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Star Comment: Defectors flee sinking ship

THE string of Tory defections to Ukip, timed to inflict maximum embarrassment on the Prime Minister, in fact shows up Nigel Farage as much as they do David Cameron.

Certainly the PM isn’t helped by the decisions of Douglas Carswell, Mark Reckless and now former deputy mayor of London Richard Barnes to jump ship.

It exposes his weak hold over his own party, a party with a shrunk and shrivelled membership which is drifting ever further to the right. It reveals that senior Tories sense weakness and lack confidence in Cameron’s ability to win next year.

That should be comforting for Labour. 

This Tory conference has not seen much evidence that the Conservatives have a winning strategy for next May’s election. George Osborne’s speech on Monday merely promised more pain and more austerity, while sounding a triumphalist note about his supposed economic achievements. 

That is no way to attract the votes of the millions struggling to pay the bills in Cameron’s Britain and the defectors know it. 

Some may be abandoning the Tories as not right-wing enough — but not many. The Tories are more Thatcherite than Thatcher. 

They and their wealthy paymasters have much to celebrate: the last four years have seen a huge transfer of wealth from the working class to the super-rich, the fragmentation and partial sell-off of the National Health Service, the end of publicly owned Royal Mail and attacks on the teaching profession’s qualifications and pay aimed at preparing that service for sale as well.

Austerity has worked wonders for the rich. It is certainly not Tory moderation which is driving Conservatives into Farage’s arms.

Rather it is the growing awareness on the populist right that a party oozing self-satisfaction and entitlement cannot provide the momentum needed to win in 2015 and push through the final destruction of Britain’s welfare state.

Barnes noted yesterday that the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats do not “speak the language of ordinary people.” 

Readers of this paper know that Ukip’s anti-Establishment pitch is a shameless lie — this is a party that wants lower taxes on the rich, more privatisation of public services and greater attacks on trade unions.

No wonder it’s a home from home for disaffected Tories. But it is making that pitch and has Labour as well as Tory seats in its sights.

Cameron warns the Tory unfaithful that a vote for Ukip will let Labour in, but the labour movement must show no complacency on this score.

A hung Parliament could see a handful of Ukip MPs keep the Tories, with or without Cameron, in No 10 and free to continue their war on British workers.

At Labour conference there was some crowing about the enfeebled state of the Tory Party, with some mocking Conservatives for being more endangered than hippos and beluga whales.

But Labour is also a tiny party in comparison to its past membership. It faced warnings from a former first minister of Scotland recently that it could “die out” north of the border as working-class members desert it for the SNP and the Scottish Greens. 

The anti-Establishment trap has been set for Labour as well as the Tories — and will ultimately do the former more damage than the latter. 

The Conservatives can rely on big money and big business to see them through. Labour depends for its funds on donations from millions of working people through trade unions.

It must take the fight to Farage and expose Ukip as the nasty, Establishment spin-off that it is — and promote radical, socialist policies to bring working people back on board.

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