Today there may be some who are tempted by the idea of a Con-Ukip hybrid candidacy. Hybrid Lib-Lab and Lib-Con candidates have been tried on several occasions. What does history tell us about the fortunes of hybrid candidates?
Before the formation of the Labour Party, the Liberals put up candidates styled as Lib-Labs. They provided a route for working class candidates to get into parliament, where they then took the Liberal whip. These candidates achieved some electoral success, reaching a peak of 12 in 1885. However, after this their numbers declined and once the Labour Party was operating as an independent party, the remaining Lib-Labs were absorbed into the Liberal Party. There was no viable future for these hybrid MPs.
At the 1924 election, with a widespread fear of communism heightened by the Zinoviev letter, some hybrid Lib-Con candidates emerged, styling themselves Constitutionalists. Churchill is their most famous example, but in total there were ten. Seven won their seats. After the election they went their separate ways. Four of the victors re-took the Liberal whip and three (including Churchill) joined the Conservatives in the new parliament. The Constitutionalists’ electoral performance did not represent an electoral breakthrough, or the formation of a viable new party and the experiment was dropped.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, some rather bogus labels were used at elections by the Conservative Party, incorporating the word Liberal, even though the candidates had nothing to do with the Liberal Party. They used names such as ‘Conservative and Liberal’, appearing to be hybrid candidates. Their electoral performance was generally in line with what a pure Conservative candidate would have achieved in these seats. Some voters may have been taken in, while others were put off by the deception. This was really an example of deliberate mis-labelling, rather than an exciting new product in the political stable.
A bit like hybrid cars, hybrid candidates may sound like an exciting and radical idea, but in reality they actually perform about the same as the conventional versions.