This week, Tim Montgomerie, founder of ConservativeHome, wrote in The Times that he knows “of two Conservative MPs seriously considering following the path already trodden by Roger Helmer, MEP, and other Tory activists.”
So tempting! Ah, Tim knows how to tease the Twitterverse’s denizens – the politicos, policy wonks and politics anoraks. Who could these two MPs be?
The Spineless Liberal offers his opinion.
But, I don’t believe Guido has got them right. I think he’s missing one of the most likely.
I think that a UKIP-defector must be a Eurosceptic – for all UKIPs insistence that they’re not a single-issue party, euroscepticism does seem to be the main unifying factor in the party’s ideology (to the point where they have to point out they’re not racist) and from their success in European Parliament elections and poll-boosts when Cameron is viewed as too weak on Europe makes it self-evident that the electorate views them as the United Kingdom Eurosceptic Party. Montgomerie does say that UKIP have developed into “a multiflavoured receptacle for disillusioned Conservatives”, but at their core is euroscepticism.
I also think that it would encourage a Tory MP to defect if their chances of success in the Tories are limits –
a) by having a limited future in the party, being too associated with the backbenches to be considered for leadership, or being too disparaging of the dominant Cameroon wing to ‘make it’.
b) by incumbency in a seat to be dismembered or abolished, forcing them into competition with incumbent Tories.
c) by being from the 2010 intake. This intake was decidedly more eurosceptic than traditional Tories, and far more Thatcherite. It also means that the members have less ties to the more well-established party élite, and have had less contact with the whips.
The usual suspects are definitely
- Mark Pritchard
- Bill Cash
- George Eustice
- Douglas Carswell
- Jacob Rees-Mogg
- Nadine Dorries.
I’d also want to take a look at
- Mark Reckless
- Bernard Jenkin
- Peter Bone
- Philip Davies
Mark Pritchard is Guido’s favourite – the “secretary of the 1922 Committee resigned from his position as the Conservative Party’s International Office deputy chairman last month, telling the papers that his decision was a protest against Cameron’s weakness on Europe.” I tend to agree – his history of euroscepticism is notable, and I reckon he is a very likely candidate.
George Eustice is an ex-UKIPer himself – but I strongly doubt he’d defect, and Guido says it’s an “outside punt”. His future inside the Tories is too bright, and I’ve wondered previously if his Eurosceptic grouping was cultivated by the leadership. His amendment to the infamous back-bench referendum motion wasn’t supported by the government but certainly let it off the hook.
I can’t see why Bill Cash would defect. If he indeed on the end of his tether, then he’s a possibility, but why wouldn’t he have defected beforehand? He holds huge influence within the party, and I personally see no reason why he’s jeopardise that. But, his defection would possibly be the most damaging to the Tories, in my view.
Douglas Carswell is similar – I can’t see a specific pushing factor beyond general dissatisfaction, but it would be very damaging. He’s also tied with Dan Hannah MEP, a renowned Eurosceptic – perhaps they’d shift together?
Bernard Jenkin, Philip Bone and Mark Reckless are similarly eurosceptic – in another world they would be UKIPers but I don’t see why they’d take the plunge. I’ve included them to illustrate one crucial factor – the boundary changes. All three of their seats are reasonably secure – no major changes are likely to occur. Why risk defecting to a fringe party and bring the wrath of the Conservative Party HQ down on them in 2015?
I include them to raise one of the crucial – perhaps the most crucial – factor. The boundary changes.
If an MP is having their seat taken away, why wouldn’t they decide to jump ship? Especially if they’re going to be put into direct competition with other incumbent Tories in selection processes.
Because of this – I want to look at Nadine Dorries and Philip Davies.
Nadine Dorries‘ constituency of Mid-Bedfordshire is being utterly dismembered in the Boundary Review. She’s up against other Conservative incumbents in nearby constituency selection processes. Don’t forget that she’s not exactly beloved of Conservative Party HQ. They’re not going to help her.
So why not transfer to a new party? That means she avoids a selection process she’d loose and can still fight as an incumbent in a new seat.
The surrounding seats – Hitchen and Harpenden, North Bedfordshire and South West Bedfordshire – all have the Liberal Democrats in second – it could mean that she could draw off enough Tory votes to gain a majority… or, even, hopefully, for me at least, take enough Tory votes to give the Lib Dems a win. Local politics would be crucial here, I feel.
But then again, perhaps she’d rather leave mainstream politics? Or try and force a contest against other Tories?
However, I’m not convinced by her defecting. She’s a Christian conservative- a pretty extreme one, admittedly, but a Christian. While I don’t doubt many UKIPers are Christian, and vice-versa, it doesn’t fit her politics.
UKIP isn’t a Christian conservative party on the far-right, but a “common sense”, populist, conservative party. These “common sense” positions – why bother with such bleedin’ heart liberal ideas like human rights, internationalism, or national minimum wage – don’t extend so much to Dories’ religious convictions on abortion, for example. She’s definitely a disaffected Tory but she isn’t a real fit for UKIP.
I’m far more convinced that Philip Davies would be the rebel. He, in my mind, is the most likely candidate, and forms some sort of perfect storm of conditions
- He is one of the Commons’ most eurosceptic MPs.
- He is a reasonably regular rebel against the government – particularly on Europe.
- He has announced his intention to remain a backbencher , so as to represent his constituents better. He isn’t looking for promotion, and is no ally of the Cameroon leadership.
- His mix of libertarian economics (he was the one to propose lower minimum pay for disabled people) and authoritarian standpoint on human rights and immigration, claiming “My first thought would be to scrap the Human Rights Act for foreign nationals and chuck them out of the country. If they are British citizens, we have to do something. Whether it’s through surveillance or control orders, it’s open to debate”, would appeal to UKIPs brand of popular ‘commonsense’ “caricature of Conservatism” as Montgomerie put it.
- He is an organiser for the Tax Payers Alliance.
- His stance on Islam is…less than friendly. He apparently urged mosques to fly the British flag to show their allegiance to the British state… automatically assuming that it needs to be proven, whereas churches are naturally loyalist?
- His father is the English Democrat mayor of Doncaster.
- His seat (Shipley) is to be torn asunder in the Boundary reviews. Part is due to be absorbed by Bradford West, so naturally unfriendly territory since Galloway’s election. Several wards are going into Guiseley and Yeadon constituency, and parts into Keighley – incumbent Conservative Kris Hopkins may very well beat him in selection. He may have to fight the Tory MP for Pudsey in Guiseley. Most of the rest of the city is projected to be Labourite (including David Ward’s Lib Dem Bradford East).
- He is a member of the Better Off Out campaign… and UKIP is already so fond of him that they didn’t run a candidate against him in 2010. Indeed, they actively campaigned for him to be re-elected! He increased his majority to 10,000, enough to maybe, maybe, be able to take a seat from a Tory in 2015.
I’ve received some feedback on Twitter on notable Tories who I’ve missed. I wanted to include them here.
Peter Bone is a notable rebel. ConHome has a very useful list of rebels in this parliament, and Bone comes fourth or fifth, depending on the definition of a rebellion.
It might be that Mrs Bone is nagging him over the breakfast table to defect. But somehow… I just don’t sense that he’s that radical. He seems quite happy with his quirky notability, I doubt he wants true infamy. But who knows. My caveat – as with all these critiques – is that I can’t see into their minds. But still…
Hollobone is one I missed at first, I’ll confess – he’s the most rebellious Tory MP, by far. He’s one of UKIP’s favourites, much like Davies. Lord Pearson has said UKIP would do “everything to get him in” to Parliament. He’s involved with Better Off Out (BOO). His Private Members’ Bill to ban wearing of the Burka was… interesting.
Most interestingly, he apparently attacked Baroness Warsi over her handling of new UKIPer Roger Helmer’s defection.
I believe Hollobone is a pretty good option. One to watch.
David Nuttal is the second most rebellious after Hollobone – he was the one who proposed the motion on a referendum on EU membership. The tagline on his website is “Straight talking common sense”, tying into the “common sense” UKIP image. Just looking through his views shows he’s reasonably similar to UKIP…though not as extreme as Helmer etc. His namesake MEP Peter Nuttall supported his PMB on smoking in pubs… but they did stand against him in 2010. Let’s see how they align in 2015.
Another good call. Less likely but interesting. Perhaps he has too much of a future within the Tory party as Bill Cash’s successor to defect?
Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, is my choice for the most likely Tory to defect to UKIP. He’s already a darling of the party and seems closer to Farage than to Cameron. He’s up against heavy competition to survive as an MP in Bradford. He may as well jump… and I think he’d land on his feet.
Mark Pritchard, Nadine Dorries, Philip Hollobone and Bill Cash are my other choices on who to watch. But then again, it could be some random back-bencher, who is simply fed up with Cameron in general – not just over Europe, but the whole shebang.
However, the question we need to be asking is not who will jump but will they do the decent thing and submit to a by-election, as UKIPers and Roger Helmer, when a Tory, consistently insisted that Lib Dems who resigned or changed parties should do.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think that Philip Davies is the most likely jumper? Which jumper would most damage the Tory party? Am I right?
Feel free to comment, I’m glad of all opinions.
- Tory/UKIP Defection Runners and Riders (order-order.com)
- (MONITOR) Tim Montgomerie: David Cameron ignores UKIP at his peril #cameron #ukip (dreadnoughtuk.wordpress.com)
- Roger Helmer abandons Europlastic Tories and joins UKIP (autonomousmind.wordpress.com)
- Exclusive: Stringy Says Vote UKIP after 32 Years as a Tory (order-order.com)
- Tory MEP Roger Helmer joins UKIP (bbc.co.uk)