In the run up to the General Election Conservatives and UKIP candidates and supporters were fighting each other for the seats available in Parliament. That process required both sides to stress their differences as part of the cut and thrust of democratic debate. That’s democracy.
However, in the months ahead we need to prepare for an even more important vote, the vote of the UK people on whether to stay in the EU or not. To win that vote for Out if that becomes necessary will require all Eurosceptics, of whatever party and of greater or lesser conviction, to unite. Subject to what the Prime Minister manages to agree with other EU members, many Conservatives and many UKIP supporters may well find themselves on the same side of the referendum argument. If Mr Cameron cannot persuade the other members of the EU that the UK needs a new relationship with the Euro area which restores our domestic democratic control over the things that matter, including welfare and borders, then we need to urge the public to vote to leave the present treaties. A vote to leave would trigger a negotiation of a trade based relationship which the rest of the EU will of course wish to have, given how much they export to us.
In order to win the referendum for Out, if it comes to that, it will be essential that all those who think the EU has too much power and who think the present relationship unsatisfactory to unite around the strong proposition that we leave. UKIP will need to help Conservatives persuade those who feel much less strongly about the matter than UKIP itself, which will require the right tone of voice, a positive message about how life can better outside the EU, and a willingness to compromise with those who are not strong believers in Out.It will also be easier to persuade those with less sure convictions on this topic than UKIP members if the Prime Minister is seen to have tried to get a decent deal for the UK, only to be rebuffed by other EU states.
It is not for me or others outside UKIP to say who should lead you or how you should be led. That is a matter for you and your party. It is for me, someone who has campaigned long and hard for the restoration of democracy in the UK by getting back control over important decisions from the EU, to urge you all to have the new task of the referendum in mind when you make your decisions.
Mr Carswell left the Conservative party for UKIP to make a point. I did not agree with him then, as I hoped the Conservative party was close to winning a majority in the Commons so we could vote through a referendum which we all want. I felt Mr Carswell’s decision made that more difficult. Fortunately Conservatives in Parliament can now offer that vote. Mr Carswell urges his new party to work tirelessly for the referendum in 2016/17, and points out it will require a positive, optimistic friendly tone of voice to carry the day. We will need to show how the UK can be more democratic, more vibrant and more successful outside the Treaties. It is important to recognise we need a new relationship based on trade, friendship and political co-ooperation.