This week the Spectator ran a piece written by the former UKIP leader Lord Pearson about his attempts at a pact with the Conservatives before the last election. The piece was well timed having come after a whole raft of discussions about how UKIP should deal with the fact the Conservatives are much more sympathetic to their views on Europe and Immigration than Labour.
Farage has proved so adept at forcing David Cameron to grudgingly toughen up his position on these key subjects that Iain Dale put him at the top of his 2014 right-wing power list, beating the Prime Minister himself. But if UKIP think they are the only British party in this position then they are wrong.
The Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland with it’s eight MPs has some major misgivings about the Conservatives but also recognise the party is far better for their cause than Labour. Privately they are having discussions about what they would do if the Conservatives were the largest party in the House of Commons but the Liberal Democrats tried to a deal with Labour.
One of their MPs told Breitbart London they planned to support the Conservatives forming a minority government. They would then vote for them in any confidence motions, making the Conservatives impossible to topple. But crucially they would force them to negotiate for DUP votes on every single piece of legislation.
This is a smart move by the DUP because they might just keep the more sympathetic party in power but have an ability to block any legislation they do not like. This would, once again, beat the Conservatives into returning to their core values, which the DUP appear better at upholding than they are.
A strong UKIP group in the House of Commons could join in with this plan. It would not require any sort of agreement on policy with either the Conservatives or the DUP because all they would really be offering is to ensure the government stays in power. The legislative programme would be a matter for daily individual discussions.
It would also enable UKIP to offer an intriguing new American style of working by allowing their MPs to choose which way they vote on their own. Under these arrangements there would be no need to whip your MPs on anything other than the confidence motions.
UKIP could create a scenario in which debates in the House of Commons would have genuine value because the results of votes would be up for grabs. At the moment everyone knows how every vote will end, because most MPs just slavishly toe the party line and whoever has the bigger party (or collection of parties) wins.
In these volatile times it is hard to predict how many MPs UKIP will get but almost every poll says that combining UKIP, the DUP and the Conservative’s MPs does make a majority. Couple this will the fact every poll says no one party will have an overall majority and it’s easy to see how UKIP could maximise their power by playing the DUP’s game.
Of course UKIP could go into a formal coalition, but look what that has done to the Liberal Democrats. Every policy success they have is credited to the Conservatives, and every bad policy is blamed on them. They will be wiped out next year, so Farage should be reticent to take Clegg’s seat at the Cabinet table when he has been returned to the backbenches.
Remember this isn’t the first time the Liberals have been wiped out by a coalition. So UKIP should not assume that going into government with Labour would be any better. Plus it is hard to believe that any UKIP member would be keen to see Miliband in Downing Street.
UKIP are growing as a political force but they are still a new party. Ulstermen know how to exert serious political power without having enough MPs to form a government, they have been doing just that for decades.
It would a foolish UKIP leadership that did not take serious note of what our friends in Northern Ireland think is the strongest hand to play.