Tag Archives: UKIP

Thoughts of an undecided voter (and how to persuade me to your side)

With about a month left until the general election it seems right to have a little bit of thinking out loud about how to vote. At present, I’ve not firmly decided which way I will vote, but the hope is that by writing down the thinking process and opening it up to critique that there may come a sharpening of these slightly blunt thoughts. The interested reader may wish to refer to the Voter’s Manifesto I published last autumn for specific areas of policy:

Part 1 – Democratic reform, Debt, Deficit & Austerity
Part 2 – Environment, Employment, Inflation, Transport and Healthcare
Part 3 – Company Law, Corporate Tax, Personal Tax, Loan Sharks and Regionalisation
Part 4 – Welfare, Europe, International Aid, Housing and Utility Costs
Part 5 – Education, Immigration, Tobacco & Gambling, Culture and Defence

Here I will make a few comments on each of the parties standing in my constituency. Consequently, I will not be making extensive comment on any of the regionalist/nationalist or minor parties that I cannot vote for. I shall deal with them in the order of the size of their current parliamentary parties.

The Conservative Party

Nationally

I am not a natural conservative and have been highly critical of the evils perpetrated under the current leadership. They try to make much of their economic record with buzzphrases such as the “the mess we inherited” and “our long term economic plan”. What they fail to ever mention is that they inherited a recovering economy. Not only that, but they have been consistently dishonest in their appraisal of the causes, only attributing it to the previous Labour administration, failing to mention that the Conservatives supported Labour in the bail out of the banks, the single act that pushed up the deficit and increased the debt. Still further, as any reasonably educated and economically literate person could tell you, the causes of the banking crash was a lack of regulation and oversight, sparked by the deregulation of the markets in the late 80s. Successive governments, Tory and Labour, oversaw the growing problem, with ineffective regulation, though it was always the Tories who called for less and less regulation. In the last 5 years, the coalition’s economic record can be summed up by the fact that nearly a million people have had to use foodbanks between 2013 & 2014.

Their attacks on the disabled have been, and I do not use the word flippantly or in ignorance of its implication, immoral.

Locally

With this being a safe Labour seat, the Conservative candidate is something of a sacrificial lamb. The fact that she put herself forward for selection must have come to a great relief to the local party that someone had bitten this particular bullet. Her main campaign thus far has been a mixture of parroting the party line and having a petition against the ridiculous management of London Bridge station, where many of the residents of the constituency commute through.

I am led to understand that she has not been well lately, so most of the campaigning has been done by the local party on her behalf. I hope she recovers to good health soon.

The Labour Party

Nationally

I have voted for Labour in the past, but I did not in the last elections to be held, the European elections. Part of the reason for that is that is the different electoral process there. You may recall that I am no great fan of the first past the post system. But for a general election, it’s what we’re stuck with, not least due to Labour’s campaigning against the introduction of a more democratic method. This means we remain with voters having to consider tactical voting.

My biggest concern is that Labour are just too far to the political right and as such are almost indistinguishable from the Conservatives. When looking at what a Labour cabinet might look like, one has to assume that the current shadow cabinet will, by and large, be the cabinet of government. I have particular issues with some of the cabinet. For example, I still do not find Ed Balls to be a credible candidate for chancellor; Margaret Hodge would be a far better candidate. When it comes to education, Tristram Hunt just seems as though he is in the wrong party, just as Robert Halfon’s campaigning for the disabled has been most un-Conservative like. The recent comments by Rachel Reeves to the effect that Labour are not the party of the unemployed does little to make me think that her ideology is vastly different from that of Iain Duncan Smith – probably the most heartless person on the Conservative front bench.

I have also heard very little about reversing the damage the current government has inflicted. So while they make a lot of noise about the NHS, they do not go far enough by way of banning the privatisation of the NHS or repealing the Health and Social Care Bill.

Locally

The incumbent MP, a former minister, is stepping down this election. Her successor has been curiously quiet. The most notable campaign has been one about the overcrowding at London Bridge, in parallel (but seemingly not in cooperation) with the Tory candidate. Secondary to this has been about the small businesses based in railway arches, particularly those near Herne Hill and Brixton stations. As yet, though, my only encounter with a Labour activist in the area was a gentle door-to-door enquiry when the gentleman couldn’t remember the candidate’s name.

The Liberal Democrat Party

Nationally

The Lib Dems are another party I have voted for in the past. Not the recent past, I might add. For whatever they may claim they stand for, they are tainted by the Faustian pact they entered into 5 years ago.

They have, though, been behind some of the better measures made by the coalition, such as increasing the personal allowance. As the minor part of a coalition government, it was almost inevitable that they would make compromises. The question to consider is whether those compromises were reasonable or whether the Lib Dems violated their principles in order to ensure they occupied, if not the corridors of power, the broom cupboards that lie just off the corridors. Their biggest own goal was to back the Conservative’s plans to make higher education unaffordable for many, in spite of having promised to not raise tuition fees.

Because of this, it seems meaningless to ask what their policies are, as their voting patterns will be dictated to them by whoever they may end up in coalition with, if they even retain a large enough parliamentary party to be the kingmakers as they were in 2010. The last projection I saw had them down to 17 MPS, making them the 4th largest party, behind the SNP.

Locally

The Lib Dem candidate has climbed the ladder through local politics and is by far the most recognisable of the candidates, having been a local councillor. He was also the first to get his leaflets through the door. This, though was where they lost any chance of my vote. There was a misleading graph on the front of the leaflet which exaggerated the Lib Dem share of the vote. This was a dishonest measure and when I confronted the candidate about it, he failed to acknowledge that it was wrong, trying to somehow argue that to graphically represent the share of the votes fairly would be misleading. I will not vote for a candidate that seeks to mislead the electorate.

LD poster

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Nationally

Where does one start with UKIP? From one perspective, their recent increase in popularity (due in no small part to the exposure afforded to them by the BBC, Daily Mail and other bastions of the right wing media) is quite interesting, but in many aspects it is also deeply worrying. Their rhetoric of hatred directed at the migrant population, blaming all the countries ills on the European Union, is built upon a paranoid delusion.

The rate of embarrassments they have had over the racism of members, their cavalier attitude towards to expenses and their whole far-right ethos go completely against what I, and many others, see as good about British values of multiculturalism, tolerance and reasonableness.

Locally

I heard nothing from the local candidate. Just as the electorate here are too intelligent and well-informed to vote en masse for the Conservatives it seems highly unlikely that UKIP be a significant force here. At the European elections, their poster in the area was defaced with an message saying that their politics of division and fear was not welcome here.

The Green Party

Nationally

I have for some time been more inclined to the Greens than any other party. As a scientifically educated person, though, I do not agree with their objection to nuclear power. Their lone MP, Caroline Lucas, is one of the few members of Parliament who is genuinely deserving of the title “honourable”. She has consistently spoken good sense in the Commons and been a thorn in the side of the coalition. Natalie Bennett, though, has had a massive crisis of credibility lately. It began with an interview on the Daily Politics which was followed up with an infamous radio interview when she came completely unstuck over some rather gentle questioning on their economic policy.

I regard their “citizens’ income” policy as nuts and any time they have been given an opportunity to explain how it will be funded they have completely failed to do so.

Locally

The local candidate is the biggest reason to not vote for them. For starters, he doesn’t seem to be very aware of where the constituency is. His rhetoric is nearly all based around Brixton. Yet only a tiny bit of the constituency is in Brixton; furthermore, only a tiny bit of Brixton is in the constituency.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC)

Nationally

This is a minority party with no realistic prospect of gaining any candidates. Founded by the late Bob Crow, they are ostensibly a party that stands against things, not for them. On their website, under a heading entitled ‘What we stand for’ they say:

“TUSC will oppose all cuts to council jobs, services, pay and conditions. Reject increases in council tax, rent and service charges to compensate for government cuts. Vote against the privatisation of council jobs and services.”

One of the puzzles is that if they really are a trade unionist party, why is it that the trade unions, on the whole, back the Labour party and not TUSC? That’s a question I don’t know the answer to. I could speculate, but that will be of little help.

Reading through their policies, it is clear that they are a left wing party and probably most aligned with my own thinking. While my own manifesto was (and I hope it was clear) a sketch, theirs seems even more simplistic. For example their entire tax policy is “Tax the rich. For progressive tax on rich corporations and individuals and an end to tax avoidance.” – there are no proposals as to how this will be done, how much it will raise or even what thresholds will be used to determine “rich”.

Locally

The local candidate comes across as the antithesis of a typical politician. In this respect, he very much like the other left-of-centre candidate, the Green Party’s candidate. He is clearly a passionate man who has put himself up for election more because of what he believes and less because of party loyalty. This makes him quite different from the other candidates, where I think the weightings of the motivations may be quite different.

I do not believe he stands a real chance of being elected, but I am tempted to vote for him, if only so that he does not lose his deposit.


After enunciating those thoughts, am I any closer to a decision? Closer, certainly; decided, no.

How to persuade me to vote for you

If you’re allied to a particular cause and you wish to persuade me to vote for you, here’s how to go about it:

1) Have good policies. Without these, you’re a non starter. They must be well thought through, overall financially viable (allowing that some areas will be net spends and others net gains, e.g. funding the spending of the NHS through taxation) and must leave no group left behind. See my voter’s manifesto (links above) for what I consider to be “good”. Others will differ to a greater or lesser extent.

2) Spend more effort speaking about your own policies than you do of others. There is nothing more offputting than trying to portray your cause as the only viable one, dismissing all other alternatives as “chaos”. As a corollary to this, I would also ask that you not make promises on behalf of another. By all means, critique a manifesto promise that one of your opponents has made or point out failures to meet promises, but do not make assumptions about what another party will do unless they have stated it. It makes you look as though you lack the conviction to back your own policies and are relying on voters to make you the default option of “not them”.

3) Don’t be a sycophant. Anyone who wholeheartedly and uncritically supports every policy of their own party is a person who falls into one of two categories: a) the gullible, believing everything they hear with a slavish devotion to the party line; or b) the dishonest, who advocate views they do not hold for fear of seeming to be disloyal. The former is a fool whose opinion is valueless as it is swayed and tossed by the wind, devoid of a firm foundation. The latter is a schemer who cannot be trusted as it impossible to tell what they truly believe and what they are saying because it serves an ulterior motive.

The Rochester & Strood by-election: a prediction

I must confess from the start that the title is a little misleading as the purpose of this blog is not really to predict the precise number of votes and therefore who will win the forthcoming by-election. Rather, this is a prediction about the fallout after the result.

For what it’s worth though, I think it will be a close-run election and that the Conservatives and UKIP will be the top two parties. The Labour proportion of the vote will go down, as will the Lib Dems, with a small, but insignificant increase for the Greens. If the opinion polls are to be believed, then UKIP look set to come out on top.

However it goes, the fallout is what will be more interesting. The fact is that Rochester and Strood has been a safe Conservative seat. Though given the change in British politics that we have witnessed in last few years, it seems reasonable to suppose that a lot of those on the far-right, which the Conservatives rely on for electoral success, will switch to UKIP, thus eroding the Conservative vote.

As a result, whether or not they win, the relentless optimism of the UKIP leadership will be declaring this a success. The extent to which that celebration takes place will, of course, depend on whether Mark Reckless wins the seat he previously won for the Conservatives. I would predict that Nigel Farage will be given plenty of air time and column space to enunciate his view that this is indicative of a sea change in public opinion, that people are fed up with traditional Westminster politics and that UKIP are the ones to deliver change.

The Tories, having either lost the seat or seen their majority severely dented, will need to have their spin on it. And of course, that spin will be: “[what a disaster for Ed Miliband]”. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Tory playbook would parrot the same line even if Labour were to have an unlikely win. If I were a Labour voter in the constituency I might even be tempted to vote UKIP as a tactical vote, though given the proximity to the 2015 general election I might just not bother this time around, as it won’t change who’s in government. Either way, the Conservatives should have a tough job on their hands, but they will look not to their own failings but will react like a wounded beast to lash out at those around them. Don’t expect David Cameron to be put in front of the cameras and interviewed extensively; that job will fall to someone else, offered up as a sacrificial goat to the right wing media who are increasingly finding their loyalties split between an ailing Tory party and the strengthening, yet still dilute, poison of UKIP.

In a seat where the Tories have had a majority of just under 10,000 any movement in the votes for Labour, the Lib Dems or the Greens is of such comparative insignificance that any attempt to make generalisations about the state of the parties and of the country as a whole will likely have an extremely high conjecture-to-fact ratio.

It is interesting to note that in the last general election, the English Democrats polled higher than the Greens in the constituency but that they’re not standing in this election. Instead, there are 4 independent candidates as well as representatives of the Monster Raving Loony Party, Britain First, People Before Profit and the Patriotic Socialist Party. I wouldn’t expect many of these to have a significant effect on the outcome, and indeed most will probably lose their deposit.

What might be most interesting is the Labour reaction. In some ways, being the previous runners-up but with no realistic chance of winning, they’re in a no-lose situation. The ground would be set for an attack on David Cameron’s lack of leadership, just as the right wing press have attacked Ed Miliband recently on the basis of journalists passing off rumours from other journalists as news. However, given that this looks set to be a two-horse race between the two right wing parties, it seems likely that the media will grant them the lion’s share of the coverage. As such, if there is to be any comment from Labour, the Liberal Democrats or the Greens on the outcome of the election, don’t expect them to make the headlines.

What we’ll get is airtime afforded primarily to Nigel Farage with maybe the odd comment from Mark Reckless, though he’ll mostly be silent so as to not steal the limelight from his party leader. The upper echelons of the Tory party will be strangely quiet and none of the main media outlets will question why. They’ll put up someone to take any flak for them, though any questioning will tend to be along the lines of “[are you not far enough to the political right on immigration]”.

In other words, no change from what we’ve grown used to over the last couple of years.

A question about UKIP and the left

Is it really such a good idea for those of us on the left to urge people not to vote for UKIP? 

A lot is made about the publicity that UKIP get these, not least the amount of airtime they are given in proportion to their current level of representation in the House of Commons. This is often contrasted with the Green Party (though oddly not so often with Plaid Cymru, the SNP or the Democratic Unionists).

With the European and some local elections coming up, things are getting ever more heated and partisan. I have seen people urged to mail bricks to UKIP’s offices on the basis that they use a freepost address and so will be made to pay for the delivery costs, rather than the person posting the bricks. Though amusing, it strikes me as rather childish.

One could examine their policies, as some have done, and point out areas of disagreement with an apparent sense of ridicule. One tactic I haven’t seen and wondered “why not” is to point out the contradiction that they don’t want the UK to be a part of Europe and yet they still put candidates forward for the European elections!

But so what? Those who have a tendency to stick to the left of British politics are never likely to vote for UKIP anyway. Who are we trying to persuade?

After the failure of the “Yes to AV” campaign to reform the voting system, we are stuck with the less democratic First Past The Post system. The downside of this system is that where you have multiple parties standing on similar principles, the vote can be diluted so that an overall less popular, but very different, view may win.

If UKIP were to gain a majority in the House of Commons (or be part of a coalition) then one might have a genuine cause for concern, but that really doesn’t seem like a probably outcome. One asks, where are the UKIP supporters coming from?

Some may be protest votes, but it seems reasonable that quite a few are coming over from the Conservatives. This is why David Cameron should be worried. The loony right wing section of racists and xenophobes who helped put him into number 10 are one of the legs upon the Tories stand. Take it away from them and you get the right wing vote diluted, which will favour the likes of Labour, the Greens and even possibly the Lib Dems (though I believe their credibility has been dashed by their role in the present coalition and that after the next election Nick Clegg will be a pariah, resigned from the party leader leadership and will be blamed for the next decade of poor outcomes for the Lib Dems).

So if we persuade those who are currently tempted to vote for UKIP not to do so, where might they turn? I would posit that the obvious place is to go for the party which has the most similar policies, the Conservatives. And do we really want to encourage people to vote Tory? I think not!

An analysis of the local elections – West Sussex & Crawley

Last Thursday saw local council elections in much of England & Wales. Much has been said and written already by way of interpreting the results on a national scale. Here, I shall focus mainly on the county in which in I live, West Sussex. I hope some other bloggers will do similar analyses for their own counties. I shall look at how the 2013 election compared to when the seats last came up for election in 2009. I shall make a few comments on the performance of each notable party before looking at one parliamentary area in closer detail.

Sources and methodology

All data was drawn from the website of West Sussex County Council on Friday the 3rd of May, with the analysis being conducted over the course of the bank holiday weekend that followed. As the information was not in a friendly format for analysis, I have had to type every number into a spreadsheet (which is available if you leave a comment and include your email address – you will see room for this on the comment box, though your email address will not be made public unless you either wish it to or you put in the wrong box). Because of this, I cannot rule out the possibility of transcription error though I have made every effort to be accurate. For the sake of direct comparison I have not made comparisons for any by-elections that took place since 2009. Anyone who wishes to do so is welcome, though I doubt they will have much of an effect on the analysis.

Since one may easily look at the number of councillors at a glance, my aim here to focus on the share of the vote of each party. I will look at the turnout in each ward as well as the share of the total votes of each party and how this share has changed between 2009 and 2013. A summary of the results may be found below:

Election 1

Please note that I have not corrected for rounding errors in the percentages.

Conservatives are still the dominant force in West Sussex. Though they lost some councillors they retained overall control of the council. It has been noted by such political commentators as Nick Robinson of the BBC and John Snow of Channel 4, as well as various political correspondents for national newspapers, that parties in government often do badly in the local elections mid-way through a Parliament. This was no exception. As a share of the vote, the Conservatives lost over 10%. It seems as though most of this went to UKIP, with some traditional Labour voters returning, having voted Conservative as a protest last time round.  

Labour had a terrible time in 2009. This represents partial reparation of the damage done to them then, but with a modest 5.4% gain of the share of the vote, they don’t look likely to challenge the Conservatives any time soon. They did, however make significant gains on the Liberal Democrats, with an almost equal share of the votes, even though they are now only the 4th party in the county, thanks to the huge gains made by UKIP.

Liberal Democrats performed awfully. They had been the second party, but have now been passed by UKIP and have Labour snapping at their heels. It seems unlikely that many Lib Dem voters switched the Conservatives. Some may have gone to Labour and some to UKIP. Both seem to me to be protest votes, dissatisfied with the Lib Dems collaboration with the Conservatives in the coalition, though being unable to stand up to the most evil of the plans devised by David Cameron and his cabinet.

UKIP did very well. They won some councillors, though due to the first past the post system (something some readers will note I am not in favour of) they won a disproportionately few numbers of seats compared to their share of the vote. Much has been said about where their vote came from. Ideologically, since they sit roughly half way between the Conservatives and the BNP, it seems reasonable to assume that some votes from those who voted for those other right-wing parties. But they also seem to have gained voted from the Lib Dems, whose voters tend to have little in common with the traditional UKIP voter. But this was a time for breaking tradition. It remains the case that UKIP control no councils and have no MPs. While they had a very good election this time round, only time and future elections will tell if they are a reasonable force to be reckoned with or if this was a reactionary flash in the pan.

Greens remain a minority party, even though they do have 1 MP in the sister county of East Sussex. They made modest gains in the share of the vote but do not look likely to have a large say in the County Council any time in the foreseeable future. I would imagine that their modest gain in the share of the vote came from former Lib Dem voters, though it is difficult to be certain of this.

BNP had their vote almost obliterated. Gaining just 57 votes in the whole county, the far right extremists fielded just 1 candidate, compared to the 22 they had in 2009. Their vote seems to have transferred to UKIP. Though they were a minority here, they are no almost non-existent, which in my opinion is no bad thing.

Probably the most interesting thing about this election was that in every single ward, without exception, turnout was down on 2009. Sometimes turnout is dependent on the weather, with a rainy day discouraging people from voting. But the 2nd of May was a wonderful warm, sunny spring day. When I went to vote at about 19:40 in the early evening, the sun was hanging low in the sky and there was a pleasantly warm breeze about. So one might have had good reason to expect a high turnout. Though I admit I have done no research on, nor do I recall, what the weather was like on the day of the 2009 vote. To me then, the most striking conclusion about the county-wide vote is that the last 3 years of coalition government has put people off. Those that have voted for the Conservatives remain largely loyal, but those floating voters who favoured them last time round have tried to send a message to the party’s leadership by voting for UKIP. Their coalition partners have come off far worse, almost falling to 4th place. This is not traditional Labour country and though they gained some share, are unlikely to wrest control from the Tories any time soon.

So West Sussex remains a blue, uninteresting county. My father puts it quite aptly. “You could put a blue ribbon on a pig and it would get elected.” Indeed, given some of the MPs who have their safe seats here, one might argue that their snouts remain well and truly in the trough. But there is one area of West Sussex which is slightly more interesting, and it is to that which we turn to next.

Crawley – the only interesting seat in West Sussex

Crawley has become something of a bellwether seat. In 2010 it was won by the Conservatives, overturning the smallest majority in Parliament of 37, having been held by Labour since they won it in 1997. Prior to that, it had been Conservative seat since its creation in 1983. Before then, it was part of a combined constituency of Horsham & Crawley.

If we look solely at the local election votes that took place in Crawley, then we get a slightly different picture from the rest of the county.

Election 2

Here, the Conservatives lost the overall vote, with a bigger swing away from them and towards Labour. The Liberal Democrats were almost wiped out within the town, with UKIP coming a solid third.

How local election results translate into Westminster elections is never certain, but if the direction and size of the swings are reflected in the 2015 general election then the Conservatives have much to worry about. Having not won a general election outright since 1992, Crawley is a seat they need to keep if they have any hopes of winning a majority in the House of Commons. In 2010, the Conservatives won 44.8% of the Crawley vote, with Labour coming in second with 33.3%. If the swings above were to be reproduced, then that would result in the Conservative winning just 31.1% and Labour taking the seat with 40.7% of the vote.

Even if we were to temper the swing, by making it only 60% as strong (i.e. 13.6% x 60% = 8.2%) then Labour look likely as though they would still win, albeit with a tiny majority, as they did in 2005.

Whichever way you look at it, the Conservative MP for Crawley, Henry Smith, should be looking over his shoulder. He and his party will have a tough time keeping Crawley Conservative in 2015. They will have to bring back the disaffected voters by appealing to those who abandoned them for UKIP, whilst at the same time trying to maintain their loyal base and win over some floating voters who have favoured Labour. But if they try to be all things to all people, they may pull themselves apart. Labour’s policy of having no policies in advance of the general election has been copied straight from David Cameron. The gains made by the Conservatives in 2010 were more a default reaction against Labour than for anything the Tories actually stood for. Labour seem to be playing the same kind of waiting game, hoping for a win by default, though it’s a potentially risky strategy, as it didn’t even work for Cameron.

When it comes to 2015, Crawley will be a seat to watch. Ed Miliband visited the town prior to the local elections. I expect him to be back in 2 years’ time, as I expect the leaders of the other main parties also.