Following the wins recorded by UKIP in last week’s local elections, the advice for other parties as to what to do next has come thick and fast. Much of this has been directed at Young Dave and his fellow jolly good chaps, and often by the Tories’ own well-meaning supporters and members. And combining that well-meaning strand with his own disconnect from reality is Daniel Hannan.
MEP and occasional Tory Hannan has drawn the unduly simplistic conclusion that there must be an alliance between his party and that of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage. He has reached this point by seeing the Tories lose lots of seats, while UKIP has gained some of them. Therefore, in his view, there must be a blue and purple alliance. It sounds appealing. But it’s complete crap.
UKIP posted second place in the recent Parliamentary by-election in Rotherham. Does Hannan want to suggest that there was some groundswell of disaffected Tory voters that produced that result? Or the similar second place in South Shields last week? Or the second place in Barnsley Central in 2011? UKIP is not just abstracting votes from the Tories.
Indeed, the UKIP supporters involved in the foster care row in the lead-up to the Rotherham contest had previously voted Labour. And, if disaffected voters in Labour strongholds rally to the Farage fringe, you can be sure there are more like them. But Hannan would not dream of suggesting an electoral pact between Farage and Mil The Younger. And his reading of UKIP is shaky.
Farage may claim to be a libertarian, but his party isn’t: keeping out Johnny Foreigner isn’t exactly assisting the cause of liberty. Nor is spraying money up the wall on more armed forces, or building lots more prisons, to enable the state to warehouse the criminally inclined. All of these things require not a small state with low taxes, but the polar opposite.
What Farage is pushing may be populist and popular, but it ain’t libertarian, and nor is it intrinsically right-wing. But it is blessed with the overarching idea that UKIP will somehow be better than the rest, because “you can’t get a cigarette paper between them”. If UKIP were to arrange a pact with Tories, that would before long cause the former Labour and Lib Dem voters to drift back.
So it isn’t going to happen in the near future, except as a means of Farage bagging more headlines. Hannan’s whole approach is predicated on his view of the world being shared by a lot more people than in reality, and so it is as lacking in credibility as you would expect from someone prepared to play patsy to Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).
Small wonder the hacks can’t figure out UKIP. Nor can the politicians.