The Rise of UKIP Heralds a Return to Two Party Politics.

The Liberal Democrats have based their political offer on a number of things. First a certain honesty about policy. Remember “1p on income tax to fund education” for example, and a general willingness to “think the unthinkable”. Clegg coming out as an Atheist or, senior people openly thinking about the legalisation of Drugs. They hope with a child-like naivety, that being right will somehow get them elected. It didn’t, at least in the Euros. Their councillors think that being the best at getting potholes filled in and dealing with dog-shit, will somehow go noticed by their electorate. That too is naive. They lost hundreds of councillors in the Local elections. The tragedy of the Liberal Democrats is they’re an honest party with dishonest voters.

Liberal Democrat voters wanted to be able to say smugly “don’t blame me, I voted Liberal Democrat” when the talk turned political at dinner parties. The hard-working, realistic, decent centrists of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party took to Government rather well. It’s the voters who couldn’t handle the compromises of Government. Not being in a position to deliver all your promises is not the same as “lying”.

And it seems Clegg, by obtaining power will destroy his party.

Which brings us to UKIP. UKIP’s proposition isn’t couched in policy terms. They have one confirmed policy: to get out of the EU. How exactly that would be achieved, is open to doubt. Some of the more intelligent ‘KIPpers (a low bar, admittedly) might say “repeal the European Communities act 1972” and hang the consequences. Of course this isn’t simple. We’d then have to negotiate trade terms with the EU from outside, and I doubt this would be as favourable as negotiated withdrawal. But these niceties are not important the offer from UKIP is deliberately vague. This enables their supporters to think the UKIP policy is the same as whatever they think, which on immigration might range from “send them all back” to “open door to the commonwealth“. Elected ‘KIPpers have said both over the last few weeks.

Why do politicians lie? Well they don’t. They’re reacting to changing circumstances and they’re not always in the position to deliver. Why do politicians not answer the question? Well they’re absolutely terrified of making a promise they can’t keep, and so need to dissemble because the media is unable and unwilling to distinguish between “what I think” and “this is policy”.

So they’re all the same, right? Well no. The Public seems unwilling to understand just how unresponsive the economy is to the levers a politician might pull. While I think the Coalition is doing a good job, I certainly don’t credit them with the recovery, thought the fall in the deficit is welcome. “Nothing ever changes” the electorate say. Well not quickly no. But over 13 years, Labour massively increased the size cost and reach of the state. In four years since, the Coalition has shrunk the state headcount back again and undone about half of the damage done by Labour to the public finances. So things DO change. But most people are still in the same job they were in 2009, living in the same house, going to the same super-market, where things may or may not have risen in price faster than wages. That change is not noticeable day to day.

Politics matters. But it requires an electorate prepared to listen to arguments. Perhaps it’s not the politicians who’ve become dishonest, it’s the electorate? But this great yawp of dissatisfaction will pass. In many ways, the electorate have been reasonable. The Euro elections are pointless elections to a pointless chamber without power or influence. Sending a bunch of ignorant, clock-punching neanderthals to Strasbourg is a sensible response to a body formed as a democratic fig-leaf to cover “ever closer union” driven by the EU commission.

Perhaps the Eurocrats will finally get the message. ENOUGH! and David Cameron may find his renegotiation a little easier as a result of the parade of fascists, loons, time-wasters and bigots the European electorate have sent as representatives. It’s probable therefore that UKIP will be surprised by the General election when their “surge” falters. Do they really think UKIP are a party with actual governing ambitions, rather than just some suits sent to wave two fingers at Herman Van Rumpuy?

Turnout in the 2014 EU elections was 34.19%.  In the 2010 General election. which is the one that matters, it was 65%. I suspect 2015 will be higher still. Even if everyone who voted for UKIP did so in the General election, it’s still only about 14% of the vote. But they won’t. Many people return to their normal parties for an election that matters and this is probably around half of UKIP’s vote. Despite securing 16.5% of the vote in 2009 European elections, they got 2.5% in the 2010 General election. UKIP have indeed surged, but I think it unlikely they’ll get more than 8%, a level at which they will win no seats.

The Liberal Democrats will, of course be decimated. This isn’t the beginning of four party politics, it’s a return to Two party politics. And if you think Miliband’s going to improve his polling from here, I’ve a bridge to sell you. Many UKIPpers will drift back to their habitual parties, but which is going to have the stronger pull? The evidence suggests UKIP’s  initial surge, coinciding with the Gay Marriage debate, came mainly from the Tories. But the most recent surge in the run up to the Euro Elections came mainly from Labour. And I’ve a sneaking (possibly wishful) suspicion, the ex-Labour vote may stick around for the General Election, but more of the Ex Tory vote will head back to the blues, lest Miliband gets in.

It’s difficult to think of a better election strategy for Cameron than saying “we delivered a recovery, they’re led by Ed Miliband”. Apparently no leader has shown worse in focus groups, not even Gordon Brown. The more enthusiastic UKIP voters don’t want the grubby compromises of Government to dilute the simple appeal of the message. In this, they’re very similar to Liberal Democrat voters. Most of the rest know, deep down, however much they like having their prejudices stroked by Nigel Farage, UKIP are not a potential party of Government. It’s either Miliband or Cameron for about half of the 4.5 million people who voted UKIP, and I suspect the majority of those will choose the latter.

Every single pollster over-estimated Labour and underestimated the Tories in the run-up to the Euro poll, which means far from being neck and neck, I suspect the real GE 2015 polling position now is a small Tory lead. Governments enjoy swing back in the final year of Government, especially when there’s an economic recovery. And the UK is the fastest-growing major economy in the world at the moment. Napoleon once asked of a General, “I don’t care how good he is, IS HE LUCKY?“. Cameron appears to be.

8 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    "The tragedy of the Liberal Democrats is they're an honest party with dishonest voters."
    This is a party that changes its policies locally i.e. for/against 20mph limits, for/against wind farms.
    This is the party led by a liar Clegg who told us recently that the EU is not important as it 'only' makes 7% of our laws yet, as an MEP, it was vital as it probably made more than half.
    This is a party that claims to be 'liberal' yet leads the calls to ban 'intolerant' speech. The 'democrats' that want more non-democratic Europe and the party that blocked boundary change.
    Liars, the lot of them.

  2. Simon Jester
    Simon Jester says:

    So, Jackart: given that the thrust of your article is essentially "We're back to two party politics, a contest which the Tories will easily win", shouldn't you be saying "Hurrah for UKIP!" ?

  3. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Simon Jester. I saw a window with "send them all back" written in black felt tip put above a UKIP voter. I have seen the vilest, most horrific racism and xenophobia spew forth from the mouths of UKIPpers. While UKIP may not be a racist party, and I accept they're not, they have attracted, and given top cover to racists to spew their venom. There are a lot of good, honest tories, who're going to lose seats to Labour because of UKIP who're making the job of cleaning up the mess of Labour's 13-year economic scat party much harder. No. I despise UKIP, and pretty much everything it stands for. It's not in the remotest bit "libertarian". It's a savage bunch of populist dick-heads with a profoundly dishonest message, who're at best a bunch of clock-punching time-wasters and at worst the thin end of a very unpleasant wedge. That so many intelligent people appear to be taken in by them in a form of collective mania, is disappointing.

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Come on Jackart you've done nothing but call UKIP racist for the past two years. I followed you on twitter for a while and you, on more than one occasion called UKIP racists.

  5. English Pensioner
    English Pensioner says:

    The LibDems were a local party and tailored their policies according to the locality. Often local policies were diametrically opposed pro and anti immigration according to the area, pro and anti windfarms dependant on whether they were town or country constituencies.
    Unfortunately you can't do that when in power, as Cameron discovered when he tried to be simultaneously pro and anti the EU.

  6. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    English Pensioner. You think not wanting to withdraw, Yesteday if possible, Thursday week at the latest makes a PM two-faced. Cameron's policy is the old rallying cry of the Maastrict rebels: "renegotiate or withdraw".

    Anon: UKIP isn't racist, but it attracts racists as a fly to shit. My issue with UKIP isn't that they're racists, but that they're thickos.

  7. Paddy Briggs
    Paddy Briggs says:

    In the run up to the Election many will return to familiar world from which they came. They'll vote for their own Nurse for the fear of something worse. The LibDems, good on the ground in constituencies, will I suspect surprise us. 30+ seats and the balance of power. Not impossible,


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