The Tory bourgeoisie are heavily into the Great UKIP furore. Over on the Spectator‘s Coffee House blog, James Forsyth is keeping the pot on the simmer: Why the Tories need their own Nigel Farage.
To which the answer inevitably and unarguably came:
Was Nigel Farage not the Tories’ very own Nigel Farage?
Malcolm offered his own take:
When I was an active candidate, the assumption was differential abstention. Our lot went down because our buggers wouldn’t turn out, not generally because they had defected. Anyway, the other mob quickly gave them a sickener, and soon enough (say two years) they were back on track.
By the same token, I have always suspected there really is a subterranean “nasty party” based on bloody-minded ness and perverseness, which only transpires to cause pain and grief to us decent types (of any proper persuasion). This vegetable growth, vaster than empires and more slow, is about the only political leaning that is thus burgeoning.
Moreover the hysterical media – Speccie excepted only on grounds of socio-economic classification – have laid the responsibility for all our woes at the door of the EU. Then only because Gordon Brown was no longer in town. This is scapegoating (my spell-check threw up “scape-gloating”, which is about the right flavour). Once the scape-gloaters have identified the scapegoat, all that remains is to drive it out of the hamlet.
Which, of course, received the usual raspberries.
Still, he’s a dogged old soul, and came back with:
No, I still don’t get it.
Nationally, UKIP has 147 out of a total of 2,439 council seats (say 6%). Tories have control of half the Councils (and will effectively add to that with by local arrangements with odds, bods and sods). On the usual deplorably-low turnout, UKIP scored 23% of the vote — what’s that: six or eight per cent of the total electorate?
It’s mid-term, and — thanks to the centripetal instincts of both major parties — local authorities have minimal residual powers. It’s child-welfare, street-cleaning, dustbins and dog-catching stuff. Yawn!
There were areas, and even regions, where UKIP did much better than average. So, what? Farage’s rag, tag and bobtail are never going to be the disciplined cohorts that the SNP or SF manage.
Then there is a specific example: Barking and Dagenham. When, in 2006, the BNP surged to a dozen seats on the local authority, it finally shook the local Labour operation out of its complacency, somnolence and decrepitude. Four years later, the BNP were wiped out.
Similarly, those areas where UKIP have made a showing tend to be where the old parties (especially the Tories) are at best lackadaisical, at worst senile. I’d be putting my money on the likes of the Greens being a bigger long-term threat to the established order than UKIP — particularly so if environmental issues can be brought to the fore, and folk can be induced to love windmills.
If there is one great, fat non-issue in these parts it is the EU. Outside the Tory kennel (the Torygraph, the Murdochery, and — were it to be considered a “newspaper” — the Express) the whole EU thing is of less national importance than whether Wigan can avoid the drop. Short of a real dog-fight the EU isn’t going to rise up the agenda.
Here’s a small Malcolmian prophecy: were the EU referendum to come about, barely half the electorate would bother to turn out. The in/out/shake-it-all-about decision would be made by around a quarter of the adult population of the UK. It’s like the old TUC retirement joke: “The General Committee have passed a vote of thanks for your services by 15 to 8, with 22 abstentions.”
So let’s get on with real life.