The story of yesterday’s local elections is of a big swing to federalist Labour. The Labour party that landed this country in the Nice Treaty, the Amsterdam Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty had a good night in many English and Welsh local Councils. I do not think people voted for them because they want more EU, but the fact remains that a leading federalist party has polled well and gained many Councils.
I will try once again to explain my thoughts about UKIP, as several here write in in shrill tones. They claimed that UKIP is about to make a break through. They claim it has all the right policies. They argue that the Conservatives are not worthy of support. They say that someone like me has to join UKIP, as UKIP now share some of the views I have argued for over many years.
This morning is a good morning to review progress. Most would agree that yesterday was an ideal day for a newer party to make a break through. Voters had plenty of reasons to be disenchanted with the three main parties. Yet break through came there none. There are today no UKIP Mayors, no UKIP controlled Councils, just as I forecast. Just as the disenchanted electors of Bradford turned to George Galloway, not to UKIP, just as the voters of Buckingham backed the Speaker and placed a Euro enthusiast ahead of Mr Farage in 2010, just as UKIP failed to break through in any Parliamentary eleciton since its formation, so again yesterday there was no great UKIP victory. The Conservatives can probably celebrate the Mayoralty of London today, Labour can for sure celebrate many new Councillors and Councils.
In the Wokingham constituency contests UKIP polled fewer votes than in 2008, whilst the Green vote rose sharply from a low base, pushing them up into fourth place behind Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour.
I have always argued that the only way to get the UK out of the current dangerous embrace of the EU’s political union is to stay within the Conservative party and to argue from inside. UKIP supporters deride this approach. They fail to see that this approach got us the opt out from the Euro at Maastricht – Labour and Lib Dems if in office would not have negotiated that or even asked for it. It got us to the point where the Conservatives are the only one of the 3 main parties which rules out ever joining the Euro – Lib Dems and Labour still have joining the Euro as their ultimate goal. Conservatives in office negotiated us out of the common borders, out of the social chapter, and out of the currency. More recently Mr Cameron has vetoed the planned Treaty of the 27 for greater austerity and has kept the UK out of it.
Is this enough? Of course not. It just shows, however, that we have gained some important advances, and many of us Conservative MPs intend more. Meanwhile, how has the policy of forming and promoting UKIP got on? They do not have a single MP, and have just a handful of Councillors. UKIP has no power. They do have some MEPs, though they have had a chequered history in some cases. There is no evidence that UKIP MEPs have ever been able to protect the UK from any planned EU power transfer to Brussels.
So now UKIP try to claim that the Conservatives have only been as Eurosceptic as they have because of UKIP pressure. This is complete nonsense. Conservatives were Eurosceptic in the 1990s, well before UKIP was formed. Many of us have been Eurosceptic from well before UKIP’s birth. Our electors are too, and we seek to represent them.
There may well be a Eurosceptic majority in the UK. Polls say there is when it comes to issues about extending Bruseels power, or joining the Euro. Once again , however, the electorate has kept it below the surface. UKIP’s intervention in local elections has been no more successful than its involvement in General Elections, in bringing out this natural majory they claim to be there. Instead, they target Eurosceptic Conservatives, seek to split the vote, and so damage the cause they claim to believe in. If UKIP delivered 50 UKIP MPs in place of 50 federalist Labour MPs, that would be helpful. They show no sign of being able to. Worse still they never seem to want to do that, preferring to attack fellow Eurosceptics.
Neither my strategy nor UKIP’s has yet got us the new relationship with the EU that so many of us want – trade and friendship, not common government. I still think the route I have chosen has delievered more so far, and can deliver more in the future. It would help to have some more support.
I will discuss the meaning of the big swing to Labour when we know the full results. I will of course be reinforcing my view that the Coalition needs to change its approach to the economy, with policies that give priority to faster economic growth.