Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 3 May 2013

UKIP - The political classes are still not getting it

So UKIP have had an amazing set of council elections. The results are still being counted but they are on course for well over 100 seats (they had 8 last time these seats were contested) and roughly a quarter of the vote.

Cue much consternation within the political classes with politicians from all the major parties coming onto the media to "explain" what is happening and what they intend to do about it. The "explanations" range from the standard "mid term blues" argument that I have heard from the likes of Simon Hughes and Grant Shapps, to people being frustrated (with X policy, usually one the politician speaking is also frustrated with coincidentally) and protesting by voting for UKIP.

There is probably something in these and the various other comments that will be forced down our necks ad nauseum in the coming days and weeks.

Backbench Tories are already responding by trying to push an EU referendum in this parliament. Doubtless there will be some who try to encourage a harder line on immigration.

But I think much of the analysis and comment is missing something very important.

People are voting for UKIP because they seem to do politics differently.

Their spokespeople appear to give a straight answer to a straight question. They have had candidates with views that are well outside the mainstream (and probably offensive to some people) such as John Sullivan in Gloucestershire who claimed homsexuality could be prevented through vigorous physical exercise.

There have also been pictures of UKIP candidates in situations that by the political classes are generally seen as "unacceptable" such as the young man who was photographed wearing a Jimmy Saville mask. There have been plenty of others as the media and activists from other parties started trawling the web to find evidence of these sort of "embarrassing" snaps.

But UKIP have not deselected these candidates as the mainstream parties would have done at the first whiff of bad publicity. Instead they have allowed their candidates to have their say and their pasts and stand or fall at the ballot box.

Now don't get me wrong. I personally disagree with pretty much all of the comments that these candidates have made and many of the things they have been pictured doing are not to my taste either. But the major point is that the party is being genuinely open and forgiving of their candidates. It is allowing them to say and do things that "ordinary" politicians would be fired for. Whether I agree or disagree with the candidates statements and actions is irrelevant. It is a very different way of doing politics and the electorate are taking notice.

It is strange to reflect that we have reached a point where the careers of politicians can be ended because of an odd ill advised comment or picture but it happens time and again. On this blog alone I have commented previously on the cases of Greg Stone, Aidan Burley and Phillip Whittington all of whom did things that were deemed to be beyond the pale for their parties and were thusly sanctioned.

It is no wonder to me that when a party comes along that is more tolerant about the human failings of its candidates that it ultimately starts to reap the electoral rewards of this. We don't want a bunch of automatons who have never lived and never said or thought anything that might be offensive to someone somewhere. Of course I would argue very strongly against the views of most UKIP candidates on all sorts of issues but that shouldn't mean they are not allowed to have their views and also their "embarrassing" photos from parties etc. They should and then they can be challenged on the hustings and at the ballot box.

After all, isn't that what democracy is supposed to be about?

So the mainstream parties can do all the "listening" and "learning" they wish. But until they grasp the fundamental tenet that people don't want "I speak your policy" robots as their elected representatives UKIP will continue to make gains.


Jim said...

I think you are missing the point too. Yes UKIP candidates are not identikit Central Office types, vetted and schooled in politician-speak. But thats not why people are voting for them. They are voting for them despite their eccentricities because they are articulating views that chime with a significant proportion of the public, but are considered beyond the pale by the metropolitan elite who run politics and the media in the UK. Anti immigration, anti EU and anti gay marriage are all policies that appeal to small c conservatives, and that includes Old Labour voters as well as Tory ones. And such people have had no-one articulating such views to vote for for until now. I suspect many UKIP voters may be people who have given up voting over the last few decades, as their views have become more and more marginalised.

Tom Mein said...

In general, the people of the UK are fair minded and as such are fed up with the political games that are played in Westminster, such as the cynical refusal of the libdems to support the boundary changes.
I sincerely hope that this piece of political spite returns to haunt you for many a year.
P.S I am from South Shields and was delighted to see the libdem performance there.

Jennie Rigg said...

Jim is right to an extent: UKIP do advocate things that chime with a significant number of people.

They advocate the sort of thing that the blokes in the pub I used to work in used to say after 3 (or more) pints. The fact that many of UKIP's policy positions are inconsistent, self-contradictory, impractical or downright impossible does not matter to this sort of person. They don't THINK about politics, they react, and their reaction is almost always "down with this sort of thing". They are mostly towards the lower end of the income and education scales, and have not thought how UKIP's extreme right wing economic policies, ill-thought-out as they are, will affect them. They just want to go back to a fictional 1953 when they as elderly white heterosexual men (and UKIP voters are disproportionately elderly, white, het, and male) still had power instead of having to share it with icky women and gays and foreigners.

It'd be funny if it wasn't so depressing.

Anonymous said...

We all are not getting it. What does the UKIP represent?