On Thursday, UKIP won their second seat in Westminster with a landslide victory in the Rochester & Strood by-election, earning 42% of the popular vote in the process (albeit from a turnout of only 50% which is still high for a by-election.)
In the process, the established parties saw a collapse of their votes with Conservatives, Labour and Liberal democrats all losing more than 10% of their vote share each, although the Greens did see a marked increase in the votes gained.
This result, on the back of UKIP’s other recent success in Clacton (where they similarly won a safe conservative seat via the expedient of the incumbent MP defecting to the purple & gold party) and their impressive performance in running Laour close in the previously safe seat of Heywood & Middleton.
For all UKIP’s highly successful European election campaign, high polling figures and consistent TV presence (thanks for that, mainstream media) the conventional wisdom is that the distributed nature of their support would require them to earn higher than 20% of the vote nationally before winning a handful of MPs (compared to the SNP & Liberal Democrats, who are both polling lower nationally but can rely on strongly localized votes.)
However, after three by-elections where they have secured 59, 42 and 38% of the vote for an average of 46% it is starting to look that they might actually win a significant number of MPs in next years general election.
Even if we account for the potential ‘protest vote’ element which is always present in a by-election, it’s worth remembering that these by-elections had relatively high turnouts and come less than a year before the general election. Can we really expect UKIP’s vote to evaporate by more than half in the space of six months?
I find the rise of UKIP to be very worrying for several reasons.
Firstly, their manifesto, such as it is relies on what amounts to jingoistic racism, blaming the EU and immigration for all of Britain’s economic and social ills, both insinuations being completely intellectually and morally bankrupt.
Secondly, with the complicity of the tabloid and television media, they seem to have successful promoted themselves as an ‘alternative’ to the usual suspects in Westminster (i.e Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats) which is hard to believe when UKIP is almost wholly populated by former Tories who have fallen foul of that party’s disciplinary policy and need to maintain some kind of centrist appeal, is funded by former Tory donors and their leader refers to them as ‘keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive.’
More conservative and isolationist than the Conservatives… doesn’t exactly sound like a radical alternative to me…
I’m not saying that the EU is perfect, indeed it’s an expensive, labyrinthine and corrupt institution and my oft-stated distrust of the centralisation of power applies every bit as much to Brussels as it does to Westminster. However, UKIP want to take the UK out of the EU so they can ignore all those pesky EU laws about working time regulations, employment rights and such which are a stumbling block to their real passion which is corporate profit.
This is best seen in the way that UKIP have singularly failed to take a stand against TTIP (Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership) which seeks to remove the sovereignty over British and European laws for the benefit of corporate interest, compelling regulations to be blunted downwards in order to create a level playing field across Europe and America and allows corporations to take individuals & governments to special courts if they act in such a way that jeopardises their profits.
This failure to stand up for British sovereignty throws the lie at the core of UKIP’s message into stark relief. They don’t care about getting the best deal for British workers, rather funneling as much money into the pockets of their (often not British, if that matters to you) corporate buddies.
Similarly, UKIP’s policies regarding immigration are both economically and socially idiotic (as immigration provides the UK with a renewable source of skilled labour and social dynamism, hell, here’s a case for the benefits of immigration from a Tory MP, so not exactly a pinko lefty opinion) while their notion of sending ‘home’ all migrants should they gain power is both morally dubious and idiotic, given that it would decimate our economy in more than a few ways.
It’s not only immigrants and foreigners that bear the brunt of their disdain as the litany of anti-women, working class and homosexual comments uttered by notable UKIP figures would take several pages to list in full.
It is quite startling that so many people are so receptive to what amounts to bigoted arguments to back up what is evidently a neoliberal, far-right party in the name of progressive change. UKIP are a dangerous party who would drag Britain back into the 1980s in terms of social upheaval, unemployment, rising inequality and violence if they have even the merest sniff of power.
I would urge anyone and everyone who is even considering voting UKIP to do some research before doing so. Do you really believe that this bunch of too-Tory-for-the-Tories will do anything to redress austerity and inequality, to protect the NHS or otherwise improve your lives?
Of course, none of those things would come to pass, but should they win enough seats next year to make a coalition with the Conservatives possible, they would drag that party and the whole mainstream of British politics further to the right, the UK out of Europe and into a ijngoistic time warp of slash & burn economics, a dismantled health service and welfare state along with an increasingly authoritarian regime seeding racism and dischord while robbing the country blind.
You think David Cameron is bad? Remember, he is actually a relative centrist in the Cnservative party, willing to at least pay lip service to some progressive policies. A vote for UKIP could well result in someone worse and as horrible as the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has been, imagine how bad it would be if the Lib Dem contingent were far right, racist Thatcherite fundamentalists, rather than a bunch of spineless empty suits who towed the Tory line in return for some toothless ministerial offices.
That’s the future if UKIP win a considerable number of seats in 2015. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.