Saturday, 31 May 2014

Notes from the blue corner: A few thoughts following the recent elections

In a short interlude to my Latvian adventure I want to share a few thoughts as a loyal Conservative Party supporter about the recent elections...

It was difficult to watch the recent results of the Local and EU elections flood in without a slight admiration for Farage, his cocky and assured performance is one of a man riding the crest of a wave. In fact, he rather reminds me of Michael Heseltine when he stood for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1990 or Tony Benn when he felt sure of his ambition of wrestle the ideological heart and soul of the Labour Party in the early eighties. There is something quite comical and yet tragic in watching such hubris unfold as he allegedly lays waste to the old political order to replace it with... more of the same but in a different clothing. 

The leader of ‘the people’s army’ has apparently spoken and now, with his loyal and charismatic lieutenant Roger ‘Hang em high’ Helmer (formerly of the Conservative Party and current UKIP candidate for Newark in the upcoming by-election) we are going to see a new brand of ideology to appeal to the masses. It’s all very well and under the very clever flag of yellow and purple (an amalgamation of the main parties colours) they seem to have the ear of both the swaying and disaffected voters.

I watched coverage the coverage of the EU elections and closely followed the local elections, indeed, I will be fascinated to see the results a Newark (a litmus paper to see if the Conservative vote can stand fast). One thing from the coverage was worryingly clear, UKIP have nothing to say. I was expecting nuggets of wisdom when Farage, O’Flynn, Helmer and Hamilton (a gross opportunist if ever there was one - who even had the gall to accuse Angela Eagle of Libel! I almost chocked on my whisky) got on their soapboxes but there was no talk about policy, constructive debate or even about their intention for their tenure in office at the EU coalface. 

I was at work the other day and where two colleagues had a mind to vote UKIP with another few friends of mine tossing up whether to follow the traditional blue or ‘shake it up’ in protest and go purple. Do people know what they’re voting for except a wish list of small ‘c’ conservative pipe dreams? A look at the UKIP website is revealing, particularly in its ‘issues’ section.

A longtime supporter of the Conservative, I was fortunate to work for them in the last election, and although I completely disagreed with Labour and the Liberal Democrat offers (I even had a few reservations of our own), all documents were grounded with an understanding of the social makeup of the UK, our international position and a varying degree of economic realism. I found all these points lacking from a read-through of UKIP’s call to action for voters. 

Ironically, the claims for lower taxes cannot be real, for all the money they want to take out of particular pots will have to be reallocated to deliver on some of their bolder claims: tougher borders, increased defence spend, tougher sentencing and more prisons, extraction from EU institutions, renegotiating treaties, finding new trade partners, means-testing social housing allocation, disestablishing the current education system to set up new grammar schools, introducing a new means-testing on benefits... just to name a few.

It sounds like an attractive proposition to a number of this in the blue corner, but it is a slim offer, just over a page of text. It takes no account of costs (not that most manifestos do!), it has no long term vision (for example, no elaboration on how it would be integrated) and furthermore, it doesn’t reference any tough decisions that the party would have to make in power. It’s a classic case of a person from the outside the ideological tent pissing in. Offering to outline the problems, but putting in marginal, unrealistic goals which might have looked more in place in the time of Macmillan and Wilson than in the landscape we now live in. 

However at this stage Farage has every reason to be pleased with himself and is enjoying his time in the limelight, Rothman’s in one hand, a pint of Courage in the other, but I urge swaying voters to ask him some key policy questions, expecting the same answers that Miliband and Cameron would have to give. Furthermore, what about his band of merry men and women who back him? I want to see other figures from the party, including Mr. Helmer for example, speak on key issues of the day. I have seen the latter on Question Time before and his comments are controversial (nothing wrong with that), designed to provoke reaction and chock full of NIMBY-ism and cynicism. If this is the UKIP vision of the UK I want it even less than I want the concrete-clad, Marxist visions of Ed Miliband and comrades. 

Far be it from me to tell readers how to vote, I certainly believe in following your conscience and the principle of the secret ballot, I urge people currently undecided to think very carefully when they put a tick in the UKIP box as, usually the case in these matters, they might live to regret the decision. 

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