I suppose I might lose my seat in the House of Commons at the next general election if Ukip make even a reasonable surge in Montgomeryshire. Only got a 1200 majority. So I suppose I should be jumping up and down looking for an antidote to the Ukip surge. But strangely I feel very calm about things. The way for my party to counteract Ukip's popularity is to do what we should be doing anyway - listening to them. I'm just thinking of some of the difficult issues for me that Ukip have latched onto.
The first is onshore wind - a massive and divisive issue in mid Wales. While I was not hugely opposed to wind farms before the Welsh Gov't published new planning guidance (Tan8) in 2005, I have been implacably opposed to the Mid Wales Connection Project ever since. The scale of it is breath-takingly horrific. This project has raised public interest in energy policy in Montgomeryshire. Many more people (in my experience) have become pro-nuclear, less anti-fossil fuels (esp shale gas) and more sceptical towards renewable energy in general. This is bang in line with Ukip policy - while I remain in favour of renewables where they are economically sensible and will make a worthwhile difference. So despite my support for protesters against the Mid Wales Connection Project, I could well be 'outflanked' by Ukip. And so could several other Conservative MPs. Desperately hope we can defeat this terrible proposal.
Another issue is 'gay marriage'. Now I didn't want to be drawn into a debate on this issue, and was upset when it was brought before Parliament. I am not in favour of redefining the meaning of marriage, but knew I would be accused of a homophobic attitude simply by voting according to my conscience. I hated the position I was put in - but had the consolation of sensing it was how the majority of my constituents felt. I don't want to make a big song and dance about it. But Ukip will again be quite happy to 'outflank' me with strong rhetoric. Could cost me some votes.
There's a few other issues as well. And then there's Europe. I've always been by nature Eurosceptic. I voted for 'Out' in 1975. I support our policy of renegotiating the terms of our membership of the EU and holding a referendum in 2017 to seek the support of the British people. And if the people vote 'No' I would want the UK to begin the process of withdrawal. But now we find many wanting a referendum sooner than 2017 - as a response to Thursday's election results. I'm deeply uncomfortable with this - for two reasons. Firstly, I think our policy is correct, and secondly, I don't think Ukip should be writing our policies. Ukip just want to withdraw, without regard to consequences. I'm expecting this to become a bit of an issue over the next few months.
But perhaps the reason I do not think my party should panic about Ukip's success is that the voters are not daft. When it comes to voting for a Gov't they will look beyond the rhetoric. At the 2015 election, it will be the Coalition parties which can point to a record of taking difficult decisions to restore our public finances, tackling welfare and bringing immigration levels down. And voters will understand that only the Conservative Party will be offering energy policies that protect them from high bills and export of jobs overseas. I try to listen to what the people I want to represent tell me. Its all my party has to do - ensure that the people of Britain believe we are listening to them. That shouldn't be too difficult - and its easier if there's no sense of panic.