Fruitcakes and loonies exact their revenge

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The so-called fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists have exacted their revenge.

David Cameron – although he would never admit it – must rue the day when he so stupidly derided members of Ukip in this way. Because in short, Cameron has now got his come uppance.

Most people could have told him at the time that his outburst was (to put it charitably) counter-productive and that insulting thousands of Conservative voters who’d left the Tory ranks, at least in part because of his leadership, was not the way to win votes and influence people. Quite simply, many people did not, and do not, regard him as a proper, traditional Conservative or, even more seriously, as someone who would keep his bond.

Clacton went for a Burton in the by-election last week, and there are signs that Rochester and Strood, another so-called Tory stronghold - could “suffer” the same fate at the forthcoming by-election there.

Ukip’s victory at Clacton, and the no less spectacular inroads the party made into Labour’s general election majority in the Heywood by-election on the same day, have been described as creating an earthquake on the political landscape.

Now, it is all too easy to overstate the significance of by-election results. But last week Ukip gave both Labour and the Conservatives more than just a one-off kick up the rump, a regular feature of by-elections. No, this was something a lot more serious than that. Ukip have succeeded in inflicting grievous damage in terms of the confidence felt by the voters for the two main parties, Labour and Conservative.

And when you erode that confidence, then you are in dire trouble. In short, Ukip’s appeal is across a wide spectrum of the British political scene. Both Labour and Tory grandees should be quaking in their boots. And how did the victims respond? Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, said feebly that this was a”wake-up call”.

How, utterly pathetic. The implication of this remark was that the Conservative Party has been dozing for the past two or three years when virtually anyone could have told them they were in danger of being given a good hiding whenever a by-election came along. And so it has happened. Really, the Tory leadership, such as it is, should get a grip. They have been meandering about since the last general election, believing that Ukip was no more than an irritating gnat-bite which would quickly disappear.