As the giant clock at CCHQ will tell you: there are 896 days until the next general election. That’s eight hundred and ninety six days until Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister Ed Miliband. Not long after the furore which whips Labour into No 10 subsides, Moody’s inevitably downgrades the UK’s credit rating, just like in France this week, given Miliband’s intention to follow Francois Hollande’s path to financial Armageddon.
Recent polls have barely budged for months. The Tories are anchored on around 31% with the Labour party a clear ten points ahead in most forecasts. Our coalition partners, the Lib Dems, are wading through the quicksand with all but the most loyal of their members keeping Clegg and the rest afloat at around 12% in the most generous of polls. These numbers are fairly consistent with recent times, especially two and a half years before a general election.
The problem the Conservative party faces is from people and voters who are commonly of the same political birthing pool; the crescendo of which is getting harder and harder to just ignore.
To the aghast of Liberal Democrats, it is fair enough to say that UKIP are now Britain’s third party. Their recent third place finish in Corby garnered a respectable 14% of the vote despite having far inferior resources to call upon and a reluctant media that tends to shut them out; maybe the media can shut them out but we certainly cannot shut them up.
Within the Tory party itself the Europe question drums ever louder. The vociferous 2010 intake is largely Eurosceptic and they let it be known given any opportunity; opportunities that are now plentiful given the coalition system of government we currently find ourselves in.
The Tory backbench is also growing increasingly recalcitrant, demanding that their voices and demands be recognised in some shape or form. To highlight this dissent, fifty Tory backbenchers allied with Ed Miliband to sign a Commons motion that required Cameron to seek a real-terms cut in the EU budget.
Despite all this, we hear that the voters don’t care about Europe, so stop going on about it. The reality is different: almost half of Britons would vote for a Eurexit.
The situation shows little sign of easing in Cameron’s favour either; he is likely to be battered during the upcoming EU budget negotiations, with possibly more political blood to be shed.
The conundrum Cameron finds himself amidst is largely of his own doing. The ‘most eurosceptic candidate’ for the Tory top job in 2005 soon shed that skin once in power; the ‘cast iron’ promise for a referendum worth the same as an email from a ‘wealthy Nigerian King’ in need of your help.
Put simply: a continuation to ignore the Europe question means a sweeping Labour majority in 2015, something none of us on the centre-right want and something this country just cannot afford.
The solution lies in a non-aggression pact with between the Tories and UKIP. With the latter party gaining around 10% in some polls any agreement would go a long way in keeping out Labour. Some analysts suggest that UKIP cost the Conservatives as many as twenty seats during the 2010 general election in which Cameron was nineteen short of an overall majority. Having lost almost a third of his voters since 2010, the prime minister should take note.
With both parties promising to endorse each other’s candidates in an orchestration of tactical voting the 7-10% UKIP are said to poll would make a huge difference. All Cameron has to do is guarantee the referendum so many crave.
In essence this means that UKIP would finally get their lifeblood transfused in a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU and Cameron could perhaps enjoy four years without the nagging wife trying to scupper his most ambitious plans.
If we want to avoid ever reading ‘Prime Minister’ and ‘Ed Miliband’ in the same headline space then a sensible and timely solution to the European question needs to be addressed. No ifs, no buts, just in or out.