The haze of last night’s by election madness is starting to clear, and with that comes a slew of analysis by Britain’s political commentators. But as far I’m concerned the most pertinent bit of information emerges from what Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps had to say for himself on the BBC this morning.
Clearly downtrodden and even perhaps humbled, Mr Shapps continued to spin the yarn that “a vote for UKIP is a vote for Ed Miliband” — even when that was palpably not the case last night. He either thinks the voters are stupid, or is in fact a robot designed by a Conservative Party reluctant to reprogramme him. I’m guess he’s both. A robot who thinks voters are stupid.
In Clacton, a vote for UKIP resulted in a UKIP Member of Parliament. In Heywood, a vote for UKIP was ball-achingly close to usurping one of Ed Miliband’s newest cronies, who now, thanks to the Conservative Party splitting the right wing vote, will possibly go on to be a minister in Ed Miliband’s Cabinet next year.
The 3000 votes the Tories took in the “Labour stronghold” last night was five times the number of votes that UKIP lost by. It should be clear, even to the more stalwart of Tories, that had they done what they’ve been asking UKIP to do for so many years — stand down where they can’t win — Ed Miliband would have lost a seat last night, and perhaps even been deposed as Labour leader as a result of that. Both of these things would have been a fantastic result for the Tory Party and the country, but as ever with the modern Conservative Party, obstinacy triumphed over what is best for Britain.
This will be a theme that continues to haunt the Conservative Party, which is enabling Labour towards victory in 2015. If Tory strategists were honest about the will to keep Ed Miliband out of Number 10, they would pull out of Labour-UKIP marginals, of which experts will now identify dozens.
But they won’t. Because at its core the Conservative Party still feels like it owns UKIP voters, UKIP voting areas, and as someone recently said to me, UKIP itself. This mentality has to change fast if the Tories are to stop haemorrhaging cash and votes. But what are the odds of this happening? I’d say rather low, wouldn’t you?