Alexandra Philips: Why I left UKIP and joined the Conservatives

By Alexandra Philips

I am certain that many readers would assent to the notion that ‘Brexit means Brexit’. If you are ever unclear on anything, be sure to throw some tautology at it. What about Brexiteers? Surely, then, a Brexiteer is a Brexiteer?

Yet for reasons beyond most people’s logical computation, there were two camps on the ‘leave’ side of the debate during the EU referendum, forging a ludicrous sideshow that became a rather unhelpful distraction during the campaign.

There are now two camps once again on the same side of the post-leave debate.

For UKIP to survive and thrive in a post-Farage, post-referendum era, it surely needs to do two things. It needs the Tories to fail on delivering Brexit, and make as much capital out of running down the delivery of Brexit as possible, and it needs to become the champion of a whole range of other core issues, with the key UKIP policies from the 2015 manifesto being selective education and future energy security.

It’s fair to say that Theresa May, having only been in office for a mere couple of months, has already demonstrated that she intends for her government to also be pushing those policies, with admirable resolve.

I am sure that over the course of her term, the PM will not always say and do exactly what I like, that’s life. But thus far, the mood music is more than pleasing to my ears. She backed ‘remain’ during the campaign, but contributed minimally enough to reassure me that she is not an anti-Brexit head-banger like some of those on the Left, perhaps even suggesting a calculated pragmatism that is surely laudable in a leader faced with overseeing political major surgery.  She has even placed Eurosceptic kith and kin into key cabinet positions, with their hands on the tiller as we steer ourselves out of the EU.

In order to continue, out of sheer loyalty, working for and backing UKIP, whose very survival depends upon the Government failing to deliver these policies, I would actually have to turn my back on my own convictions and wish for them not to become political reality. That is surely absurd, for it is my belief that if you are not in politics to work for what you believe in, then surely you are in the wrong game.

Imagine instead that those with shared political beliefs united, without prioritizing tribal honour and attacking ideological brethren for the sake of the brand. Imagine how much more we could achieve.

UKIP and Nigel Farage may not have been to everyone’s tastes, certainly not to all Conservatives; as is clearly demonstrated by UKIP’s ability to reach voters that Cameron couldn’t, and harvest as much support from Old Labour and non-voters as from their cousins on the right of politics. Were it not for the Farage claxon, I don’t believe Eurosceptics would have awakened Labour voters, long-abandoned and unrepresented by their own party, to secure the victory we all craved. While Cameron’s centrist approach was designed for mass appeal, I for one felt his to be a rather wan Conservativism that didn’t always press my buttons.

But that is the beauty of what we on the Right are supposed to recognise and celebrate: the freedom of the individual. In fact, a core argument of the referendum, that the UK deserves full sovereignty instead of the anti-democratic one-size-fits-all plutocracy over 28 diverse countries, is rather echoed within UK politics. My hunch is that there was likely a great measure more diversity among leavers than those who backed Remain, despite the woeful pejorative stereotyping that came amidst the backlash in the wake of the referendum result.

The recognition that we all possess individual tastes, and should be able to exert individual choice, underscores our very political ideology. But when it mattered, people from all walks of life, and for myriad reasons, voted to leave the EU. That is why in politics, having a range of individuals with different approaches, tones and beliefs is key for true democratic representation, as long as we can all come together under the same banner when it matters.

Unfortunately, in UKIP, as it grew and voices within the party diversified, the immaturity of the organization was unable to cope, and dangerous schisms emerged.

For years UKIP uniquely offered a unified commitment to Brexit, as well as openly championing the other great taboo of selective education, and the willingness to say to trendy ‘virtue-signalers’ it might actually be worth our while investigating shale gas. The only downside was that they did not have any seats in Westminster. The parties that did, however, were not espousing these views.  So I placed my efforts firmly behind those willing to put their heads above the parapet and speak out on such subjects and change the political narrative from the wings.

In the post-Farage post-Brexit era, with Theresa May promoting more traditional right wing policies that I believe will resonate with a great many ordinary voters and could return the Conservatives to the halcyon days of a snug majority, I haven’t moved an inch on my beliefs. The political landscape of those making the offers, however, has.

I am one of those mythical creatures that the Labour party chooses to conveniently forget. I’m of blue-collar background, but believe strongly in a small state, individual liberty and social mobility, with a pragmatic dose of empirically-garnered cynicism. I have no doubt that through her acceptance speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May was purposefully being the political siren to people like me. At the same time, our ship was sinking.

If I want to see the policies that I have tub-thumped about for years actually being delivered, it’s time for people like me to return to the Conservatives and recognize that we’ve done our job, and it’s our duty to help the Government do theirs. Like you, I have always been a Conservative. I simply lent myself to an organisation that was injecting our ideology back into the heart of British politics. Job done, and it’s time to come home, and this time, to stay.

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty