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11:27am on Saturday, 11th October, 2014:

Most Important


From today's Guardian:

So, the strong showing of UKIP in the two bye-elections this week has got the establishment running scared. They're trying to get their heads round what's happening, and adjust their policies to take the wind out of UKIP's sails. Looking at the above survey results, though, you'd have no idea that UKIP had any kind of appeal to voters. Another survey on the same page of the newspaper shows that where UKIP is ahead in policy (on immigration and Europe) it's only marginally ahead of Labour and the Conservatives. Elsewhere, it's way, way behind.

When you do research and what you research isn't borne out by reality, it's a sign you're doing something wrong. What the establishment (and I include the Guardian as a member of this) is doing wrong is not asking the right questions. The best response they can come up with is that the main parties "need to reconnect with voters". They might even have picked that up in the above survey if they'd had as an issue "none of the mainstream political parties get it". They still wouldn't get it, though.

What UKIP (and, in Scotland, the SNP) is tapping into is a sense of injustice and outrage felt by the ordinary people of the UK at how society is working and how they're being governed. You can't change that by "reconnecting" with voters: you can only change it by changing how society is working and how they're being governed. Making snarky remarks about each other's politicians and party conferences only shows how small your circle is.

The media is no different. Last week on the Today programme, there was an interview with Ed Davey (the Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy) in which Mishal Husain kept trying to get him to say that the Lib Dems were about to make a U-turn over allowing Gatwick to have a second runway. Davey's view was that their policy was based on emissions targets and new technology meant that Gatwick may be able to meet them (although Heathrow won't). The policy hadn't changed, but the consequence of the policy had. Nevertheless, Husain kept on at him trying to get him to accept the phrase "U-turn", as if this were some major admission. Ordinary people change their minds the whole time. Why shouldn't governments? It wasn't as if the Lib Dems were changing their minds anyway — in fact, it was more of change of mind when later that day the Lib Dem conference rejected the proposal to allow Gatwick to bid for a second runway, because that was changing their policy.

Nigel Farage changes his mind an awful lot. He says something and if it sticks he goes with it; if it doesn't, he drops it. It's hard to tell what he stands for because he himself doesn't know what he stands for. All that's certain is that he doesn't stand for the same stuff that the mainstream parties stand for; this is what seems to be attracting voters.

I'm rather depressed by this. On the one hand, I share the view that the country is becoming less and less equitable and that people are being dominated by elites. On the other hand, I don't want the country run by the random-number generator that is UKIP.

Oh well. The mainstream parties don't understand the problem, but then neither does UKIP. I think the SNP probably does now, but is itself too establishment to do much about it. Whatever, it'll be interesting to see what happens in the general election next year, even if it probably won't change a damned thing whoever wins.

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Copyright © 2014 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).