Tories must not be tempted to tread the UKIP path
Opinion Digest: the UKIP threat, Clegg’s conference speech, and the BBC’s foolish mistake
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UKIP VISION A GOLD CLUB MANIFESTO
DAVID AARONOVITCH ON THIRD PARTY POLITICS
As the Lib Dems struggle in the polls, UKIP are preparing to seize the mantle of third party, writes David Aaronovitch in The Times. This will inevitably prompt calls from the Conservative party faithful for a lurch to the right in order to stop their voters changing allegiance. But such a move would alienate voters from the centre and left of the party, with more damaging consequences for their chances of winning victory at the next election. The worriers should remember that UKIP’s latest policy offering is best described as a “vision of urban dystopia seen from the deep suburbs”. It is a prospectus that might have been dreamt up by the committee of a Hampshire golf club after a good dinner. UKIP want students halved and prisoners doubled; farmers protected and migrants barred. Changing political course now will do the Tories more damage than they will incur by losing a few votes to a party with such a limited manifesto.
CLEGG’S NOT GOING ANYWHERE
STEVE RICHARDS ON THE LIB DEM LEADER’S SPEECH
Anyone who believes Nick Clegg might stand down voluntarily before the next election should think again, says Steve Wright in The Independent. His speech last night to the Lib Dem party conference was “one of solid, determined resolution” and contained important indications of his plans for the future. He spoke against a difficult economic backdrop: standing on the platform and applauding Britain’s move towards prosperity, his words could not distract from the reality that the nation is actually back in recession. But at times he was impressive. He spoke on the need for “big and bold” projects for economic growth, set a clear red line around the issue of reducing the 45p income tax rate for high earners, and made compelling arguments on the environment. To achieve these visions and win at the next election, Clegg must now pray that the economy and public spending can be set back on their feet.
BBC’S FOOLISH SLIP OF THE TONGUE
TONY WRIGHT ON THE QUEEN AND ABU HAMZA
Frank Gardner’s revelation that the Queen discussed radical cleric Abu Hamza’s extradition case with UK politicians was a “foolish” mistake, writes Tony Wright in The Guardian. This is not just because it broke conventions concerning the confidentiality of royal utterances but because these conventions lie at the very heart of the deal on which the modern monarchy is based. This deal says that the monarch does not seek to interfere in politics – in return for which the privacy of royal conversations is respected. What HG Wells called our "crowned republic" involves a delicate balance, which requires continuing care to keep it afloat. In this sense the monarchy is both our most ancient institution and our most conditional one. Of course, there are times when it is appropriate to report on royal meddling. When Prince Charles has weighed in on political debates he feels passionately about, the media has done its duty and reported on this and rightly so. But in this case, the Queen has little to apologise for. The only mistake here, concludes Wright, “was telling a BBC journalist about it”.