Sunday, 28 April 2013

Ashcroft Spits about Splits at Farage

Michael (Lord) Ashcroft, the multi-millionaire Conservative polster has unwisely written a particularly snidy letter to Nigel Farage that has been published in the Mail on Sunday. 

In it, he suggests that Nigel Farage's ambitions for UKIP are inconsistent with his stated aims of achieving a referendum on EU Membership. Ashcroft concludes that if Farage were serious about a referendum he would support the Conservative party now that it promises a referendum after the next GE if it is in power. Effectively Ashcroft accuses Farage of selling out to his own ambition.

This is a monumentally weird and twisted piece of logic that seems to have a sense of entitlement at the root of it. 

Why on earth does Ashcroft suppose that the Conservative party is the solution here? If the Conservative party had promoted and offered a clear referendum commitment some years ago then UKIP would never have got started. To suggest that they should now 'fall on their swords' in favour of the Conservative party is absurd.

The reality is that Ashcroft's sneering approach reflects many in the Conservative party who still, incredibly do not seem to grasp the idea that they are going to have work with UKIP if they can possibly hope to win in 2015. 

My Aunt is leader of the Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council. In the local elections this week she is up against a Conservative who won 25% of the vote last time and the UKIP candidate who won 10%. Apparently the local Conservatives are targeting her ward as they feel it is winable..

Frankly unless there is some local issue I am not aware of, this seems extremely unlikely. Because as Nigel Farage put it after the Eastleigh By-Election, the Conservatives will split the UKIP vote or as Ashcroft would have it, UKIP will split the Conservative vote. The result will be that my Aunt will win - the one situation nationwide where I am happy for this to occur!

Actually I think the vote belongs to the electorate and unless some great tactical opportunity presents itself they will vote for the party most likely to deliver what they want. This will not be based on what the parties say they are going to do, but on what the electorate believe they will do.

So whilst the Conservatives do have huge historical numbers, people generally do believe that Farage is genuine, whereas the other mainstream parties have been proved to be unreliable at best.

Perhaps Ashcroft thinks that his letter may convince some voters that Farage is as bad as everyone else. Perhaps some will be convinced by this argument but I suspect overall, his intervention is counter-productive because instead more people will just think that Conservative Lord Ashcroft is just 'Lording it' over man-of-the-people Farage.

Nigel Farage's strategy seems crystal-clear to me. He is putting up lots of UKIP candidates for the local elections this week. By Friday he will have hundreds of examples of damage inflicted on 'the Conservative vote' - split votes. He will then have the Euro elections to fight in 2014 where he may well get the most votes for the first time, and then he will sit down to negotiate with a hopefully chastened and finally wised-up Conservative party before the run-up to the 2015 General Election.

Perhaps Michael Ashcroft should look at his own polling and ask himself if the target voters that the Conservatives are after - 'The Strivers' are more likely to vote for an old-Etonian or a salt-of-the-earth striver type like Farage? 

Bit of a no-brainer init bruv?


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