Yesterday afternoon, having been triumphantly received first by the 1922 and then his adoring new cohort, David Cameron announced the details of his reshuffle. You can picture the moment. A gleeful Prime Minister instructing an adviser to tweet out the names of each member of his new Conservative majority government. A knock on the door.
“Hellooo,” smiles Dave. Nothing could cloud his mood.
“Prime Minister. He has risen.”
Nigel Farage has stood for parliament seven times. Seven times he has lost. Before last Thursday, straight-talking Nige was unequivocal: “It is frankly just not credible for me to continue to lead the party without a Westminster seat. If I fail to win South Thanet, it is curtains for me.”
A man of his word, on Friday morning Farage stood on the lawn of the Botany Bay hotel, looking out over the cliffs and into the sea, delivering his resignation speech. This was it. This was where, if he goes, he should go.
And yet, three days later, with characteristically Tory-infuriating timing, he was back. “It took a lot of convincing,” insists a source close the man we once again call UKIP leader. “But he promised to resign. And he resigned”. Three cheers for the new politics.
It won’t be enough for the Tories simply to point to the spectacular, comical, risible double standards of someone who has made a career out of criticising his fellow politicians for breaking their promises. No, Cameron and co will have to do more than that.
On Friday, Farage stressed that UKIP will take a different approach in the next five years, implying a focus on political reform rather than merely Europe and immigration: “I think the time has come for real, genuine, radical political reform, and it is UKIP who will be the party who leads it.” Douglas Carswell, UKIP’s only MP, made similar noises yesterday morning.
If the Tories want to head off the next UKIP threat, then they need to make sure it is them and not UKIP who lead that political reform.
UKIP, Carswell especially, will make Recall a big issue. The watered down proposals currently on the table (which were ruined by the Lib Dems in coalition) are nowhere near enough. The Tories should implement full Recall, as proposed by their MP Zac Goldsmith.
Larger policy problems like English Votes for English Laws need to be dealt with swiftly. Boundary reform will help make our electoral system fairer, though the Tories should look at the voting system itself too. UKIP is proposing “a new proportional voting system that truly reflects the number of votes cast”. The Tories must act to make our election results fairer.
And what else can the Tories do to enhance democracy? UKIP suggest an Open Primaries Bill to prevent so many politicians being careerist Westminster insiders. The Tories have flirted with semi-open primaries before, but they should embrace proper, genuinely open selections which aren’t orchestrated from CCHQ.
Nigel Farage is the man who will not go away. For another five years he will be a thorn in the Tories’ side. But they have beaten him before and they can beat him again. This time round, pursuing radical reform of the way our politics is conducted is the way to do it.