A Tory-Ukip pact? Up to you, guys. But you do know there’s an easier way, right?

farage and cameronUkip’s spectacular showing at last week’s local elections has got the Tories spooked. The full realisation is sinking in that this may not be a one-off eruption of popular protest.

Nigel Farage’s band of modern-life-is-rubbish disciples will likely top next year’s Euro polls. Such momentum may propel them towards a double-digit general election performance in 2015. If so, the Tories’ hope of a majority is dead: Ed Miliband will become prime minister as leader of the largest single party.

Though the local elections were scarcely a bundle of laughs for the Lib Dems, there’s a fair amount of schadenfreude to be wrung out of observing all this. Take, for instance, today’s ConservativeHome survey indicating that two-thirds of Tory party members are open to a pact with Ukip, with 34% definitely wanting one.

Quite how a pact will diminish the Ukip vote and/or increase the Tory vote, I’m not sure. Will a potential Ukipper see the party allying with the Tories and think, “Ah, well now I know I shouldn’t take Mr Farage seriously”? Hmm, I doubt it. It seems more likely to encourage them to think, “Voting Ukip seems to get everyone’s attention – I’d better keep doing it.” If enough conservative-inclined voters think that way, look forward to seeing Ed Miliband waving from the steps of Number 10 in two years’ time.

Of course the Ukip threat is a product of the Tory party’s own failure to accept what’s staring it in the face. As Tim Bale points out to ConservativeHome readers today, if the party had any sense it would embrace electoral reform:

There really is a serious risk that Nigel Farage might split the right-wing vote in this country and therefore let Labour in on just over a third of the vote. … We need to fix that system to take account of the fact that, for whatever reason, British voters are no longer content to stick with the two parties that first-past-the-post inherently favours. The only way we can do that is to plump for PR – not the miserable little (and non-proportional) compromise that was AV, but a fully proportional system like the Mixed Member Proportional variant chosen by New Zealand in the 1990s and which was recently re-endorsed by them in a referendum. One of today’s grandest political paradoxes, however, is that those most determined not to fix Britain’s broken electoral system are those who would most obviously benefit from that chance – a Conservative Party that hasn’t won an overall majority for a full twenty years and (unless Labour implodes) doesn’t look set to do so again any time soon.

I made a similar point here on LDV over a year ago:

It is some irony that it is those Tories who were most viscerally opposed to electoral reform who worry most about the rise of Ukip. Yet Nigel Farage’s mini-insurgence would be of little consequence to Tories, most notably in the Eurosceptic south-west where first-past-the-post may help the Lib Dems to fend off a Tory challenge, if voters could rank their preferred parties and candidates.

There is an odd lack of self-confidence within the Tory party. For all their talk of the wish to build a Conservative majority at the next election, they seem perversely unwilling to try and do so by persuading a majority of the public to back conservatism at the ballot box. I suppose I should be grateful the Tories haven’t yet grasped that their best hope of keeping Britain conservative is to offer the people true democracy.

England (to a lesser extent the UK) is intrinsically a small-c conservative country. It is primarily the big-C Conservative party’s nervous inability to accept that simple truth, combined with the party’s innate assumption it should rule alone and on its own terms, which prevents it building that small-c conservative electoral hegemony.

John Stuart Mill once famously said: “I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative.” It increasingly looks like he was only half right.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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47 Comments

  • “Quite how a pact will diminish the Ukip vote and/or increase the Tory vote, I’m not sure. Will a potential Ukipper see the party allying with the Tories and think, “Ah, well now I know I shouldn’t take Mr Farage seriously”?”

    Surely you understand how an electoral pact works? Cast your mind back to the Liberal-SDP Alliance in the 1980s.

  • UKIP are the future force replacing LibDems as the King maker Iv told Nigel pact with labour as that better outcome if Labour will have referendom on In/Out EU so lots changing I think

  • paul barker 6th May '13 - 4:09pm

    UKIP on more than 10% in 2015 ? When has a minor Party ever done that sort of thing in Britain ? The nearest I can think of is The Alliance in 1983 when we increased our vote by two thirds. You are suggesting that UKIP could quadruple their vote over a single term, its not going to happen.
    We have been here before, in 1989 when The Greens got 15% in the Euros , driving us into a pathetic 3rd place. When the general Election arrived The Green vote collapsed & that is probably what will happen to UKIP.

  • It would be nice to think that the Tories are suddenly going to convert to the merits of PR, but the likelihood of the current leadership endorsing it publicly after their slating of even modest changes to the current system in the form of AV is just not going to happen. How could they possibly justify such a volte face to the electorate? Even for the Tories the hypocrisy and naked self interest of such a move would be too much.

    ….Wouldn’t it?

  • i don’t see UKIP becoming king makers. These were spectacular results, but mostly in seats where the Conservatives are fairly strong anyway. So even if they did well they would be most likely to take Tory seats meaning that a pact would only really stop a further decline in the Tory vote.. I don’t see any evidence that UKI P can take a Labour seat or even a Lib Dem seat as only about 7% of their vote came from the Lib Dems.

  • Rachel Perry 6th May '13 - 5:09pm

    I hope it does split the Right and let Labour in. This government is heartless a nd taking the wrong route economically. They are far worse than Thatcher ever was.

  • Mark Thompson 6th May '13 - 5:16pm

    You do know that people are fed up with mass immigration dont you?

  • Simon Shaw:
    “If you think the Government is taking the wrong route economically, what alternative do you suggest?”

    You seem to be making a habit of asking this question and then – instead of responding to the answers people give you – just flitting off to another thread and asking it again. It seems a bit silly:
    http://www.libdemvoice.org/clegg-on-economy-and-labour-34344.html#comment-248763

  • “If you think the Government is taking the wrong route economically, what alternative do you suggest?”

    And, incidentally, my own answer to that question is that – putting aside all arguments about total levels of taxation and spending and the speed of deficit reduction – the government should be framing its tax and benefit changes in such a way as to protect the most vulnerable rather than penalising them. So far, those on below-average incomes have been hit harder than the majority of those on above-average incomes (i.e. those in percentiles 50-90, who have done best of all in relative terms).

    It’s sickening to hear Clegg going on and on about how he is protecting the low-paid, when the truth is entirely different.

  • ‘England (to a lesser extent the UK) is intrinsically a small-c conservative country.’

    Absolutely disagree. The country is liberal. People fight to protect our liberties, y’know the liberties won over centuries as enshired in places like the Magna Carta. On the international stage Britain is ‘that liberal country’.

    ‘people are fed up with mass immigration’

    No, they’re not. People are fed up with the problems caused by failing to cope with the challenges of immigration – because previous administrations were incompetent.

    You can’t stop migrants coming in or leaving, because freedom of movement is a basic human reality – I think there’d be massive uproar if the millions of expats living on the Costas were told they’re passports were to be revoked and I don’t think it’d help the Spanish housing market recover either!

  • @Rachel Perry

    So you’d have felt that the Labour plan of “cutting more than Thatcher” would have been a whole lot different? Sometimes all the options are painful.

  • ‘ It seems more likely to encourage them to think, “Voting Ukip seems to get everyone’s attention – I’d better keep doing it.” ‘
    I’m a UKIP’er. And I once was a Focus delivering LibDem, doing my best to save my fingers from the odd angry Chiwawa.
    Do I trust UKIP? Do I trust Nigel Farage? Hell No! Politicians(of all persuasions), cannot be trusted, that much is clear. And that includes the chummy beer swilling Farage. But unfortunately, he and the UKIP phenomenon, is the only vehicle in town, (for now), to make the seismic shift that is necessary. I also don’t believe that leaving the EU is the complete solution to our present malaise. But that layer of EU governance, and bureaucracy is a disruptive, negative layer, we can no longer afford nor tolerate.
    I voted FOR continuing with the EEC in 1975. But I was duped, along with everyone else. The EU, turned out to be, NOT what was written on the tin. I have two daughters who are old enough to vote. They have a right to vote on Europe, along with everyone else aged 55 and under who didn’t get chance the first time. Even Nick Clegg once believed that.
    I need the in/out referendum to rescind my original 1975 vote. If my daughters and the rest of the under 55’s decide to stick with it [ The EU ], so be it. At least we have all had a democratic say.
    Is democracy on the European question, too much to ask?

  • I’m not suggesting that it is likely to happen, but it is certainly a possibility with First Past the Post voting that UKIP could win a significant number of seats in 2015 both because in a four party system it is possible to win with less than 30% of the vote (as happened in Totton North in Hampshire on Thursday – the fourth party in this instance being the Greens rather than Labour); and because tactical voting becomes more complicated and unpredictable: for example, in Eastleigh it would now make sense for Tories to vote tactically for the UKIP candidate to defeat the Liberal Democrat. At the moment it appears that UKIP is doing better in Tory seats than Labour ones, but the worrying aspect for Labour is that a lot of these seats are ones that they need to gain from the Tories in 2015 if they are to have a chance of forming a government

  • The sentence “Nigel Farage’s band of modern-life-is-rubbish disciples will likely top next year’s Euro polls” seems either remarkably sanguine or fatalist, depending how you read it.

    Is there no point in fighting this? Of all parties, Lib Dems should be leading the fight to UKIP, exposing their record and their incoherent and extremist policies.

  • “Of all parties, Lib Dems should be leading the fight to UKIP, exposing their record and their incoherent and extremist policies.”

    On the other hand it looks as though a strong UKIP vote in 2015 would be extremely helpful to the Lib Dems in defending parliamentary seats against the Tories.

  • Julian Critchley 7th May '13 - 12:02am

    “England (to a lesser extent the UK) is intrinsically a small-c conservative country. It is primarily the big-C Conservative party’s nervous inability to accept that simple truth, combined with the party’s innate assumption it should rule alone and on its own terms, which prevents it building that small-c conservative electoral hegemony. ”

    I remember making this exact same point in one of my A-level politics essays in 1988. I was wrong then, too. It sounds good, but the fact is that, starting from the 1983 election, when the three parties on offer were one conservative party and two social democratic parties of different degrees of leftness, the British electorate have consistently voted in larger numbers for the two social democratic parties, than for the conservative party. In every general election. This includes the last one, when a very large percentage – quite probably a majority – of Clegg’s voters, believed with confidence that they were voting for a party of the centre-left. We are one of the least religious and most tolerant developed countries. We are also remarkably strongly attached to the concept of an interventionist state in public services. The UK isn’t a small “c” conservative country at all. It is a remarkably consistent social democratic country which has a very big “C” Conservative media, and an electoral system which distorts results in such a way as to allow Conservatives to enter government as a result of the split in the centre-left vote.

    “John Stuart Mill once famously said: “I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative.” It increasingly looks like he was only half right.”

    On the other hand, I wish I had used this quote in my A-level essay. Bang on the button,

  • Paul Barker – I think you mean (1989 Euros) “A pathetic 4th place”. I was active in probably the only campaign – Paul Tyler’s in Cornwall – where we managed to come second (laying the foundation for Robin Teverson’s victory in the seat in 1994).

  • Helen Dudden 7th May '13 - 9:28am

    Is David Cameron two timing Nick Clegg? I think that will be a question to be asked very soon.

    As some us try to make the EU a better place to live, there are others who wish only to make things better for themselves.

  • Julian,
    again, no.

    Constitutionally the country is a ‘liberal representative democracy’.

    Politically there are those who are democrats and those who aren’t. In politics those who are successful are more liberal than those who fail.

    We can disagree with our opponents, but we should be appreciative of how the system is winning them over to liberty, just as we should recognise how we need to be won over to become more liberal.

    Party names are not a good guide.

  • Unless, the economy does an amazing U-turn, it would seem that the Conservatives are headed for the Opposition benches after the next election. In the meantime, they’ll probably rip themselves apart arguing about the EU.

    The Lib Dems need to avoid getting dragged into their internal feuds. A simple point that no other EU member state has even indicated it would consider re-negotiating the EU Treaties to placate the Conservative party back benchers should be hammered home at every available opportunity by the Lib Dems.

    I doubt the Conservatives could come up with a coherent set of points to negotiate on, so why on earth should the other member states try to engage in guessing games as to what might satisfy them?

  • David Pollard 7th May '13 - 11:30am

    The UKIP vote has been well over-rated; a quarter of 30% turnout in the Tory shires is not very much. BUT WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T TELL THE TORIES! Nick Clegg has already stated that the LibDems are staying on the centre ground and if UKIP pull the Tories to the right, that leaves even more room for us. If Nick plays his cards right (but there is not much evidence from past experience that he will) he can run the country, whilst the Tories pull themselves apart. Keep campaigning; there is all to play for.

  • Peter Watson 7th May '13 - 11:46am

    @tonyhill “in Eastleigh it would now make sense for Tories to vote tactically for the UKIP candidate to defeat the Liberal Democrat”
    Very interesting point: in such seats UKIP could pick up the tory vote without their opponents gaining the anti-tory vote. Some of our biggest successes (smallest failures?) and best hopes for 2015 have been in LD-Con marginals, but in these places could a UKIP surge combine with anti-coalition sentiment and lead to Lib Dem incumbents losing to UKIP?

  • An electoral pact with UKIP doesn’t come without problems in many key constituencies along the proposed route of HS2. From reports, in these constituencies many voted UKIP instead of Conservative (and to a lesser extent) Labour, LibDem who blindly support HS2.

    As paul barker pointed out we’ve been here before with the Greens, however a major factor in the decline of the Greens was, apart from their own infighting, the mainstream parties getting their acts together and adopting key green policies and so attracting voters back. So the question is fundamentally how will the LibDem’s adapt their policies to better reflect the mood of the electorate?

  • Malcolm Todd 7th May '13 - 12:26pm

    peter.tyzack:
    “the false belief that there IS mass migration”

    If we try to overcome people’s fears about immigration (or anything else) by telling them things that can easily be shown to be false then we’ll persuade no on e and just make things worse. Government figures show that net immigration to UK has been well over 100,000 a year for over 10 years. I don’t have a problem with that, but I don’t see how you can deny that that is “mass [im]migration”.

  • Andrew Colman 7th May '13 - 12:45pm

    Rather than support the anti-immigration stance taken by our “vile” press, we should look at some of the issues behind UKIPS rise.

    Eg Queue jumping for social housing, local authorities having to support refugees (this should be funded centrally, even by EU in my view). Another is lack of job and training opportunities for young people. We need to make sure that young people are guided into useful fulfilling careers by revamping the careers advice service for example. We should also take a tougher stand over EU stupidities, eg the fisheries policy which is destroying both fish stocks and our fishing industry and the hugely bureaucratic and wasteful CAP.

  • Andrew Colman 7th May '13 - 12:52pm

    I reject any comparison between UKIP and the greens. Whilst they both may be parties that have benefited from the protest vote (ie none of the above lets try someone else) , there similarity stops there.

    The greens a party of principle. They may go further and faster than may would wish and some of their policies may not be prectical , but we all depend on this planets environment, whether we like it or not. UKIP however are a party of prejudice and ignorance. Their policies are determined by the latest headlines in the Daily Mail etc.

  • Alex Macfie 7th May '13 - 1:01pm

    Martin:

    “Of all parties, Lib Dems should be leading the fight to UKIP, exposing their record and their incoherent and extremist policies.”

    Absolutely, and their allies in the European Parliament as well (we can do the same for the Tories in the Euro election). We should also point out that the main selling point of UKIP (getting the UK out of the EU) is not something that MEPs have any influence over, as they legislate for the EU as a whole. I think we should explicitly say in the European election campaign that it’s not about whether you’re pro or anti EU, but about what type of EU people want; and also that it’s about whether voters want MEPs who work in Parliament, or ones who sign in and *** off.

  • Andrew Colman 7th May '13 - 1:43pm

    We should not forget that the difficulties being faced in the UK (unemployment, recession) are occurring all over Europe. What we need is a Keynesian alliance between the LD and like minded politicians across Europe (particularly, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Ireland) . This alliance could also spread further afield eg The Democrats in USA, Japan and Australia. Together they will stop countries being picked on by the financial elite who control the markets and push for a re-igniting of the world economy to get us all out of this mess.

  • @Dave Page

    I think you’re missing the point, I treat the UKIP policies as a possible ‘snake oil’ treatments that make sense to many people, but they do not necessarily identify or do anything for the underlying condition(s) and may actually kill the patient. Hence I ask for example, what has caused so many people to think that the UK should leave the EU? and then build policies and more importantly firm courses of action that people understand that actually address these causes.

    For example one reason people don’t like the EU is down to the stupidity of UK government in not only drawing up the Ts&Cs of the Thamelink deal that failed to create a level playing field, but having had this pointed out then failing to rectify the problem, with government minsters saying their hands were tied by Brussels… so here we have a public display of the Westminster crowd wringing their collective hands about Brussels, which can really only be taken to imply that it wasn’t for Brussels we would do different – so what are the public to conclude? The obvious course of action is to improve government’s ability to draw up Ts&Cs, just like other EU member states that satisfy Brussels but result in better outcomes for their electorates. A secondary action is to get Westminster to grow up about it’s relationship with the EU, perhaps we need our Commissioners and MEP’s to regularly and publicly report to Westminster? We could start here with the MEP’s having to explain their voting on emissions trading (see http://www.libdemvoice.org/chris-davies-writes-britain-betrayed-34139.html ) I suspect once Westminster starts to ask questions the press will soon follow…

    Going back to the Greens (sorry Andrew Coleman), everyone knew back in the early 1990’s that we would need new non-green power stations and energy sources, however room was found to include a green agenda, albeit not as radical as the Green’s, but sufficient to move the goal posts, to be plausible and over time it has changed peoples awareness and attitudes to energy.

    So if the LibDems want see the UK being at the heart of the EU, they need to develop policies and actions that demonstrate that this will be beneficial and make use of their position of influence to start showing results before an EU referendum …

  • Alex Macfie 7th May '13 - 4:35pm

    @Roland: Your idea of making MEPs and Commissioners (I assume you mean those from the UK specifically) directly accountable to Westminster is a bad one, and anyway unlawful as it goes against the principle of separation of powers between the EU institutions. MEPs are already accountable to the electorate via direct elections; the problem is that this country’s media routinely, wilfully and unjustifiably ignores the European Parliament. This reprehensible attitude is part of the problem, and it is up to the media to change itself. It would not be desirable for party machines at Westminster to dictate how MEPs vote when the whole point of it is that it is independent of national governments and is supposed to scrutinise proposals by these (via the Council) and by the Commission. Your suggestion would make the EP toothless.
    However, it *would* be desirable to make the government’s positions in the Council better accountable to the national Parliament, and the same goes for UK implementations of EU law (which might curb gold-plating).

  • Stuart Mitchell 7th May '13 - 5:19pm

    RC: “the likelihood of the current [Tory] leadership endorsing [PR] publicly after their slating of even modest changes to the current system in the form of AV is just not going to happen. How could they possibly justify such a volte face to the electorate?”

    AV had nothing whatsoever to do with PR, so no volte face would be required.

  • Alex Macfie 7th May '13 - 5:48pm

    @Roland: I think perhaps you miss the point of the article by Chris Davies that you cite, which is that Chris is disagreeing politically with the stance of the Tory and UKIP MEPs on emissions trading. He is not suggesting that Tory MEPs are not entitled to vote as they did: they are an autonomous group and can vote as they wish, and the same goes for the Lib Dem MEPs. As I note in the comments, it is good for politics that the two parties openly disagree with each other in the European Parliament, as it shows their independence from the coalition at home. There is an element of schadenfreude in the observation that David Cameron has very little practical control over his party’s MEPs.
    Chris is not averse to criticising his own party colleagues in government either:
    http://www.libdemvoice.org/chris-davies-mep-writes-slipping-deeper-into-the-tar-sands-26115.html

  • @Alex: Perhaps my use of the word ‘report’ carries too much baggage about accountability. I do think there needs to be greater public questioning of our Commissioners and MEPs about what they are doing with respect to UK interests. Obviously, longer term the intent will be to make it normal for all Commissioners and MEPs to be expected to answer questions about what they are doing with respect to forwarding Europe’s interests, but short-term we need to increase the relevance and profile of the UK’s Commissioners and MEPs to the UK electorate. So that they begin to understand the EU political institutions in the same way that they understand Westminster.

    I thought Chris Davies was clear in his article that the Conservative and UKIP MEPs had used their votes to oppose the levelling of the playing field for UK industry, instead they negatively increased the disparity, hence I and probably others would like very much to know why they chose to do this – there may be totally valid reasons, however without a suitable public forum we have no real way of achieving this. As for accountable to the electorate through the ballot box, well we know how that works not; we only have to look at the elected Police Commissioners…

    >it is up to the media to change itself.
    I wonder whether the regulator would have something to say on this, p-articularly with respect to the BBC’s coverage.
    Whilst it may be up to the media to change itself, we can help them to see the story.

    In summary Alex, I think you do understand the point I’m trying to make that there are steps that can be made to improve things, that don’t actually require an immediate and direct response to UKIPs policies, whilst at the same time addressing the same underlying concerns, as come the Referendum, we would want the electorate to vote ‘Yes’ because they wanted to be part of something good and not out of fear of what a ‘No’ vote could mean.

  • But, Roland, this party has quite regularly presented the electorate (at Euros time, anyway) with proposals to strengthen the actions of the European Parliament, and as far as I have seen these proposals have had no effect at all on voting behaviour. I have always criticised the LDs for not being open and out there enough with European issues, but as Alex says, this is because of the media “wilfully” misrepresenting the EP. It really is not good enough to say the media should “change itself”. It will not, more’s the pity.

  • Alex Macfie 7th May '13 - 11:44pm

    @Roland: Of course there needs to be more public questioning of our European representativses, but you appear to be assuming that the media would listen if MEPs and Commissioners answered questions about what they are doing. The reality is quite different. As you are surely aware, the tabloids in particular routinely make up stories about what “Europe” or “Brussels” is doing, and ignore any attempt by anyone from the institutions to whom they are attributing the latest crazy European proposal to say what is actually happening. Much of the media are indifferent to the truth about the EU, preferring sensationalism. The serious media aren’t much better: the BBC Today or PM programmes will often report on an EU proposal without interviewing an MEP. Similarly with Question Time: when was the last time an MEP from a party other than UKIP appeared on the programme?
    We agree that about the need for greater engagement of EU-level politicians with the UK public. My point is that it isn’t so much that these politicians don’t want to engage, but rather that they don’t get an opportunity because the media generally aren’t interested. I agree that we need to push the media into being more interested; it’s not just up to them, but it is something of an uphill struggle.

    “I thought Chris Davies was clear in his article that the Conservative and UKIP MEPs had used their votes to oppose the levelling of the playing field for UK industry, instead they negatively increased the disparity”

    Yes, he was disagreeing politically with the way the Conservative and UKIP MEPs voted, and clearly was using this site to publicise the different positions of the Lib Dems and the right-wing groups in the European Parliament (yes, I know he didn’t express it that way, although I think that was a mistake). Of course it is right that MEPs should explain to the public why they voted a particular way, but if that is to happen effectively, we need a media that takes a genuine, serious interest in what actually happens in European institutions. And that includes taking notice of the idea that there are disagreements at the political level on what specific policy direction the EU goes in, and that voters can influence this.

    Incidentally, Commissioners act in the interests of the EU as a whole, and are not supposed to be biased in favour of their nationality (they are also nominally non-partisan). For MEPs it’s different, they represent their constituencies, and representing their national interest may be part of that; however, they sit and vote by party group,not nationality. Gone are the days when MEPs would vote en bloc by nationality. A UK MEP is no more supposed to represent the interests UK in the EU Parliament than an MP for a Cornish constituency represents the interests of Cornwall in the UK Parliament.

  • Alex Macfie 7th May '13 - 11:55pm

    @tim13: Yes on reflection I think my comment that the media should change itself was rather clumsy; I just meant that it’s not easy to force the UK media to report European political affairs properly. Those of us who actually care should get the message out.
    For the Euros there ought to be a Question Time or Any Questions with an MEP-only panel. That would be the proper way to cover the election. Fat chance :(

  • @Alex: Yes the media are a tricky beast, particularly over Europe. But then so are the electorate. Maxwell for all his faults did try with “The European” newspaper.

    My thoughts were that the media might pay more attention if the questioning was conducted in a Westminster context, but as you point out this does present many difficulties that are not immediately obvious to the majority of people. I do like your idea of MEP only panels etc. particularly for the run up to the EU elections.

    Perhaps in light of the Olympics and Paralympics coverage we should provide incentives to Channel4 to cover EU affairs; they probably will find it hard to do worse than the BBC and in fact might do it rather well…

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