|They’re far from perfect, but the Conservatives are Britain’s best hope|
Chris Kelly, the MP for Dudley South, has become the latest Conservative representing a marginal seat to announce that he will be standing down at the next general election. Mr Kelly, a Eurosceptic who many had tipped to defect to UKIP, has only been an MP since 2010, and considering that he is only 36 years old it is not unreasonable to be ever so slightly surprised that he is already calling time on his political career.
He is not the only member of the Tories’ 2010 intake who is deciding to pack it in after just one term, a trend which is deeply worrying for Prime Minister David Cameron as he prepares for what will almost certainly be the most closely fought general election of recent years. Does he have what it takes to emerge victorious in his bid for re-election, or are the Conservatives a toxic brand under fire from both the left and the right?
The biggest game changer of this parliamentary term has undoubtedly been the rise of UKIP, a brand which has rapidly evolved since 2010. Back then under the doomed leadership of the ageing Lord Pearson, UKIP were a mess with an impenetrable election manifesto, lunatic policies and absolutely no sense of cohesion, organisation or effective management. Nigel Farage has changed all of this and successfully replaced his party’s homespun and amateurish public image with a much slicker operation. That isn’t to say that all of UKIP’s rough edges have been smoothed, but the fact that they look almost certain to win the upcoming Clacton by-election is proof of how far they have come in so little time.
Farage’s other great success has been to take UKIP’s ideological message and make it attractive to ordinary voters. Whilst there will always be a large number of people who consider the right wing party to be racist and scare-mongering, the facts are that Farage has done more than most commentators realise to take UKIP’s positions on Europe, immigration and welfare and to bring them into the political mainstream. Now more than ever, people are asking pertinent questions concerning these issues, and we have Farage to thank for opening up this debate in a new and radical manner.
Consequently, it is little wonder that UKIP is proving to be such an attractive outfit for those who are disillusioned with mainstream politics. Cash for questions, the expenses scandal and the corruption of prominent figures from Peter Mandelson to Maria Miller have widened the gulf between Westminster and ordinary people, and the public have every right to be angry at a political system which is all too often guilty of putting its own interests above the nation’s. However, no matter how strong our anger may be, UKIP are ultimately unable to provide a long-term answer.
Nigel Farage may claim to be building a movement, his own self-styled ‘People’s Army,’ but on the morning of 8th May 2015 the new Prime Minister will be one of two men, neither of whom is Mr Farage. UKIP are admittedly attractive, a new and fresh force which almost seems to transcend the partisan ‘left-right’ political spectrum, but in reality they are impotent as there is no chance whatsoever of them even holding the balance of power, let alone forming the next government.
It may be a cliche, but the facts are that a vote for UKIP is a vote for Ed Miliband. Admittedly Farage has managed to win over some ex-Labour voters in the north-east, but the seats where UKIP pose a real threat are almost all Conservative ones – South Thanet, Clacton, Boston and Skegness and Great Yarmouth to name but a few.
Farage and his supporters like to claim that a Labour government would be no worse than a Conservative one in their eyes, yet this simply exposes their naivety and short-sightedness. If Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister there will be no EU referendum, no renegotiation, and almost certainly no substantial immigration or welfare reform. The only way that these issues which are supposedly so important for UKIP will ever be addressed is if we elect a Conservative majority in 2015.
As I have argued many times before, David Cameron is not an ideal Conservative leader or Prime Minister, but he is infinitely better qualified for the top job than his Labour rival. A Miliband administration would be a victory for many groups – EU bureaucrats, government pen-pushers and militant trade union leaders – but it would deliver absolutely nothing for the ordinary men and women of this nation.
Despite the setback of having been shackled to the lifeless Liberal Democrat corpse for the past four years, the Conservatives have used their time in government to deliver some much-needed reforms, successes which are largely thanks to the more far-sighted and radical ministers within this administration. Under George Osborne’s watch the economy has steadily been guided back on track, Michael Gove used his time as Education Secretary to implement some meaningful changes whilst simultaneously standing up to the teaching establishment, and Iain Duncan Smith has guaranteed himself a place in history by implementing the biggest shake-up of welfare in recent history. However there is still more work to be done, and with so much at stake in 2015 it would be nothing less than scandalous if we were to jeopardise our future by wasting our votes on a party that sounds good, yet will never get the opportunity to make those tough decisions which are so important for our nation.