The general election in 2010 saw the Conservatives snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Instead of an overall majority the Tories were forced into humiliating negotiations with the Liberal Democrats out of which came the Coalition government: a bastard government as it had no electoral legitimacy.
At the time I suggested the Conservatives should form a minority government, possibly, but not necessarily, with an understanding with the Liberal Democrats on economic policy.
One reason why the Conservatives failed to win the election outright, or win sufficient seats to form a government with only a small minority in the House of Commons, was the performance of UKIP. In a number of constituencies the combined Conservative/UKIP vote was greater than that of the party which won the seat.
The Conservatives entered a coalition with the fanatically europhile Liberal Democrats and since then the Tories have been restrained from taking an anti-EU membership (on current terms) stance. Exactly the opposite of what UKIP would have hoped for. However one cannot blame UKIP.
UKIP has many ex-Tories as members. Indeed it is believed that some people hold dual UKIP/Tory membership.
My experience indicates that there are many members of the Conservative Party who are euro-sceptics, ranging from those who wish to return to the free trade association days, to those who wish to see outright withdrawal. What such members (and supporters) cannot stand is the obeisance paid by the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats on EU issues.
In my home town UKIP won a local election seat from the Conservatives. The UKIP candidate made great play of the fact that he had been a Conservative councillor and that many UKIP members and supporters were ex-Tories.
Recently I was discussing politics with two Conservative councillors from a different part of Kent. Both hold
strong anti-EU view and they were complimentary about UKIP.
As pressure mounts for a referendum on EU membership and Conservatives become more disenchanted with the Coalition Cameron must take a grip on the situation if the Tory party is not to suffer a major defeat at the next general election.
I note a Conservative MP in the House of Commons called yesterday for the Conservatives to ditch the Lib Dems and rule as a minority government.