I've always had a soft spot for the UK Independence Party (or Ukip as its now to be known). Always stop for a chat at their caravan at local shows. Never voted for them, never signed up to Better Off Out and never committed myself to supporting an EU referendum. Inevitably this leads to sharp letters of disapproval. Which is actually rather daft. I was a Eurosceptic before many of them were born, having campaigned for an 'out' vote in 1975.
This week is the occasion of Ukip's annual conference, and they are being taken a bit more seriously at the moment because they are doing OK in the opinion polls - sometimes leading the Lib Dems. And its generally thought that most of Ukip's support comes from traditional Tory voters. I suspect that's right. So I suppose we Tories should take some note of what's happening.
Some Tories think we should look to form a coalition with Ukip - which is a good idea if you prefer the freedom of expression that comes with sitting on the opposition benches. Some Tories tell me how attractive a politician is Nigel Farage. I agree he's a bit of a character, but too shouty and rude for my taste (which makes him ideal for Question Time of course). He reminds me too much of Del Boy - entertaining if not actually in charge of any levers of power.
So what do I think. I'll support every move by Gov't to resist the advance of the EU's integrationist tentacles. I greatly welcome the change in Gov't focus towards nations outside the Eurozone both in trade and diplomacy. I'm not against a referendum in principle and I do think the crisis in the Eurozone will lead to one of some sort eventually - though probably not an in/out. I will not support a referendum unless we know the Gov't that calls it will actually take seriously and act on what the people vote for. Reason I'm deeply suspicious of an in/out referendum is that I sense the 'ins' will win and will give a bright green light to the integrationists. Perhaps I'm bruised by what happened in 1975.
The reason Ukip is attractive is that they give the impression that they really care. Less slippery language and connect on the issues that worry people most. In Wales its the extra bureaucracy created by devolution, the madness and destructiveness of onshore wind, crime and immigration. An EU referendum to Ukip is a bit like 'independence' to Plaid Cymru - fundamental as a background theoretical philosophy but nothing to do with electoral success. And the joy of politics is that I could be wrong in so many ways.