All credit to Clegg, he has been courageous, but the only party that can really put the boot in to UKIP are the Tories

27 May 2014 at 12:44

Wonders will never cease, it appears that Conservative backbenchers have kept their nerve and discipline; for now. And it is not surprising. According to YOUGOV there has been no bounce in the polls for the Faragistas. The Tories are still neck and neck with labour, the Kippers are still hovering at about 14% and the Lib Dems flatlining at 9%. Yes, their have been calls from the usual suspects for the in/out referendum to be brought forward but that is madness. With the rise of the right (and some of them a very ugly bunch) across Europe there is a mood to democratise the out of touch structure beloved of the Euro fat cats. There is the beginning of a groundswell to restore more powers to national Parliaments and a serious desire for no more political integration. The Cameron reformation plans should now be viewed as having a fighting chance. But they are not a shoe in. Merkel was the real victor in these elections and her coalition partners are luke warm. And as for the Commission? Like the bankers they just don’t get it. Juncker’s plans to seize the Presidency have to be scuppered.

It is not surprising that the rest of Europe have turned to the extremes. The Spanish, Greek, Italian and Portuguese economies are in deep trouble with youth unemployment at dangerously high levels. They see no way out. They have no hope. There will be more violence on the streets. Ditching to Euro and returning to floating currencies would be a gift to the sharks circling the bond markets. At the end of the day someone has to pay back the debt. And it will be a bruised and disenchanted people.

I feel very sorry for Nick Clegg. I carry no brief for him and would never in a million years contemplate voting for him or his party. But for a Liberal Democrat he has behaved with courage and principle. The sort of people who sat on their sandals last week are those who feel that the purity of their party has been despoiled by being involved in government. It was so much more comfortable and conscience salving to vote for the expedient and unworkable. The message that Clegg has been trying to get across is that they are a break on the dogma driven Tory right, that they are the party of fairness, that they want to deal with the excesses of immigration but not in an ugly way. That they are the party of ‘in’. And to his credit he had the guts to take on Farage head on.The sad reality is that is not want people wanted to hear. So who would replace him? St.Vincent whose views on immigration is that by and large it is good for business? Danny Alexander second in command to the wicked Osborne Treasury? Or anyone else who has been touched by government? Jeremy Browne might have a crack, but it would look like (and would be) sour grapes from the unexpectedly sacked. Which leaves the popular and personable Tim Farron. But he is not a fool. To be the assassin would destroy any leadership bids after the election. His time may come, but not yet. I would be amazed if Clegg didn’t hang on. Yet there are question marks as to whether he can get re-elected in his Parliamentary seat.

Labour are in a terrible state. When a year before an election you are neck and neck with the Tories it must send a chill to their hearts and defeat in their eyes. Worse, today’s YOUGOV polls concludes that 56% of voters think that he is out of his depth to become Prime Minister. So they are using Michael Dugher as the scape goat because he was in charge of the grid. That is a shame as well as unfair. I have always considered him to be rather good news.

But what scuppers all the other parties in their response to UKIP is that the Tories are in the best place to answer peoples’ concerns. Theresa May is genuinely committed to getting immigration under control and has been more effective at it than any other Home Secretary. The Cameron plan for a renegotiation with the EU resonates with voters and IDS is seen to have at least tried to tackle the abuses of the benefits system.

On the way to a sunny Norfolk beach yesterday I listened to Vanessa Feltz standing in for Jeremy Vine. Edwina Currie’s analysis was spot on. But then came the callers, a ragbag of former Tory and labour supporters who were now supporting the KIPPERS. The weird thing was that there was no commonality of angst. One thought the country was over run by Eastern Europeans taking our jobs. Another thought that gay marriage was the final straw and one deserted Labour because of the smoking ban.

This morning’s YOUGOV poll was instructive. 54% of former Tory voters would return to the fold at the general election.

So the Tories know how to deal with the ‘message’ that was sent by those who bothered to vote. For Labour and the LibDems this would require massive U turns and further civil war.

If the backbenchers can keep discipline Cameron has everything to play for.