The Conservatives prospect of securing an overall majority in next year’s General Election are becoming increasingly remote. Despite a conference bounce current polling would suggest that they would still be nowhere near forming a government, with assistance or without.
But after a staggering result in last Thursday’s Heywood and Middleton by-election – where UKIP came within 600 votes of winning the seat.The Tory brand has for decades been rather toxic in the North, but never more so than now. In the last three by-elections conducted in the northern England the Conservative vote has been pitiful – with scores of just 14.5%, 12.3% and 11.5%.
They remain only relevant there since they are now a burden. UKIP is the only challenger in the North, and the 3,500 Conservative votes in Heywood and Middleton effectively cost their candidate John Bickley the victory. Yet as gloomy as the news is they have a chance to do something radical and unprecedented. In areas where they have no prospects but UKIP do, they could simply, not stand.
Granted, for the most successful political party ever in the United Kingdom, not contesting constituencies and effectively aiding an insurgent party, would require an immense swallowing of pride. Indeed, Breitbart’s Raheem Kassam made a very salient point the other day. They won’t do it because they still believe that UKIP voters belong to them.
But from a strategic point of view, standing aside and giving Nigel Farage’s party the best chance to succeed in the Labour-UKIP marginals is the logical thing to do. The overwhelming view is that the majority of UKIP voters are ex-Tories. Hence, for the hypothetical scenario to work, Conservative voters would opt for UKIP in areas where their party doesn’t stand. The Conservatives could promote the viewpoint that voting for UKIP in effort to oust Labour is the best course of action. You would imagine that many Conservative voters have even themselves considered changing their alliance.
If UKIP could steal a smattering of seats from Labour it would seriously harm their chances of forming a government. If the gamble paid off the sacrifice would be a collection of UKIP MPs but in an era where self-serving politicians are rife, a swathe of purple in the House of Commons would be an affordable price to pay if it meant remaining in government.
Of course, there is potential, albeit a much smaller one in Labour staying away from constituencies that are likely to be Conservative-UKIP marginals to keep the Conservatives out. Much less of the UKIP vote comes from Labour, but as the North is proving, its proportion is growing.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have the opportunity to use UKIP as an agency to thwart the others chances, yet currently the chances of them utilising are still slim. In the past they have united to try and stop UKIP from making progress, however that card won’t be on the table next year. The battle is between each other.
Of course there is always the possibility that the voters will switch from Conservative to Labour or vice-versa in order to stop UKIP, or maybe not even vote at all. Although working on the perception that a Labour voter would do their most to keep a Conservative out and that a Conservative voter would do whatever they can to keep Labour out, a vote for UKIP would be the only realistic way to achieve that goal.
Let us envisage the ramifications if either the Conservatives or Labour do adopt the tactics I have proposed. If it goes to plan UKIP could end up with a considerable representation in Westminster that may see them hold the balance of power in what is likely to be a hung parliament.
The prospect of UKIP being in the kingmakers in 2015 is an uneasy one for many. And admittedly, it is unlikely that either Labour or the Conservatives will take this route. The thought of the Establishment helping a party they have tried so desperately to keep out into a position of major influence is perhaps far-fetched.