Tomorrow, Young Dave and his jolly good chaps convene in Birmingham to soak up the plaudits at the Tory Party conference. Cameron has been jolly tough on those ISIS chappies, he’s kept the Union together (and don’t anyone mention Pa Broon), and with Chris Grayling’s help, he’s going to show those European legal bods who’s the boss on human rights. What can possibly go wrong?
Well, Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his fellow saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP can pull another defection out of the hat, that’s what: Mark Reckless, famous for once living up to his name and entering a state of alcoholic derangement so advanced that he was unable to stagger from the Commons terrace back to the chamber to vote, has jumped ship to the Kippers and taken his hangover with him.
Reckless, like so many on the right, has developed a peculiar obsession with migration, although he appears to favour it from Commonwealth countries, but not from other EU member states, or at least some of them. He is another who believes the UK will automatically be better off if it leaves the EU, though, like the others, he is short of a credible economist to back up his contention.
But, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, since Cameron demoted Michael “Oiky” Gove from the Department for Education and sent him to lead the Whips’ office, his party has shipped two MPs. As Wilde might have said, to lose one may be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose two looks like carelessness. With Gove as chief whip, the Tories have an operation that really stands up. And then walks out.
And two, UKIP are claiming they have at least one more potential defector. So now the speculation starts: who might be the next to jump, and will they, like Douglas “Kamikaze” Carswell and Reckless, trigger a by-election as they do so? The remaining two Tories not to have been opposed by UKIP last time because of their anti-EU stance may now be on watch by Gove and his pals.
These are Philip Hollobone in Kettering, and Philip Davies in Shipley, both of whom have the problem that UKIP have never made much of a showing in elections within those constituencies. Davies, who is usually not backward in coming forward to sound off on a range of issues, has been rather quiet of late. In the current febrile climate, you would not bet against one or both of them jumping.
Who else might fancy a little rightwards waltz? Hardened Eurosceptics like Bill Cash, who represents Stone, have never shown much enthusiasm for the Farage fringe. But there’s always (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries, who has made UKIP-friendly noises in the past. If she could carry the local association with her, she might be persuaded. But don’t bet on a by-election: she’d probably lose it.
25 years on and the Tories are still self-destructing over Europe. Sad, really.