There is…or at least WAS…something far too cosy about British electoral politics. Seasoned election watchers like myself will recall Richard Dimbleby, David Butler the psephologist and Professor Robert McKenzie and his swingometer on BBC Election nights in 1964, 1966, 1970, 1974(twice) and so on long past the deaths of Dimbleby and McKenzie.
It was all very civilised. The Conservatives had the shires…the rural vote And the commuter vote. Labour had the industrial North, Scotland and Wales…and there was a battleground in county twons such as Carlisle and Peterborough, the Midlands and the posher parts of big cities.
Liberals were confined to the west country and the “celtic fringe”. Scotland and Wales supplied a few nationalists and Norn Iron was just an embarrasing footnote to it all. Indeed Politics was stable thatMcKenzies homemade swingometer merely measured the swing betwen two parties. Realistically it only coped with a two -party system.
But there WAS the Monday Club. A Party within the Conservative Party. Elitist and frankly border line racist….it was formed around 1962 as a Tory reaction to the End of Empire. Particuarly in Africa. Monday Clubbers did the whole kith and kin in Rhodesia ” Good old Smithy…one of us” and of course pro-South Africa. And of course extremely pro-Union.
Indeed Bill Craig the Vanguard Unionist MP for East Belfast was a member. So an unlovely bunch which included Colin “Mad Mitch” Mitchell MP, Rhodes Boyson MP, Teddy Taylor MP, Jill Knight MP, Norman Tebbitt MP, Alan Clark MP were all members. Enoch Powell MP was their guru but he always said he was never actually a member.
Some time in the 1970s the name faded. But not exactly the attitude. Eejits like Andrew Hunter the Tory who joined the DUP and Orange Order ws close to their thinking. As was Teresa Gorman MP and Harvey Proctor MP. Clearly too right wing to make the Cabinet (Tebbitt and Clark did of course make it) but even Margaret Thatcher knew the Monday Club was far too extreme to be allowed anywhere near real power. A lightening rod to draw the “why oh why…”votes.
Of course to be pro-Empire or more respectably pro-Commonwealth is to be anti-Europe. Of course there is a strong anti-Europe element within the Conservative Party but the leadership is wedded to Europe and merely use anti-European rhetoric to keep their Europhobe back benchers on board.
It is increasingly difficult for the Tories to pull off the trick. Since 2010, the Conservative Party has been in coalition government with the pro-European Liberal Democrats…this means that the Tories cannot really implement a truly Tory agenda.
Enter the United Kingdom Independence Party….who yesterday became the second largest party in the county council elections. Although not having a MP at Westminster, UKIP is firmly established in European and now County Councils, UKIP has at least given itself a platform.
Can anyone name more than two members of the UKIP Party? Nigel Farage MEP and Paul Nuttall and er….thats it. Can that really be a platform to get seats in Westminster? UKIP has two problems..one household name (Farage) and no policies.
Is that entirely fair? No Policies? Well they want out of Europe. They want Immigration stopped? They are anti-Big Government. So is it just a protest? Are they serious? Should they be taken seriously? Are they clowns and fruit cakes and even closet racists?
It is certainly possible to be concerned about Migration, without being racist. The problem is that racists are attracted to one side of the debate. It is certainly possible to be concerned about Europe and not be xenophobic but it does attract xenophobes to one side of that debate. But is it possible to believe it “small government” without adopting a libertarian, selfish agenda? I doubt that.
I quite like Nigel Farage. He doesnt take himself too seriously Which makes him immune to the jibes of the political Establishment. Despite his Party having more than a fair share of certifiable lunatics and having questionable politics, Farage is a genial buffoon…the inappropriate uncle you meet at a family wedding. But his very lack of professionalism is endearing. Politics is too professional. And the next two years will see the Establishment…the three parties and the media rally against UKIP.
The Tories have much more to worry about with UKIP. They might not win Westminster seats but they will certainly take more Tory votes than Labour votes. Which is good news for socialists. And UKIP is essentially a glorified ENGLISH Party which will have no effect in Scotland and Wales…except to irritate Scots and Welsh people. And thats good news for nationalists. It is only logical that Irish nationalists like myself are supportive of nationalism in Scotland and Wales.
But more importantly UKIP de-stabalises UK politics….and thats just….enjoyable.