Status anxiety

A year ago, I had big plans to unite the right. This year, I’m keeping my ambitions more modest

Bringing the Tories and Ukip together to nix a Labour victory at the general election proved beyond me

3 January 2015

9:00 AM

3 January 2015

9:00 AM

This time last year, I wrote an article saying my main project in 2014 would be to unite the right. That is, I would start a political movement that would bring together Conservative and Ukip activists in a tactical voting alliance. We would select a few dozen battleground constituencies and campaign for whichever candidate was best placed to win in each seat, whether Ukip or Tory. The name for this movement was to be ‘Country Before Party’.

The initial response was encouraging. Hundreds of people emailed me offering their support, including MEPs, members of the House of Lords, ex-MPs, and so on. I set up a website, assembled a steering committee and started drafting detailed plans. I felt like I was really on to something.

The most common reaction among seasoned political observers was to assume I was proposing a full-blown electoral pact and then pour cold water on the idea. But that was missing the point. I was proposing an informal pact between the parties’ supporters, not a formal pact between their leaders. I was adamant that my idea didn’t depend on the blessing of David Cameron and Nigel Farage. It could still fly even in the face of their opposition.

But I was secretly hoping that behind closed doors, the party panjandrums would be more sympathetic. After all, they must recognise that in the absence of some kind of alliance between the two camps, the risk of Ed Miliband becoming the next prime minister is quite high. There is also the fact that we believe in a lot of the same things: national sovereignty, free enterprise, controlled immigration, lower taxes, school choice, freedom of speech, etc. There are shared values here, even if we differ on policy detail.

However, meetings with senior members of both parties soon put paid to that hope. Both camps told me that they would do very well at the next election without any help from the other, thank you very much. They also maintained that any hint of an alliance, however informal, would antagonise huge swaths of their supporters and they’d end up losing more votes than they’d gain.

I pushed back on these points, but there was something else going on that was harder to argue with — a kind of tribal antipathy. Farage and Cameron have a mutual loathing that’s rooted in their identity as members of their respective parties and which is echoed lower down the ranks. They regard each other not as estranged members of the same family, but as bitter enemies. To broker any sort of accommodation between the two camps would require a degree of trust that just isn’t there.

Leaders of both parties are convinced that their opposite numbers are hellbent on their destruction and everything each side says or does is seen through that lens. Indeed, both groups I met with treated me with extreme suspicion, as if I was an agent of the other side trying to lure them into saying something that could then be used against them.

I realised I had bitten off more than I could chew after these meetings. To begin with, any alliance along the lines I was suggesting would be vigorously opposed by both party organisations, even to the extent of threatening to expel any members who campaigned for the other team. That meant building a grass-roots movement would be much harder than I’d anticipated and would probably take longer than the time remaining before the next election.

Then there was the fact that I wasn’t the right person to lead this crusade, given my close identification with the Conservative party. If the proposal was associated with me, it would always be viewed with deep scepticism by most Kippers.

There was another, more fundamental problem. If I pursued this project, given how hostile senior Tories were towards it, I would probably end up falling out with my own party and I didn’t much like the idea of being exiled from my tribe. I value the camaraderie of fellow Tories and I don’t want to lose that. I’ve got so many enemies as it is, I have no wish to throw away my few remaining allies.

So in 2015 I’m going to confine my New Year’s resolutions to drinking less and losing a few pounds. Trying to make a decisive intervention in the next general election is a little too ambitious.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator.

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Show comments
  • Nice honest piece Toby! The real truth of the matter, though, is that in the main (there are exceptions) Tory activists are not ignorant, bigoted shitfaces. Their UKIP equivalents mostly are. Limited common ground between the decent and the ugly.

    • Raddiy

      “Tory activists are not ignorant, bigoted shitfaces.”

      You are probably right, if they are anything like you they must be mostly knobheads!!

      • A response that is a cross between Dostoyevsky and Jean-Paul Sartre in its profundity. Excellent.

    • Dogzzz

      You express your vile profanity laced ignorant bigotry and then claim UKIP are the bad guys? All UKIP does is expose the lies and deceptions that the tories are blatantly using to con us all (tory and non-tory alike) into being conned to stay in the EU no matter what.

      • There is nothing profane about the word “shitface”. And certainly not about the words “ignorant” and “bigoted” or “ugly”. Fair comment I think you’ll find…

  • Raddiy

    Your original proposal came across as very much a tactic not to reunite the right, but to mitigate the damage that UKIP were doing to ‘your party’. If my memory serves me correctly the proposal would have given the Conservative party a free run in their marginal seats, whilst UKIP would be given a free run in seats where the Conservatives didn’t have the remotest chance such as Labour seats in the north.

    Your naivety was breathtaking, only an out of touch metropolitan hack could seriously believe anybody with two brain cells to rub together would be taken in by such a one sided proposal, as they say if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck it is probably a duck. We have now had something similar from Jacob Rees Mogg and others, and the common feature in them all is that they are devout Conservatives who would never vote for another party. Isn’t it interesting that none of these ideas ever come from UKIP.

    Reunite the Right with all due respect was simply a trojan horse for desperate Conservatives to hide behind. The Conservative Party is neither of the right or worthy of reuniting with. It has betrayed its core vote, and then after they abandoned the party, spent the subsequent years insulting and accusing them of everything short of genocide, whilst preaching the party is well shot of them all.

    I am sure the bulb has now illuminated in your Tory tribal head that the feeling is mutual, and returned in spades, and I haven’t even counted the kippers who are not ex tories or ex NOTA, and would rather lop off their wedding tackle than support your party.

    Stick to promoting your narrow sectional interests that has brought the Conservative party to its current nadir, caused by its obsession with liberal progressive politics if that is not a contradiction, and leave us to create a ‘c’onservative party with a social conscience, that is representative of all our citizens, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, but who all believe in the absolute right of British self determination, and government for the benefit of the British people alone, first, second and third.

  • wj

    Yes, well.

    The problem as I see it is that neither of the parties is now ‘of the right’

    The Cons have tried their best to curry favour with a Labour hand-fed electorate – they’ve taken up where Labour have left off.

    And with UKIP moving in on to the immigration issue they have sought to reap disillusioned BNP votes – and the BNP minus the racial element are a copy of a 1970’s protectionist Labour party – they are left wing.

    • Marky_D

      BNP voters were largely disaffected Labour voters. UKIP voters are historically largely disaffected Conservative voters (although with in roads being made into the North of England it’s certainly true that we are attracting ex-Labour voters).

      Worth reminding you though that UKIP immigration policy is the least racist, the least colour blind of all the political parties immigration policies and we are the only party that outright bans ex BNP members from joining the party.

      Good try though.

      • Grunchking

        Disaffected. The new word for nasty, bigoted, stuck in a vision of Little England that never existed and unable to adapt to a changing world. Good try though.

        • twowolves

          Do you burst into flames and your eyes shoot lasers when you do that?

        • Marky_D

          There was never a version of England that was self governed and with border policy set in Westminster not Brussels?

          Well I never knew that.

        • Dogzzz

          On the contrary, UKIP want to engage far more with the rest of the world than we are currently permitted to do by the EU. It is the Pro-EU people who are the “little Englanders, always thinking that our great country is too small, remote and useless to engage with the great powers of the world, that we need to hide under the EU’s apron strings, and pay a massive economic loss for doing so.

          Grow up!

      • yes i expect most former BNP voters have drifted off to labour, or perhaps the greens or the libdems. no way they’re backing ukip!

        • Marky_D

          Another stupid comment. Former BNP voters – ie the ones that held their nose and voted BNP, returning Griffin and some other bloke, in the midst of the expenses scandal are not die hard shaven headed racists. These were largely just average people, concerned with high levels of uncontrolled immigration and rightly feeling that their previous party was stealing from them. I would expect many of these have gone to UKIP as no other party has any answer on immigration and there’s little evidence that they’ve given up their expense swindling ways.

          BNP MEMBERS however are a totally different kettle of fish – who knows where they have now gone? I very much doubt that any hardcore racists have decided to back a party that proudly boasts that they would no longer give a white polish unskilled worker preference over a brown indian skilled worker. Even if they do consider voting UKIP it must stick in the throat a bit considering UKIP are the only party that outright bans them from becoming members.

          • photon

            That distinction between party members and voters deserves to be recognized and applied more widely. In fact I think there is a four-way split: members, supporters, nose-holders and can’t bring myself to its. Parties have to attract the nose-holders.

          • Dogzzz

            Mostly they have gone off to join Britain First, and they are welcome to them. They are not welcome in UKIP!

  • John Moss

    UKIP are determined to deliver a Labour victory in the hope the Conservatives will then split in two, allowing them to pick up the pieces on the EUsceptic right.

    They certainly don’t intend to put country before party, their continued existence depends on the Conservatives losing and the promised referendum in 2017 not happening. If it did, they would be finished – which is a damned good reason to Vote Conservative!

    • Marky_D

      How anyone can type the above drivel with presumably a straight face I will never know.

      3 months ago that meme may have held water with the politically naive but since then, in case you didn’t hear, 650 conservative voters delivered a Labour candidate in Heywood in Middleton at the cost of a UKIP victory.

      In the north of England, if you vote Conservative you get Labour so the argument could be made that it is Conservative voters that are determined to deliver a Labour victory.

      • oh yes marky. if you push really hard, really strain yourself, perhaps a nigel as pm shaped poo will emerge!!

    • Stephen Hulme

      Even now you still can not bring yourself to understand.
      The game is UP CAMERON IS OUT.
      1.7 Billion to E U NO. NO. NO.
      Sorry yes. yes. yes. but can we please pay later .

    • Dogzzz

      If that is really the sort of delusional tripe that you have to force yourself to believe, while your unpatriotic, sell-out tory party continues to hold this country and any hope of a referendum to ransom, in order to delude your conscience in your voting conservative, so be it.

      As for your ridiculous and massively debunked assertion re: an in or out EU membership referendum, either you are seriously deluded, or very stupid. They are NOT offering an in or out referendum. It is a reform or out, dressed up as in or out to con the voters.

      Cameron will not ever take us out of the EU. He is conning you with a classic bait and switch. Baiting you with a form of EU reform which is impossible to actually deliver before the referendum is held, (the best he can acheive is a promise of future reform, or outline agreement, which is worthless in practice), then after the vote for the EU reform has been passed (as all polls suggest), the rest of the EU will then, by a QMV vote, veto those reforms and we will be stuck in an un-reformed EU which the establishment will go to great lengths to repeat, we voted for. Then they will continue their integration because by voting for the reform, we voted to stay IN the EU… and by voting to stay IN the EU, we have no power to resist the EU anymore. We will have lost our individual Veto.


      Only a UKIP government can deliver a real, honest, in or out, EU membership referendum.

    • Chingford Man

      Ha, ha, we in UKIP have been getting a great reception on the doors of the Larkswood ward, which you presently represent. Just so you know.

      Labour won Heywood & Middleton in October, thanks to your party. Funnily enough, the Tories need UKIP to grab seats like Rotherham, Great Grimsby and Dudley North to keep Labour’s seat total as low as possible.

  • Sir Trev Skint MP

    Uniting the Labour Party looks insurmountable too Toby.

  • Marky_D

    I like Toby Young – hes certainly one of my favourite guests on Radio Free Delingpole and his articles always seem to be written from the heart, but this:

    ”There is also the fact that we believe in a lot of the same things: national sovereignty, free enterprise, controlled immigration, lower taxes, school choice, freedom of speech, etc. There are shared values here, even if we differ on policy detail.”

    … is pure drivel. The modern day Conservative party doesn’t believe in any of these things and I suspect Toby knows it. I could point to Tory policies/actions that betray every one of those supposed values.

    • tjamesjones

      oh. well i’m voting Tory because i believe in those things.

      • Dogzzz

        So you are voting for a party which implements the opposite policies to those that you believe in? Why? Why are you voting for policies which you oppose? That does not make any rational sense at all. You may as well vote labour, or Green, or for the socialist workers party.

        • twinscrew

          Or better still vote UKIP.

          • Even is a seat where the Member of Parliament is AGAINST the E.U.? What sense does it make to kick out an anti E.U. Member of Parliament and replace them with a pro E.U. Member of Parliament?

          • Gen d’Eau

            Does he/she actually vote against the EU? Unless the voting record is there to support the words…why shouldn’t such people have their feet held to the fire?

        • To say the Conservative party implements “the opposite” to free market policies is a wild over statement. Remember, to the BBC and so on the present government (even though it is undermined by the Lib Dems) is an evil “extremist” free market group. If you want to see “the opposite” of free market polices – then look at Mr “Ed” Miliband and co.

        • tjamesjones

          because i’m not 12 (or 82) years of age? because if the tories don’t win, it will be ed miliband? because no other party offers any hope for anybody who hasn’t given up on this country, and either wants to bleed it with handouts (labour) or hates nearly everything good about it (ukip)? what’s the ukip policy on ‘school choice’? on lower taxes? on free enterprise? carswell might have some libertarian leanings, but he’s betrayed those for a party that offers nothing but hate and a hope for the hopeless miliband.

    • Andrew Tekle-Cadman

      Great post, but where I would disagree with it is your statement:

      “The modern day Conservative party doesn’t believe in any of these things”

      I think a very strong case can be made that the Tory party has NEVER really believed in any of things by looking at the history of the party’s actions in government.

      What is believes in first, last and always is the preservation of elite power. Conservatism was very useful to the party for a long time, particularly in the 20th century with the advent of the universal franchise and when that elite felt very threatened by the rise of socialism.

      The Tory party tactic has been mainly to give ground to it’s enemies in return for maintaining it’s place at society’s top tables: it was economically socialist after the war, thatcherite in the 80s and is now pro-European and Metropolitan Liberal.

      Essentially, the organisation is a cynical Vicar Of Bray. I am not suggesting that it doesn’t contain a large number of decent and genuine conservatives, but something about it’s culture seems to mean it is effectively controlled by a small (usually blue-blooded) elite who were either were born into the establishment or who yearn to join it.

      For those of us not part of that elite, the Tories have done a very bad job indeed of conserving those institutions we rely on in order to lead meaningful, fulfilling lives (e.g. the nation-state, the married family, etc). In fact, it has often enthusiastically undermined them and latterly turned around and sneered at those who objected to such vandalism.

      What is exciting to me about the rise of UKIP is that it offers a slim chance of emancipating conservatism from Toryism.

      Some of us Kippers are playing a bigger and longer game than you give us credit for, Toby.

      • Terry

        AT-C, absolutely cracking analysis

      • Charming.

      • Jules Wright

        To whit, disruptive political insurgency that, for all its embryonic faults, speaks of reclamation.

        Yes please. Intrusive finger pressure on The Westminster Blob’s carotid artery; long overdue.

    • Actually the vast majority of the Conservative party believe in all these things. Whether the leadership do is another question – but Mr Cameron and his friends are NOT the same as Miliband and his friends (as, tragically, we are all likely to find out after May).

    • Ngaire Lowndes

      These are the principles that USED to be at the heart of the Conservative party, but sadly have been abandoned in a wild-goose-chase to capture the approval of pressure groups and lobbyists. That’s why UKIP is the natural home of all true Conservatives – because UKIP does still hold these principles dear.

  • Wes G

    I say you should do whatever your heart desires, if that means propping up the 1% in a bid to maintain your own existence, then so be it.

    i would only ask why?, why – even in the face of what is obvious to each and every one of us – would you choose to do such a thing?

  • EsseQuamHaberi

    I like you Toby, I really do and I think your efforts in the area of education are very interesting, but the whole unite the Right idea showed a deep misunderstanding of Kippers. Given that a huge portion of Kippers have never been Tories, certainly the post 2012 supporters/members, suggesting anything approaching common ground with the Tories was always going to be a non-starter. You are smart enough that you should have realised this.

  • Rollo10

    That wouldn’t work, all it would do, would keep Eurosceptic Tories in a job! If you’re serious about ‘Country before party’, you should try and get all those MP’s, Lab & Tory, that want out, to join UKIP, as the Tories are only playing with electorate!
    On the 31/Mar/2017, we become FULLY INTEGRATED into the EU, after this date we need to ASK all 28 members permission to hold a referendum. 14 must say YES, can anyone see 14 POOR countries, saying YES to losing our money? Cameron has set many ‘caveats’ to his ‘Referendum pledge’, 1st, Tories must win a majority. 2nd, He must still be leader and 3rd, he must renegotiate powers, which he hasn’t divulged, from the EU Commission.
    The LibLabCons are being controlled, by the Corporates, Banksters, thugs in suits, who want all their own way. The TTIP will give them this power, as hidden in the deal, is the SELL-OFF, of all Public Service rights, we keep having the ‘Deficit’ thrown down our throat, as though it’s an anchor pulling us down. All countries run a deficit, Oliver Letwin, under Thatcher, proposed Public Spending @ 35% of GDP, today’s figure is only 4.04% of GDP? The constant growth of population, means we need more services, not less? The ‘Deficit’ is a blind, a smoke screen to get us to off-load our ‘services’ to the Corporates, all these jobs in their hands can only lead to one thing, SLAVERY!
    We need to get out of the EU and get control of our own Government, print our own money and issue it debt free! To do this we need UKIP! Did I mention Immigration in there?

  • politikalme

    “I didn’t much like the idea of being exiled from my tribe”
    fell at the first hurdle then – ‘Party before Country’

    • Frank

      The Tories are a “tribe” ? The higher echelons of the tory party appear to be a bunch of parvenus! This may be why they get on so well with the higher echelons of the labour party where the same could be said.

  • Cornelius Bonkers

    I assume the bit about shared values is a joke. Ukippers are not liberal; well I hope not anyway…and Conservatives are not conservative…

  • Steve Lloyd

    The only thing that can unite the right now. Is the immediate abdication of king Cameron.

    • David Lewis

      You miss the point. Cameron cannot be deposed, however awful he is.

      The task is to prevent Balls from entering the treasury and Miliband from becoming PM. All other matters are peripheral..

      • Steve Lloyd

        I agree. But with the SNP on the march, and their refusal to deal with the Tories. It looks like the return of the reign of terror, again.

        • David Lewis

          But if Scottish Labour loses 35 MP’s in Scotland, Labour will probably lose the election

          • twinscrew

            Let’s hope so for all our sakes.

  • Dogzzz

    The thing is, why would UKIP ever want to “unite the right”? UKIP is NOT a right, or a left wing party. Nor is it centrist. I know people who are utterly brainwashed into believing that a party simply MUST be a party of one wing or another, but in reality, UKIP has broken the mold of that sort of old, failed thinking.

    UKIP are a patriotic party which wants the best, most workable policies to benefit the most people in the UK. Not the ones which fit into a “right” or “left” wing cage. Not the ones which have to suit foriegners and the smallest, self-selected minority victim group at the expense of the majority. UKIP select and device policy based on if that policy will actually work for the positive benefit of most Brits, regardless of any right or left wing tribalism.

    • grimm

      “Broken the mould”. That is what they used to say about the David Owen/Shirley Williams/Roy Jenkins Social Democrats as they triumphed in one by-election after another. David Owen finally decided to admit to failure when his rump of a party polled less votes than the Monster Raving Loony party in a Liverpool election. The mould remained unbroken.

      • Not at all. New Labour was pure SDP. And the Coalition not much different. We won ! (SDP Founder member)

        • Chingford Man

          Get your sneakers ready, Paddy: we’re planning to chase you liberal-leftists up and down the country this year.

          • Pure Tebbit. Barely disguised threats.

          • Chingford Man

            Aww, thanks!

    • UKIP may not self-identify as right or left, but those things are merely descriptors. Whether it likes it or not, its policies will fall somewhere on the scale.

  • Ken

    Toby, the main problem you had was in not recognising that the Tories are no longer a party of the right – they have become soft socialists. As a rule of thumb I never listen to what someone says, but look instead at what they do.

  • RationalEnvironmentalist

    I must say Toby I voted labour for nigh on 40 years. Next May I will be voting UKIP. I want out of the EU. Uncontrolled immigration has decimated the low wage jobs in this country. Its simple market economics. If there is more product than can be consumed the price paid for such products will go down. The labour party sold out its core vote as did the tory party.

  • So where exactly is all the money coming from?
    And what do the folk spending it expect to get for their money?

  • Chingford Man

    I want to see the destruction of the Tory Party, an anti-British band of charlatans, not a pact to preserve it.

  • Lady Magdalene

    “There is also the fact that we believe in a lot of the same things: national sovereignty, free enterprise, controlled immigration, lower taxes, school choice, freedom of speech, etc. ”

    UKIP believes in those things. There’s precious little evidence that many Conservatives do and a great deal of evidence that the vast majority don’t.

    Why should UKIP help a pro-EU Conservative Party gain power? We want our country back: not a sham renegotiation and very slightly looser chains.

    • Tethys

      The key word herw is ‘back’… Very telling.

  • You might as well have tried to engineer an alliance between the Lib-Dems and the BNP. You talk about this tribal antipathy as though it were some irrational, abstract thing, but it is being acted upon by both sides. Read the musings of any kipper here, on Breitbart, Guido or on the late Telegraph blogs and you’ll see that our goal is the destruction of the Tories so that we can replace them.

    And on the other side? Even more so. The Tory machine and its many and varied media allies brought massive firepower to bear against UKIP in the EU elections. They don’t see us as customers who’ve gone elsewhere because we were dissatisfied with the service they provided, they see us as “their” voters that UKIP has “stolen.”

    You can’t just wish away that kind of hatred. An accord was always impossible because as you rightly identified, the parties (especially UKIP which is working hard to draw in Labour voters) would lose more support than they’d gain. Cameron’s lurch to the left proved this already.

  • James Dene

    There are no Tories within David Cameron’s Conservatives; indeed only the most loathsome forms of self-interested and cowardly vermin would rally to the flag of that ridiculous fat man in a rubber suit.

    No compromise and no surrender: vote UKIP, vote for our country in what must be our last chance.

    Clear enough for you Toby.

  • The failure to get a pact between the Conservative party and UKIP will have tragic consequences. Those who think there is no difference between Mr Cameron and Mr “Ed” Miliband , so it does not matter if the vote is split and Labour wins in May, will find they are mistaken – wildly mistaken. And I write as a person who voted for David Davis (not Mr Cameron) in the leadership election – and would do so again.

  • Richard Eldritch

    Never snort charlie and type Toby.

  • amac

    An absolutely flawed concept. The Tories are still labouring under the impression that they are a national party and would never agree to not fielding candidates in certain constituencies .
    They are naturally closer to Labour in Westminster and neither party is close to its core vote it’s just that Essex and Kent catch on quicker than Northumberland and Yorkshire.

  • Swanky

    You’ve got a friend in me, Toby, even though it ain’t worth nothin’. May I wish you the best for a happy and prosperous 2015.

  • Swanky

    Personally I think Britain needs to focus on getting out of the EU. It’s bad news. It is an intrusively hyper-regulating body that is far too big for its breeches — and that’s because it was always a Leftist project that hid under the disguise of economic liberality. Well, the game is up. Now even Christmas crackers are a target of the EU (who ARE these people? How do we put pressure on them/make them accountable/sack them?).


  • Archibald Heatherington

    As a Tory activist, the idea of campaigning for a UKIP candidate fills me with horror. I’m a conservative, not a euro-obsessive libertarian-socialist pipe-dreamer.

  • Tom W Huxley

    The project had a rather more fundamental problem in that on general election measures there is no constituency where UKIP is ahead of the Tories.

  • rtj1211

    Perhaps your contribution to bringing Farage and Cameron together should be to respect both their wives: you learn German to speak with Mrs Farage in her lingua franca and you help your wife to set up her own business so she can ask Sam Cam to be her business mentor……..??