This morning our Editor Donna Edmunds voiced skepticism over the Unite the Right campaign. Toby Young, co-founder of the British Unite the Right campaign here exercises his right to reply:
I’m not sure Donna has quite grasped what the Unite the Right campaign is about – and that’s probably the fault of those behind it for not being clearer. We’re not proposing a top-down electoral pact between UKIP and the Conservatives, endorsed by the leaders of both parties. That will never happen, at least not until David Cameron goes. We’re not even asking for a pact between local associations within constituencies whereby they agree not to field candidates against each other. Those who want to vote for either party will still be able to do so. Rather, we want a bottom-up pact between the *supporters* of both parties – an agreement to vote tactically in certain key constituencies to stop the Labour or Lib Dem candidate winning and make sure the Conservative or UKIP candidate wins instead.
There are two main arguments in favour of a bottom-up pact.
The first is it will reduce the likelihood of Ed Miliband becoming the next Prime Minister – something he’s currently on course to do with just 35% of the vote thanks to the fact that Labour’s opponents are divided. Now, I know many UKIP supporters claim to be indifferent between a Miliband-led government and a Cameron-led government – LibLabCon, etc. Indeed, some go further and say they’d prefer Miliband to be the next Prime Minister because after five years of Labour the electorate might be willing to elect a UKIP government in 2020. Against this I’d point out that five years of red-in-tooth-and claw socialism will do irreparable damage to this country. Miliband will massively increase public spending, raise taxes, remove immigration controls, destroy free schools and criminalise any dissent from left-wing groupthink. Is that really a price you’re prepared to pay? And anyone who thinks UKIP could win a majority in 2020 is living in cloud cuckoo land. Let’s not forget the Conservatives remained in power for 18 years thanks to the division on the left between 1979 and 1997.
The second argument is it’s the only way to secure a referendum on our membership of the European Union. Admittedly, Cameron has reneged on his promise to hold an EU referendum before, but he wouldn’t get away with doing that again. Thanks to James Wharton’s bill, committing the next government to holding an EU referendum in 2017, the europhiles and eurosceptics in the Conservative Party have agreed a truce. If Cameron rows back on the commitment, full-scale war will break out and his party will be torn apart. For that reason, he’ll stick to his promise if he’s Prime Minister in the next Parliament. Ed Miliband, by contrast, has made no such promise and Labour wouldn’t hold a referendum. That would mean full-steam ahead on the road to European integration. Bear in mind that any further erosion of Britain’s national sovereignty will be difficult to reverse so a referendum in 2017 may be our last chance to get out of Europe. It would be ironic indeed if UKIP’s main historical legacy was to prevent an EU referendum being held, thereby ensuring Britain becomes a member of the United States of Europe. Yet that’s exactly what will happen if there’s no electoral pact between UKIP and the Conservatives in 2015.
There’s a third argument, one that just applies to UKIP. In the absence of a pact, the chances of UKIP winning even one seat in the next Parliament are vanishing-to-zero. That will underline what is bound to be a fall in UKIP’s share of the vote between the 2014 European election and the 2015 general election and contribute to a “UKIP on the wane” narrative. But suppose there’s an electoral pact. That would likely mean UKIP winning a handful of seats – and that, in turn, would create the impression that UKIP is a growing force. A foothold in Parliament would give UKIP a huge credibility boost and might eventually lead to it replacing the Conservatives as the main party of the right, just as the 29 seats Labour won in 1906 (thanks to a Lib-Lab pact) helped it replace the Liberals as the main party of the left. Indeed, precisely this danger has been highlighted by Conservatives as an argument *against* the Con-UKIP pact we’re proposing. UKIP are likely to do far better in 2020 if they win some seats in 2015 than if they win none.
I know not all of you will be convinced – and many will point out that UKIP isn’t a party of the right and draws some of its support from ex-Labour and ex-Lib Dem voters. That’s fine and we wouldn’t dispute that. We’re not looking for a formal endorsement from the party, something that might alienate some of your supporters, and we’re not looking to convert all of you to this cause. In order to have an impact, it will be enough if only a small percentage UKIPers vote tactically. Indeed, some of you may be planning to do that anyway. What we’re offering is to broker a quid pro quo with some Conservative supporters: You vote tactically in some constituencies and Tories will vote tactically in others. So UKIPers will see a return for doing something that many of you will do anyway.
I think it’s also worth stressing that, while it might be inaccurate to characterise UKIP as a “right-wing” party, there are more issues on which you andthe Conservatives agree than disagree. I’m thinking of a welfare cap, controlled immigration, low taxes, public service reform and freedom of speech. We all believe in a small state, free markets and giving the British public a say about our future in Europe. Ed Miliband doesn’t. He’s a big government Marxist who wants Britain to become part of a socialist European superstate.
If I have convinced any of you, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, putting your constituency in the subject line. We’re looking to create on-the-ground campaign teams willing to get out the vote for the Unite the Right candidate in key battleground constituencies. I hope at least some of you will get involved. The team behind Unite the Right is made up of Tories and UKIPers in equal numbers. We recognise something I hope many of you will come to recognise too: we either hang together or we hang separately.
Toby Young is a journalist, author, and founder of a Free School. He tweets at @toadmeister