Libertarian. Enjoys politics, technology, music, food and drink.
Over the weekend, kippers young and old took over Eastbourne for the annual UKIP Conference. Party conference season is finally upon us and aside gossip-fuelling late-nights, free food and various dinners, there are of course some speeches by party members.
Farage’s speech went down well within that seaside town in East Sussex as he launched attacks on the Lib Dems, on the Coalition, on the European Union but nothing like the rabble-rousing when he took aim at the Conservative Party (“The Conservatives are part of the problem and not the solution”).
“If you are a patriotic, eurosceptic Conservative voter, under David Cameron, your party has now ceased to exist,” Farage says to a hall of applause and whooping. “If you want to vote for what you believe in, you must come and vote for UKIP.” I’ve had the line quoted at me twice over the weekend.
So what of Conservative euroscepticism? The Freedom Association blogs today the list of the Tory Ten who support withdrawal. No-one on the list will surprise you – the likes of Carswell, Davies, Bone, and Nuttall are frequently standing up for conservative issues. Nor will it surprise you that the list is only ten names long.
Yesterday’s ConHome poll that showed 60% of Tory members wanted to leave the EU altogether and negotiate a free trade agreement. This is an 11-point increase since last November when the majority of Tory members polled wanted to remain in the EU (although, only with a 1-point lead).
Even including margins-of-error, it is clear the majority of Tory members now want to leave the EU. So should we all be defecting to UKIP?
Of the Tory MPs, there are many who have called for less integration, no further repatriation of powers or, in some circumstances, a referendum on the dreaded Union. Yet TFA’s list of just ten MPs who publicly support leaving the EU, is clearly unrepresentative of its party’s membership.
I do not see this, however, as a chance to join UKIP. The problems which Farage discussed – that the Tory leadership is unrepresentative on the EU, on crime and justice, on the Lisbon Treaty, on the military, et cetera – can be fixed with a better selection process for our party MPs.
And by a better selection process, I mean an open process. If we opened the candidate selection process fully and offered true open primaries in every constituency, constituents and members would have the chance to choose an MP who represented their views and values.
Those with an interest in politics understand how candidates are selected. Yet many non-political friends put their X in the box, without realising how their party candidate is selected.
This is wholly undemocratic but most importantly it gives the Tory membership reason to feel left behind or ignored by the party mainstream.
I know many who have defected to UKIP because they do not feel represented in the Conservative Party anymore. Ignoring UKIP is not a sensible solution for the Tories, if the party wants to maintain a grassroots, activist base.
For a long time the Conservative Party enjoyed a position of dominance on the right-wing. As Farage said in his conference speech, UKIP were polling under 1% in 2006 and now they are on 7%. The more Conservative members feel unrepresented, the higher those polling figures will go.
It is essential that we introduce democracy into our candidate selection process because if we don’t, the Conservative Party’s dominance on the British right-wing will loosen even more.