An interesting interview of UKIP Treasurer Stuart Wheeler by the Telegraph’s Chris Hope attracted the gimlet eye of the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman. She latched on to Mr Wheeler’s disclosure that a year ago he had lunched with a number of Tory backbenchers
“I wrote to nine Eurosceptic Conservative MPs and asked each of them ‘would you like to have lunch with me, just the two of us, out of the way, nobody will know you have done it, except for Nigel Farage and me’.
It would be naive to claim that the possibility of a defection or two from the Tories to UKIP had not entered the minds of those engaged in these discussions but if that had been a hope it came to nought for defections were there none. UKIP’s Treasurer put it down to the inherent political risks
“It is asking an awful lot of an MP to switch sides because he would like to be re-elected.
At the Speccie, however, Ms Hardman suggested that Cameron’s referendum “promise” had probably been the main driver in dampening down thoughts of defection and quoted Nigel Farage to buttress her point which was a fair enough point to make.
But then she began to wax eloquent in her argument and became more speculative
The Prime Minister has also tried to improve relations with his backbenchers, while Lynton Crosby has given MPs a campaigning zeal and a clear message to shout. This means that some of those possible defectors are much more pro-Cameron than they were a year ago.
OK – there might well be an element of truth in that though the idea of a rekindled love affair with Dave is possibly over egging the pudding.
But then, as is the case with so many of these Telegraph/Spectator types you cannot help noticing a desire to gain extra brownie points with Tory HQ. One of the would be “defectors”, claimed Ms Hardman, actually met up with Mr Farage and was seized with remorse for betraying his first true love.
‘When I looked Farage in the eyes, eyeball to eyeball, I felt this was a person I could not trust and do business with.’
Whereas Cameron, eyeball to eyeball, is someone he (or she) could trust and do business with? Pull the other one!!
Ms Hardman then pursues her usual shtick by leaving us with the implication that, man to man, Cameron is the real deal because, unlike UKIP’s leader he can inspire trust. It’s all part and parcel of an increasingly desperate attempt by the official Tory media to undermine UKIP’s appeal. Indeed it is now happening so often that there is a temptation to accept it as part of the furniture – but that’s a mistake. The media, having failed to find and deploy a nuclear weapon that would destroy UKIP overnight is now attempting “death by a thousand cuts”, snide innuendoes that individually gain little traction but are designed to cumulatively undermine like termites beneath the foundations.
Besides, am I the only UKIP supporter who has his doubts about the true value of defections? I do not wish to impugn the integrity of every elected figure who defects from one party to another but it does sometimes happen that defectors might well have a hidden agenda and carry some sort of baggage. Furthermore it might be argued that they were elected because they proudly displayed a specific party label and could therefore be accused of betraying their electorate.
Fortunately there is a foolproof acid test to demonstrate integrity – resign and in the subsequent by election stand under the banner of your new party, inviting the voters to endorse your defection at the ballot box.
Or am I being rather old fashioned?