I have a feeling that we haven’t heard the last of the idea of Tory / UKIP pact. However much Grant Shapps tries to knock the idea down, it is going to keep coming back. Why? Because Nigel Farage will never totally dismiss the idea — hence his mischief-making about doing a deal with a Michael Gove-led Tory party — and enough Tory MPs want one to give the idea oxygen.
When I spoke to Farage back in May, this is what he said on the subject of candidates standing on a joint Tory/UKIP ticket:
‘What I do know is there are Conservative Associations up and down the country who think this could be a way forward… So all I would say to you is that in terms of co-operation or deals or anything in the future, firstly it’s some way off but secondly, I can see that there are associations thinking along the lines that if they approach us. Would I entertain and contemplate such ideas? Of course I would.’
Now, I think there’s little to no chance of CCHQ sanctioning anything like this. But there are some Tory MPs who might take Farage up on this offer. If this happened, it would put Cameron in a very difficult position. He’d have to decide whether to deselect the candidates who had entered into this arrangement which would risk making a Tory split over Europe the story of the opening days of the campaign.