The Conservative Party has wheeled out the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in a final attempt to save their European Parliamentary members from the UKIP surge. The party, which traditionally wins the European Elections, has been trailing in third place for most of the campaign.
Mr Johnson has written in the Daily Telegraph supporting David Cameron’s line that only the Conservatives will deliver a referendum on EU membership. He claims that Labour and the Liberal Democrats will not deliver one, and UKIP will not be able to do it.
The Mayor claimed that not having a referendum on EU membership for 40 years was “outrageous” not least because the old customs union had “evolved into a gigantic dysfunctional superstate”. He went on to explain the Conservative plan to renegotiate, and if that fails to campaign to leave the EU altogether.
The intervention by the Mayor comes at an odd time in the election. UKIP party members have been accused of all manner of wrongdoing, particularly as a result of ill-advised use of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The Conservatives see this as a chink in Farage’s armour.
Last week Breitbart London reported a poll had put the Conservatives ahead. Since then predictions about the result have become harder and harder. However, as the regular winner the Conservatives have far more seats to defend and any UKIP surge at all would cause the party’s European delegation to shrink.
Boris Johnson remains a popular figure amongst the critical UKIP/Conservative waiverers, These are voters to the right of the party, who have voted Conservative before and may well do so again but have little time for the European policy.
He is seen to have done a reasonably good job in City Hall, not least through the delivery of the London 2012 Olympics. He is also widely thought of as a low tax right-winger, but perhaps most critically of all he is has not taken the blame for the policies like gay marriage, that upset vast swathes of the traditional tory heartlands.
Conservative Party managers will hope that the negative attacks against UKIP, coupled with Johnson’s personal popularity will save Cameron from a humiliating defeat. Cameron’s team have been keen to involve Johnson for sometime, but the Mayor appeared reluctant to help secure victory for his rival. His intervention now is unlikely to be altruistic, because there are also local elections in London on Thursday and the Mayor is expected to help.
Whatever happens at the Europeans the Tory party will go through a period of soul searching, because this is an election they ought to have won easily. Even William Hague won the 1999 European Elections as Conservative leader, despite this coming just two years after the landslide victory of 1997. The fact they are panicking at this stage will be seen as a disaster in of itself.