THE Conservatives could be about to lurch even further to the right by cracking down on immigration, critics have claimed as disquiet grows within the party that they could be outflanked on the issue if new Ukip-style parties are formed.
The Scottish Greens have warned against a suggestion from a right-wing Tory MP this week that the party could lose “dozens” of seats should a new upstart party pick up their more extreme right-wing voters, as Nigel Farage’s former party did before the Brexit referendum.
It comes after Tory MP Craig Mackinlay, the former deputy leader of Ukip, told The Telegraph he was worried his party’s record on immigration could leave them vulnerable to the rise of a new party who could attempt to outflank them to the right.
He told the paper: “Unless we get this solved to people’s satisfaction, my real worry is that we could see some sort of challenger right-of-centre party coming forward, nicking a few of our votes.”
Mackinlay was one of the founders of Ukip before joining the Tories in 2005.
He said the party could stand to lose “dozens” of seats, adding: “The threat is that they take a predominant number of votes from Conservative Party.
“I would say that 70%, 80% of the voters that migrated to Ukip were Conservative voters and they are voters that we dare not lose, particularly in those very tight seats.
“After Boris had delivered Brexit in the 2019 election, [we thought] that fringe group sitting out to our Right were in the tomb and the coffin was sealed and gone forever. But we would be naive to think that.”
‘Tories want to move even further right’
The Scottish Greens have treated Mackinlay’s prediction as a warning the Tories want to go “even further” to the right.
West of Scotland MSP Ross Greer said: “One of the reasons for the decline of UKIP and the Brexit Party was that all of their racist policies and xenophobic attitudes are embodied by a reactionary and bigoted Tory party that has not shown any shame about smearing and scapegoating migrant communities.
“Craig Mackinlay is a clear example of that himself, given that he was deputy leader of UKIP before he switched to the Tories.
“The government that Mackinlay supports is already inflicting brutal dawn raids on vulnerable people and detaining refugees in prison-like conditions while the Home Secretary dreams of chartering more cruel and racist deportation flights to her offshore processing centres in Rwanda.
“These are truly despicable ways to treat other human beings, so the fact that an influential wing of the Tory party would want to go even further should terrify us all.
“With the powers of a normal independent country, Scotland will build a much fairer, better and more humane migration and asylum system.
“It will be one based on solidarity and welcoming people, rather than punishing them and whipping up hatred against them, as this disgraceful Tory government has done time and again.”
Expert says no hope Tories can win next General Election
But Lewis Miller, a lecturer in politics and international relations at Dundee University, has said using the politicisation of cross-Channel migration is not likely to work as a life raft to save the Conservative’s plummeting popularity ratings.
Miller, who teaches British politics in Dundee, said that there was little hope for the Conservatives of winning the next General Election, even if they managed to sell their right-wing supporters a positive story on immigration.
He told The National: “While in 2015 UKIP was a serious problem in maintaining the Conservative voter coalition, the economic situation and damage to the Conservative Party brand over the past year presents much more fundamental challenges to the Conservative Party’s prospects.
“So far, Reform UK, the successor to the Brexit Party, has failed to make an electoral impact and politicise issues such as migration or the UK’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“The Conservative Party have so far managed to appeal enough to socially conservative voters on issues like immigration and security.
“The major threat to the Conservative Party at present is its inability so far to narrow the large Labour lead in polls.
“Labour continues to lead by around 20 [points] in opinion polls, with the Conservatives so far failing to recover past 30%.
“In a recent YouGov poll, around 18% of 2019 Conservative voters stated that they would vote for Labour, with 11% opting for Reform UK.
“Politicising cross-channel migration itself is unlikely in itself to repair the damage to the Conservative Party brand sustained over the past year.
“It is also unlikely on its own to mask the daily crisis citizens face around energy bills, inflation, rising interest rates and potential future cuts.”