Midlands Tories face perils of waging war on two fronts

Nigel Farage The threat of Nigel Farage's UKIP could see the Tories fighting an election battle on two fronts
"Vote UKIP. Get Labour"

It's not exactly the clarion call with which most Midlands Conservative activists would chose to rally support for their 2015 general election campaign, now just over a year and a half away.

But it certainly conveys the scale of the problem facing them.

Despite UKIP's protestations that they are gaining support from all the main parties, the evidence is mounting that the "UKIP factor" poses the biggest threat to the Conservatives.

Publicly, Lichfield's Michael Fabricant is in a minority of one among Conservative MPs in suggesting a debate about a possible electoral pact with UKIP.

Tory marginal seats

Seats where they are defending majorities under 5,000 and Labour are their main challenger

  • Cannock Chase
  • Dudley South
  • Gloucester
  • Warwick and Leamington
  • Warwickshire North
  • Wolverhampton South West
  • Worcester

But some Westminster-watchers are taking the idea increasingly seriously as they see what happens when Tory support drains away to UKIP.

Next May's European Elections could play right into Nigel Farage's hands: a risk-free electoral playpen in which voters can register a protest and help UKIP to out-poll the Tories.

As Gordon Brown knows only too well, a European Election performance can set the tone for a general election 12 months later.

Consider what this might mean here in the Midlands, famous for our marginal, so-called "swing" seats.

According to a poll released on Sunday, 15th September 2013 by the former Conservative deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft, it is in these crucial constituencies that UKIP's challenge is strongest.

Labour/Lib Dem marginals

Seats the Conservatives will look to gain from Labour and the Lib Dems

  • Birmingham Northfield (Lab)
  • Dudley North (Lab)
  • Newcastle-under-Lyme (Lab)
  • Solihull (Lib Dems)
  • Telford (Lab)
  • Walsall North (Lab)
  • Walsall South (Lab)

While Labour's lead in the national polls is hovering around a relatively modest 5%, Lord Ashcroft suggests that in the Tory marginals Labour's lead is more like 14%, (43% to 29%), not because of any great surge in Labour's popularity, but because of UKIP splitting the right of centre vote.

Which leaves David Cameron facing what all military tacticians will tell you is the unenviable prospect of waging war on two fronts at the same time.

So whatever Mr Fabricant may have said about a Tory/UKIP deal, the most potent unholy alliance in British politics could prove to be be the one between Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage.

Both will hotly deny it of course.

But that will not stop me putting it to them both when I continue my round of interviews with the party leaders, preparing for their respective conferences.

UKIP hold theirs in London on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st September 2013 just a week after their former deputy leader Mike Nattrass resigned from the party.

He will sit as an Independent West Midlands MEP following his non-selection on UKIP's candidates' list for next year's European polls. Mr Nattrass accused the party of selecting "cronies" of Mr Farage whom he accused of being a "totalitarian" leader like Robert Mugabe who made Machiavelli look like an amateur.

Meantime Labour gather in Brighton for their conference from Sunday, 22nd September to Wednesday 25th September 2013.

Having resigned from the Shadow Cabinet over the Falkirk "selection rigging" issue, the West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson accused his leaders of "rash decisions" about their relationship with their union paymasters.

I hope you will join us for our interviews with the unlikeliest of political odd couples - Miliband and Farage - on this weekend's Sunday Politics from 11.00 on BBC One Midlands on Sunday 22nd September 2013.

Patrick Burns Article written by Patrick Burns Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

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  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I've been Conservative all my life - and in an area of the country where a monkey with a red rosette would be voted into Parliament (and often was!)....but today, the only party which is representing my views and fears for my country are UKIP.
    I reluctantly, will no longer be voting Tory....it's UKIP all the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Like or loathe UKIP's politics, I have to hand it to Farage for being so delightfully un-PC. Fag and a pint in hand, facing the camera's, really goes against the prevailing PC-ness infecting this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    When people discuss UKIP in real life, rather than on this website, they usually start by dismissing it as a load of fruitcakes. I quite like fruitcake, by the way.

    They then say something like "But, you know, UKIP's policies do make sense. I'm fed-up with HM Government. Come to that, I'm fed-up with the EU too. UKIP's a breath of realism in a murky self-serving coterie."

    So I'll vote UKIP too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I already have a UKIP representative on the council and I voted for him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Once again the bores moan "its just like Germany in the 1930's" when UKIP, a popular party, is mentioned. The LIB-LAB-CON's have behaved without reference or interest to the wishes of a large and increasingly disaffected populace. They have behaved like fascists not UKIP. I'm an ex Labour Party member. I genuinely despise what my old party has become. I will be voting for UKIP.


Comments 5 of 45



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