The Unite the Right campaign aiming to forge a tactical voting alliance of Tory and UKIP voters has been killed by its founder, the journalist Toby Young. Named “Country Before Party”, the highly commendable idea was the only way the very broad coalition of what is loosely termed “the Right” could have kept out the centre-left parties this May. Sadly, it was doomed from the start.
As Toby writes, one factor above all else meant any effort to Unite the Right was futile: “a kind of tribal antipathy. Farage and Cameron have a mutual loathing that’s rooted in their identity as members of their respective parties and which is echoed lower down the ranks. They regard each other not as estranged members of the same family, but as bitter enemies.”
The contempt with which the Tories and UKIP hold each other cannot be understated. It has at times boiled over into the public domain, perhaps most memorably with David Cameron’s description of defector Mark Reckless as a “fat arse” finding its way into the papers. Privately, the level of animosity between the two parties borders on hatred.
Speaking to Tory sources time and time again last year, I was genuinely surprised that they actually seem to prefer the Labour Party to UKIP. Labour is their natural enemy, the party whose values they have fought for a century, yet there exists a sort of mutual acceptance. ‘They might be frightful lefties, but we can deal with them.’
By contrast, UKIP is seen as beyond the pale, with any suggestion of dialogue so ridiculous to be completely out of the question. One can only imagine what grassroots Tories think about their party leadership feeling closer to Labour than UKIP.
Of course, it goes both ways. Farage has continually flirted with the idea of some form of post-election agreement with Labour. UKIP sources forever talk of Cameron abandoning conservatism, arguing he is a liberal establishment centrist who should not really be considered as part of “the Right”.
The sad truth is that UKIP would be nothing without former Tory voters, and so the two parties should have a shared aim of stopping Ed Miliband becoming Prime Minister. Instead, they have become so blinded by hatred of each other that they may well end up bringing about the one thing their voters don’t want.