By Gerald Warner, The Telegraph
The morning after polling day was not a good time for UKIP voters. As they scanned the still incoming results they felt a keen sense of disappointment. They had failed to break through the psychological barrier of one million Westminster votes, despite gaining nearly 2.5 million in last year’s European elections. Nigel Farage, their standard bearer, had come in third against the unspeakable Speaker in Buckingham and in many constituencies they were registering votes of just two or three thousand.
After the provocation afforded by 13 years of Labour rule and David Cameron’s reneging on a Lisbon Treaty referendum, the hoped-for breakthrough had not occurred. UKIP supporters were dispirited and their enemies did not hesitate to exploit this momentary decline in morale, rubbing salt into the wound with inventive claims of “victory” for the Conservatives. All of which demonstrates the inadvisability of rushing to judgment in the closing stages of a general election count. Today, the landscape looks completely different and, to UKIP eyes, bright and sunny.
Detailed examination of the election results reveals that UKIP deprived the Vichy Tories of victory in 21 seats. That is a psephological fact: it is incontrovertible. Tory spinners have tried hard, claiming that in those seats where the UKIP vote was larger than the Labour or Liberal Democrat majority over the Tory candidate, those were not necessarily ex-Conservative votes. True, a few of them may have come from elsewhere. But any respectable political analyst will confirm that the majority of UKIP votes come from disillusioned Tories. In the 21 seats in question, the UKIP vote was so much larger than the majority that there can be no doubt it was alienated Conservatives who cost Dave his victory.
That fact is of enormous significance. It means that those disaffected Tories whom Francis Maude and the modernising gang calculatedly drove out of the Conservative Party now hold the Cameronians’ fate in their hands. They are in a position permanently to interdict a non-coalition Conservative government. This is an extraordinary situation for a party which is, on paper, so insubstantial as UKIP. It is a most unusual political party. Unlike any other, it makes no secret of its longing to disband, if only Britain’s sovereignty could first be regained. UKIP is the reverse of power-hungry. It has made repeated offers to the Vichy Tories to stand down in return for quite modest concessions, only to be contemptuously rebuffed.
So, here we have a party with fewer than one million voters in a Westminster context, which has no seat in the House of Commons and may never win one, but holds the fate of one of the two great parties of state in its hands. Before the election it was extremely difficult to see how the egregious Dave could be stopped in his lemming stampede to liquidate true Toryism. Now his opponents know how. If every disaffected Tory votes for UKIP for the foreseeable future, Dave’s goose is cooked. By pouring all the disaffected votes into one alternative receptacle, the Vichy Tories can be stopped. UKIP is beginning to attract additional support from socially conservative Tories, for whom the European issue, though important, may not be the chief priority. That coalition of the disaffected spells trouble for Dave.
Mature consideration of the results also showed that UKIP had increased its vote from the 2005 general election by 50 per cent, up to around 900,000. Next time it will certainly pass the million mark. Until May 6, Dave enjoyed the advantage of seeing his opponents in disarray and so unlikely to be able to inflict serious damage on him. Now, they have successfully forced him into a coalition which carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. No political party has ever emerged with credit from a coalition.
The much-despised UKIP holds the veto over any future Conservative government. You may be sure the number-crunchers in CCHQ are very aware of this; so, too, are Conservative backbenchers with wafer-thin majorities, ripe for the UKIP sickle at the next electoral harvest. Not since David and Goliath have we seen a confrontation like this. UKIP is a mini-party, staffed by amateurs, supported by idealists, with relatively little support – and, suddenly, enormous influence.