU. Johnson’s position is in stark contrast to Cameron, who has repeatedly insisted that he wants Britain to stay and is prepared to lead the “in” campaign during the referendum expected in 2017. With expectation growing in Tory circles that Johnson will announce a return as an MP next year, he will on Wednesday endorse a report by his chief economic adviser, Gerard Lyons, which has concluded that quitting the EU would be much better for Britain than remaining in on the current terms.

Johnson will back Cameron’s plans to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Brussels before an in-out vote and he will argue that the UK can secure a good deal. But Tory sources say the mayor has privately told Cameron that he needs to give himself more “ammunition” to get what he wants out of the renegotiation by leaving the door open to an exit from the EU.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Lyons said: “The UK can only achieve serious reform if it is serious about leaving. It can only be serious about leaving if it believes this is a better outcome than the status quo of staying in an unreformed EU. This report concludes that that is the case.”

Delightful that Johnson’s advice to Cameron that the bottom line in any renegotiation has to be a willingness to quit is described as “private”. Sure, Boris, sure.

My own view continues to be that any renegotiation with the EU will be a fruitless and destructive exercise, of use only (perhaps) as a vivid demonstration to British voters (undoubtedly still nervous about the consequences of a Brexit) of the extent to which their country is loathed by its EU ‘partners’ some of whom it helps fund and, in many cases, defend. Nothing will be better for the UK relationship with its neighbors than to end its participation in this toxic union once and for all.

Meanwhile the hard-line eurofederalists over at the Financial Times have taken a look at the report that Johnson has commissioned, and begin their report thus:

London could lose more than a million jobs if Britain quits the EU….

Before adding a rather important qualifier:

…and fails to adopt more outward-looking trade policies, according to a report commissioned by London mayor Boris Johnson.

One of the reasons, of course, for quitting the EU is, of course, to enable the UK to, well, adopt more outward-looking trade policies, rather than to be forced to follow the course of those now still set—as the appointment of Juncker (a stale, broken-down apparatchik who would have no place in any system where democratic accountability was worth a damn) reminds us—on steering the EU faster and further down its course of continuous economic and political decay.

The FT has the honesty to include this (my emphasis added):

Mr Lyons, a former chief economist at Standard Chartered bank, said that leaving the EU was “definitely a viable option”. He pointed to modelling by Volterra, an independent economics consultancy. Volterra predicted that London’s GDP would grow from £350bn to £640bn by 2034 if Britain stayed in a reformed EU, against just £495bn if the UK remained in an unreformed bloc. But if Britain pulled out and adopted an open trading regime, the capital’s economy could still grow to £615bn over the next 20 years, only slightly less than under the first scenario.

And as there is no realistic possibility of meaningful reform…