David Cameron speaks during the annual United Jewish Israel Appeal dinner in London on October 15, 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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When Cameron was prepared to criticise Israel

Back in 2006 the PM attacked Israel's Lebanon offensive as "disproportionate". 

Even as the civilian death toll in Gaza has continued to rise (with a third UN school hit today), David Cameron has refused to criticise Israel, limiting himself to demands for an immediate ceasefire. But back in 2006, during the country's Lebanon offensive, the PM took a notably different stance. Speaking as leader of the opposition, he condemned Israel's actions as "disproportionate" and criticised Tony Blair for refusing to do so. 

"Elements of the Israeli response were disproportionate and I think it was right to say that, and I think the Prime Minister should have said that," he told BBC Radio Five Live. "I don't think it should be seen as an unfair criticism of Israel. It is just a statement of the fact. Britain is a friend of Israel, yes, and a friend of the US, but in both cases, we should be candid friends and we shouldn't be scared of saying to our friends when we think they are making mistakes or doing the wrong thing."

But today, in response to a far greater loss of life in Gaza, the PM has adopted Blair's quiescent stance as his own. By contrast, Ed Miliband has consistently condemned Israel's behaviour as "unacceptable and unjustifiable" and yesterday declared that Cameron's "silence" over "the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians caused by Israel's military action" would be "inexplicable to people across Britain and internationally." 

Downing Street responded by accusing Miliband of seeking to "play politics", but by that logic Cameron was doing much the same in 2006. If the PM believed that Israel was behaving disproportionately then, he should explain why he doesn't now.  

Now ensconced in No.10, he may be unwilling to abandon the convention of British support for Israel. But Cameron is also likely to remember the Conservative response to his criticism of the country in 2006. Several major Tory donors threatened to withold money from the party (it's worth reading Fraser Nelson's column from the time on the subject), with one, Stanley Kalms, declaring: "Criticising Israel for being disproportionate without serious consideration of the alternatives merely mouths the buzzwords of the ignorant armchair critic."

With the general election just nine months away, and Labour outraising the Tories last year, Cameron can't afford to alienate his backers again. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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