How the Tories can have KIPPERS for breakfast
29 Dec 2013 at 18:42
At last I have finished my book, An Unexpected MP, to be published by Biteback on the 25th March. It is now in the hands of the libel lawyers and my splendid editor, Sam Carter, so I can join the happy throng of commentators talking absolute bollocks about what next year has in store for us.
Firstly, let’s shine some light on the Stygian gloom that seems to dominate the Tory press which spends its time warning us about the horrific hordes of marauding Roma and Bulgarians who will be stealing our wallets, raiding our benefits, overcrowding our schools and having their wives’ breasts enhanced on the NHS. It goes without saying that these blonde haired, blue eyed beauties were stolen at birth from God fearing Christian European families.
But they are not the real terror that is stalking Tory politicians. What haunts their waking moments is the Cheshire Cat grin (to be fair it’s more like a camel) of Nigel Farage as he milks every Mail and Express headline of doom. I really do hope that someone brings today’s Observer to the attention of David Cameron as there are two separate polls from different organisations which are quite remarkable. According to ipsos mori 72% of 35 to 44 year olds support the right of Eastern Europeans to live and work here. And more surprisingly, you gov, have found that 81% did not feel that Cameron is talking enough about the benefits of membership of the EU. Couple this with another you gov poll a few weeks ago that 57% would wish to remain in the EU if Cameron renegotiated our position. It is all rather surprising.
This is not a time for celebration at CCHQ, but it would be wise to reassure jittery backbenchers and party workers that the world does not belong to the KIPPERS. They are in a more vulnerable position than they were at the last Euro elections. Then they were the underdogs, now they are expected to sweep the board. Farage has his own problems anyway. A party so overconfident that they are beginning to contemplate clipping his wings. A party driven by the mad, bad and inconsequential. A party not of policy nor principle, but formed out of a primal scream of outrage and venom whose sole purpose is to deliver a kick in the ballots to the political classes. It is the home of the disaffected, the ill informed and the last refuge of those who have given up on conventional politics.
It is the last category that should cause shivers to run down the spines of the Tories. Most recent polling indicates that those are the sort of people who despise everything that Miliband stands for, knows that a vote for UKIP could give him the keys to Number 10 and don’t care.
I haven’t got a clue how to deal with that lot as they are beyond reason as most of us understand it. But the hard line Tories who feel that they have been betrayed by Cameron are not beyond hope. They may whinge and whine, but voting Tory is the only way they will get a referendum, deal sensibly with immigration and eventually reduce taxes. The conundrum for Cameron is how does he woo that lot back and keep the majority happy who want to hear more positive messages about the EU. Matt D’Ancona sums it up rather well in his could in the Sunday telegraph today we should be making our pitch to Mondeo Man. He /she wants to keep their jobs, the standard of living to improve, NHS to work when they need it, their elderly loved ones to live their last few years with dignity and a good education for the kids. It’s not rocket science and all these issues are clear commitments.
The answer is not to try and steal UKIP’s territory. We can’t and wouldn’t want to compete with fascist bile that infects them. That is why I am surprised that some commentators who should know better think that Cameron has moved too far in the KIPPER direction. Not at all. The public do have concerns about immigration, benefits, and to a limited extent the EU. It would be madness not to address them. But that’s as far as it should go. Theresa May, probably the most effective Home Secretary in years was either incredibly badly advised or made an unwise judgement by suggesting a cap on internal EU movement to the UK be limited to a percentage. Unworkable, illegal and anti business. And the latest toe in the water is that we limit the number who travel to us to work be also limited to a percentage. Again, unworkable, illegal and anti business. I suppose it gives joy to certain quarters that this seriously pisses off the Lib Dems and shows clear blue water between us. And I don’t object to the strategy that the nearer the election come we should trade on our differences. But these sort of stunts make us look reactionary and unpleasant.
Although probably not so vindictive and unConservative as Chris Grayling’s repellant new regulations which prevented prisoners receiving presents, magazines and warm clothes from relatives at Christmas. Of course, he is crowing that it is only for prisoners to earn their privileges. I agree. But this is not new. I fact it has been happening since Tony Blair introduced the concept in 2005. The Grayling amendments do nothing more than pander to the worst sort of instincts of those whom I would be uncomfortable being associated with.
God, politics can be depressing from time to time.
I’m of to Genoa for the next few days to forget about it all. But when I get back I hope that the sensible elements of my party would have realised that if they play their cards right they can have the KIPPERS for breakfast.