Eastleigh voters who want the kind of conservatism espoused by Maria Hutchings should vote UKIP, not Cameroon Tory
Boris Johnson is primarily an entertaining politician, rather than a serious one. A political gadfly within the spectrum of UK centre-right politics, he excels at newspaper columns where his wittering wittily adds to the pleasure of reading them. Often, he communicates good sense – very good sense indeed. Occasionally, though, he talks utter balderdash. And very occasionally, he knows it is.
As with his gushing endorsement of Maria Hutchings, the Conservative candidate in tomorrow’s Eastleigh by-election. He described her, two days ago, as “not some cookie-cutter candidate from Central Office” and as someone who “does not have a pasteurised and homogenised set of metropolitan opinions”. He’s correct – the energetic, industrious and seemingly thoroughly likeable Ms Hutchings appears to be what would, in time past, have been instantly recognisable as a mainstream Conservative candidate.
But that, crucially, was prior to the Cameroon-moderniser capture of the Conservative Party from 2001 onwards – and therein lies the Boris Balderdash. Because by the standards of the Cameroon cabal, with its predilection for A-list, on-message stereotypes whose attraction for Central Office is precisely that pasteurised and homogenised set of metropolitan opinions for which Johnson purports to affect disdain, she’s an absolute outlier.
Hutchings is sceptical, at the very least, about the EU: Cameron, despite his newly-found commitment to a referendum (almost certainly a ruse, as analysed here), would never contemplate leaving. She is against gay marriage: the Cameroons have made it a litmus test of their metropolitan inclusiveness. She is pro-life on the abortion issue: the Tory leadership is resolutely pro-choice. She favours strict controls on immigration: the Coalition is disinclined to address it, whatever Cameron’s recent less-than-believable and desperate assertions to the contrary.
She’s almost, in fact, the complete antithesis of a Cameroon Tory candidate. Granted, she has a creditable record locally: but as no-one remotely interested in UK politics fails to understand, her big attraction for CCHQ was the resistance that her off-message, non-Cameroon, right-wing Tory views offers to the threat of a surging UKIP.
UKIP’s by-election performances in Barnsley, Croydon, Middlesbrough and Corby have transformed it into a clear and present danger to a Cameroon-Tory party acutely aware how its leftward drift towards accepting the social-democratic consensus, both to placate its LibDem Coalition partners and indulge its own metro-liberal instincts, have alienated its core traditional support. The declining support on the ground is mirroring the precipitous drop in individual membership since Cameron became leader.
For a long time, the Cameroons arrogantly took it for granted that voters who wanted a smaller state, lower taxes, a more robust approach to the EU and an end to embracing Green mantras had no electorally viable alternative to go to. Now they do: that alternative is positively hovering up disaffected former Tories and eroding the Cameroon appeal. Hence the need to have in Eastleigh a candidate who could offer the semblance of adherence to formerly mainstream Conservatism.
Yet prospective Tory voters in Eastleigh should ask themselves – if they vote for, and elect, Maria Hutchings because of her own views on the issues where she’s diametrically opposed to the prevailing Cameroon orthodoxy, what chance do they have of seeing those views reflected in policy to a greater extent than hitherto? We know the answer to that – none whatsoever. The Cameroon clique will interpret victory as vindication, Hutchings will join the ranks of Cameron’s very unloved non-Cameroon backbenchers, and nothing at all will change.
Tory voters’ best chances of bringing about the change in policies they’d indicate they want in voting for Hutchings lie, paradoxically, in not voting for her, but instead voting tactically to ensure a Tory non-victory: and if possible, a UKIP result that delivers either an outright win, or such a strong performance against the Tories that the doubts and dissatisfaction with Cameron are redoubled, and the certainty that Cameron’s leadership spells defeat in 2015 acquires an unstoppable momentum.
It’s become the mantra of choice among Tory cheerleaders in their hierarchy that a vote for UKIP lets the Europhile LibDems in: but erm, just how less Europhile in office are the Cameroons-in-Coalition? In this by-election, the mantra should be turned on its head – don’t dilute the UKIP vote by sticking with the Cameroon Tories just because they’re using a non-Cameroon candidate. Tories in the streets, highways and byways of Eastleigh who both want to see genuinely conservative policies and not let the Europhile LibDems in should ignore the Boris Balderdash – and vote UKIP.