Thursday, September 09, 2004

A wrong turning for UKIP?

An intriguing story in the Daily Telegraph this morning reports Michael Ancram as saying that the Tories would be prepared to work alongside the UKIP to defeat the EU constitution.

There was a hint of this in an e-mail sent by John Whittaker, one of UKIP's new MEPs, to all party activists on 3 September, pledging support to Conservative "North East Says No" campaign on the elected regional assembly, in preference to the better established "Northeast No Campaign" run by Neil Herron.

Herron's campaign got a dismissive reference in Whittaker's e-mail. "There are other groups campaigning for NO, including that led by Neil Herron", he wrote, offering the somewhat tendentious explanation for not supporting Herron that, "Neil stood AGAINST UKIP in the Euro-election" (capitals in the original). The Conservatives, of course, did not.

Any tryst between the Conservatives and UKIP in the regional campaign, however, is certainly not reflected at grass-roots level, and UKIP may well be stranded with a moribund organisation if Herron wins official designation from the Electoral Commission as the official "No" campaign in the North East.

On the constitutional referendum, UKIP must also work out how it is to co-operate with a Party that it will be confronting at the general elections, and one which still officially supports British membership of the EU. It is going to have to confront a similar decision on how or whether it works with the self-appointed "Vote No" campaign, which also supports EU membership.

Altogether, links with the Conservative Party – informal or otherwise – might do more damage to UKIP than the Conservatives, as the bulk of UKIP members are in the party because of their uncompromising views on the EU. Not for the first time, therefore, UKIP might be taking a wrong turning.

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