Tag Archives: UKIP

Tim Farron – Political Genius?

Tim Farron seems an unlikely candidate for political genius. Some are born a genius. Some work hard at being a genius. Others may just stumble upon something that makes them look like a genius. Farron may just have stumbled on a formula that will lead to the greatest political comeback since the fifth time that Farage un-resigned. 

As an increasingly enthusiastic Remainer (I was ambivalent towards the EU until I listened to the arguments to Leave) I find the political agenda in the UK most bizarre at the moment. It is as if there is one political truth and that truth is called Brexit. And yet no one is prepared to state clearly their ambitions and goals. Other than no longer being a member of the EU, we have no idea what a politician views as a successful Brexit. All we know is that Brexit is Brexit. And that it is red, white and blue. Although I fear that may be because we are bloodied by the process, left a pale imitation of the influential nation we once were and blue from being left out in the cold…..

Yet support for Brexit is the panacea for all political ills. Politicians are falling over themselves for a bit of the Trump zeitgeist. Everyone wants to appeal to the voter with concerns about immigration. Every party wants to make Britain great again (the process of Brexit somewhat ironically raising the prospect of the United Kingdom of Great Britain actually being diminished by the breakdown of the Union). Every political step is taken to appeal to those outside of the “Westminster Bubble” (where I would much rather see money invested in the North than us just being given the name of Powerhouse, which makes us sound like a cut price electrical retailer). 

So the Conservative Party, what passes for the Labour Party and UKIP are all falling over themselves chasing the Brexit supporting public. And in the process they are not seeking to persuade those that have doubts. They are not building consensus. Their rhetoric is all about delivering what the victors wanted. It is about how opposing Brexit is unpatriotic.

And here is where Tim Farron may have just done some simple maths. The next General Election will see a turnout which is lower than the turnout at the EU referendum. But let’s say the turnout mirrored the June turnout. If it did, UKIP, Labour and the Conservatives are chasing 17,410,742 votes. Farron and the LibDems are chasing 16,141,241 votes. They are the only party currently appealing to that demographic directly on this issue, the biggest single issue in politics in my lifetime. The other three want a share of the 52%. The LibDems have 48% all to themselves. 

Of course there are many who will vote at a General Election contrary to their vote in the Referendum. There will be plenty who do not vote at all. There will be plenty who will vote according to their party affiliations, notwithstanding their own views on Brexit. 

There will be many who will not forgive the LibDems for the coalition and for tuition fees. But that was always going to be the case. The LibDems were on the verge of political armageddon. But right now there is a void in politics where the only show in town is Brexit and many of us don’t want to go. Throw into the mix that there will be many long term Labour voters who will not support a Corbyn led party and suddenly Farron may just be bringing his party back from the brink. 

He is the only one making a play for 16 million votes. He will not get them all. But everyone else is leaving him an open goal. And you don’t have to be a genius to put the ball in the back of the net. 

I Remain

Remainers are terribly bad losers, so we are told. Repeatedly. 

I confess I hoped that, had the vote been to Remain, we would have seen the last of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson and they would have disappeared from public life. I never once, in even my wildest dreams, thought it would actually happen (those are not actually my wildest dreams but this is a family blog). In fact a tiny piece of me would have been a bit disappointed had Farage packed it in. That is hardly a hallmark of commitment to the cause.

It would not have been an affront to democracy for UKIP to carry on; to carry on campaigning for what they believe in, for a withdrawal from the EU and for controls on immigration. This would not be to ignore the Referendum, it would not be the antithesis of democracy. In fact it would have promoted democracy. Opposition to the majority view, opposition to Government policy is vital to keep the public informed and to keep the policiticans honest (reasonably so). 

As time moved on I would not expect every change made by the EU to have been meekly accepted. I would expect to see and hear Eurosceptics be true to their beliefs and point out the failings of the EU at every opportunity. 

So why do Remainers have to be good little boys and girls? Victorian boys and girls at that, seen but not heard. Repeatedly I see and hear Remainers, who are only expressing reasonable views, being told to shut up. Many seem to be of the view that the Referendum was the definitive and last word on the subject. It very much is not. 

I am not calling for or suggesting a second referendum. The course of action that the referendum set is the course that the country should follow but there is a long road to travel. Despite the headlines, we remain members of the EU. We have not given notice to quit and we have not begun to address the legislation withdrawal requires. Remainers are entitled to have and express a view about the nature of our changed relationship with the EU. Being on the losing side is not a gagging order. Inevitably that view is going to include a repetition of arguments tendered in advance of the referendum. The answer is not “you’ve said that once and lost”. The debate still continues. 

So, I believe access to the single market is vital. I said so prior to the referendum and continue to say so now. Boris Johnson seems to agree with me. Someone with a contrary view is entitled to express that view, but not to try to shut down my view because I was one of the 48% and not the 52%. 

We also need to recognise that the referendum is not law. It is advisory. I stress, it should be followed by the Government. I am afraid it has not locked us into that course of action. This process will take time. There will be many a bump in the road. Circumstances may change, particularly economic factors. 

As a Remainer I will make my case for what should happen. I will continue to make my case for the benefits of the EU. I will do so to persuade others who may have a different view. Where appropriate I will point out the lies that were told to mislead people into voting one way or the other. I will argue for why what is happening is wrong. 

The first step towards unity is not shouting people down, it is listening, engaging and debating. That is the conversation that the nation needs to have. And a conversation has to have more than one voice. 

Long Live the King

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader has convinced me on one thing – UKIP have got it spot on. 

Yes you read that correctly. I am not talking about everything they stand for. Not their stance on Europe or immigration. Not their stance on their other policies, which can perhaps be summarised as being anti-Europe and anti-immigration with everything else being adjuncts to those two complaints. 

They may, however, have got it right that there is a section of society, a section that is more mainstream than ever before, which has grown tired of the “Westminister Bubble”. More particularly there exists a significant proportion of the population which has grown tired of soundbites and perfect suits, tired of lots of blame but no answers and, perhaps most significantly, tired of austerity. 

And so the ordinary membership of the Labour Party has voted for a man that the Parliamentary Labour Party nominated out of some for of largesse, clothed in aspirations of a wider debate. And they elected him by a landslide, a landslide that cannot be accounted for by a few Greens and mischief makers joining to vote for the joke candidate. 

How I wish this was the tremor in a political earthquake. A shift in the way that politics is done so that Ministers are held to account for their actions. A world in which the first words out of any politicians lips are not “well they didn’t do it much better when they were in power.”  A political scene where doing good according to strong principle is more important than just being electable. 

There we have the rub. This is not going to be a change to the way politics work. The Conservative Party are going to be too canny for that. There is little prospect they will allow the swivel eyed loons to elect their leader and shape their party. Sadly that means a conservative (with a deliberately small ‘c’) public may well only be left with one safe, comfortable, familiar party. And that will win them the next election. 

I hope I am wrong. I hope Jeremy and Nigel form an unlikely alliance that awakes political conscience. At the very least, if the Labour Party become a party of protest, the Government may have a less comfortable time of it in the coming months.

Rights and Wrongs

The night of the long knives has arrived. The Prime Minister sits alone in his office. Before the night is over the walls will be coated with the blood of many a politician. The BBC correspondent, Nick Robinson, has just Tweeted that the Lord Chancellor is on his way to see the PM. That meeting never actually happened. This is the imagined conversation if the meeting had taken place.

LC: Prime Minister, before you make any decisions that I come to regret can I just say that it’s not all my fault. I mean we never expected that the barristers could get organised but it’s all sorted now. There was a problem, now problem gone. And we still have the solicitors on the ropes. And the prisons, well we embarked upon a benchmarking process and we set the benchmark too low for the number of officers compared to our high benchmark of the number of celebrities, I mean, offenders we lock up…..

The PM raises his hand to silence the gabbling Minister

PM: I haven’t asked you here to sack you. I need some advice about legal stuff.

LC: The law?!? Me? Are you sure….

PM: Well not the law as such.

LC: Because if you want law, we should get Dominic in.

PM: That might prove a little……awkward. What I need to know from you is what law stuff we need to make it look like we are dealing with in order to win the election outright. I can’t face another five years of Nick Clegg and all that “ooooh I’ve got a conscience” nonsense.

LC: I have always said that public confidence in the Legal Aid system has been undermined.

PM: Do we still have a Legal Aid system?

LC: Sort of. Not much of a one, but it is still there.

PM: So how do we know that the public are bothered about the Legal Aid system?

LC: Because I just said so.

PM: I know you did. But how do you know?

LC: I don’t. Not really. But it always sounded good. So I say it a lot. It works for everything. You should try it; ‘the public’s confidence has been undermined in prison sentences so I am going to triple them’ or ‘public confidence has been undermined in the probation service so I am going to sell it’. It works in any situation.

PM: But I need something that the public are really bothered about.

LC: You could try human rights and the supremacy of the European court?

PM: Why do the public worry about the supremacy of the European court?

LC: Because we keep telling them there is a problem. Every time we get caught out…. I mean every time those foreign Judges try to tell us how to run our country by applying a bunch of alien standards that we drafted in the first place, we just explain that they are wrong and pop a Minister on TV to whine about us being steamrollered by Brussels.

PM: Do we know that is something the public actually worry about?

LC: Oh yes.

PM: Can I just check how we know this?

LC: Because UKIP tell us the public are worried about it. And if UKIP raise it, we have to address it. It is all about capturing the heartland of grassroots in the public imagination.

PM: And is there a problem?

LC: Not really no, but it gives us a good excuse when we lose. Which we don’t do very often. In fact the European courts interfere with the actions of our Government only a fraction of the time that they do with the rest of the signatories to the Convention. We are one of the good guys. But I am not going to sit idly by and have some Eurocrat tell me how bent my banana can be!

PM: So we have told the public there is a real problem about sovereignty when there isn’t really and UKIP now tell us that the public are really concerned about this when they really probably aren’t and the upshot of all this is your banana is too straight, have I got that right?

LC: Yes. Kind of. The bit about the banana is made up but the rest is spot on.

PM: Right, well we need to do something about this wretched court then. Something tough. We need to tell them we won’t stand for this any more. Like I told them about that Juncker fellow. That made ’em listen.

LC: Just one problem. Dominic has advised us in the past that not only is it very difficult for us to pull out of the European court, he also advises us it would be a bad idea.

PM: Just who does he think he is?

LC: Strictly speaking he is the senior adviser to the Government on all things legal.

PM: No, you mean he was the senior adviser to the Government on all things legal. As of about ten minutes before you walked in the door I got all “Lord Sugar” on him and fired “me learned friend”.

LC: I have a cunning plan.

PM: Ho ho, I loved that show….

LC: Show? What show?

PM: You were just doing a bit of Baldrick there weren’t you?

LC: No. I have no idea what you are on about. What I was saying was I have a plan more cunning than a box of frogs with a combined IQ of over 200 and a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

PM: Are you sure you are not quoting Baldrick?

LC: NO! This is a chance to really show we are all in it together. I have been saying all along that we will provide an adequate lawyer of basic competence when the public pays.

PM: And….

LC: We can show that you are no different. At £161,000 we have one of the most expensive Attorney-Generals in the world. And after this reshuffle we will show we are still the most generous with whom we hand it out to. So as long as the new Attorney-General is an adequate lawyer there may be some benefits to you.

PM: Such as?

LC: Well when it comes to those tricky bits of legal advice your adequate Attorney-General may be a bit more inclined to give you the right sort of advice rather than the advice to do the right thing.

PM: I get it. So when we hand out the Lord Chancellor’s gig to you I was giving it to an attack dog….

LC: …..Thank you Prime Minister….

PM: …..and in order to get tough over Europe I now need a lapdog…..

LC: Yes, Prime Minister.

A Tweet of Contempt

When the analysts sit down to work out the secret behind the so-called rise of UKIP or the reason why turnouts at elections continue to tumble they need to look no further than Chris Skidmore MP for their answer.

Now it may be that Chris Skidmore, MP for Kingswood since 2010, is a splendid constituency MP and all round good egg. It is not really Mr Skidmore that is the problem it is the Tweet that he, or someone on his behalf, posted last night.

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If you cannot make out what it says, he Tweeted “South Glos Euro results – Lab pushed into distant 3rd: Con 20,043, UKIP 24847, Lab 11827, LD 8162, G 5811”.

This is an example of exactly the sort of cheap political point scoring that is turning off the entire nation from taking part in the democratic process. It is also the sort of transparent spin that causes every one of us to mistrust our political figures.

This Tweet, however, goes to the heart of the problem in just 140 characters. Mr Skidmore sought to deflect attention away from the Conservative Party’s defeat by focussing on Labour’s position. As I say, a bit of a cheap political point. A cheap political point clothed in contempt for the electorate.

We can all see that the Conservatives came second. We do not notice that any less because Labour also lost. The fact is that UKIP won. However look at the little things the Tweet contains. The Conservative tally is the only one that contains a comma. The number just looks a little bigger that way. It may be a mistake, it may be the result of the limit of characters on Twitter but a remarkable coincidence that it only appears in the number of votes cast for his party.

And then there is the order of the parties. You will note that Labour is listed third, their position in the election. The Lib Dems and Greens are correctly in fourth and fifth place. It is only the Conservatives and UKIP that have been transposed. UKIP won, yet appear in second place (with their comma-free number). The results are not listed in correct numerical order or alphabetical order. Just in an order that may lead the casual observer to think the Tories won.

This is political spin that says “the voter is so stupid they may just fall for this”. It is not just deflection, it is a cheap shot at deception. A deception that is predicated on the basis that we, the humble proletariat, cannot count, cannot read and cannot think.

This Tweet says everything which is rendering the nation more likely to vote for a dancing dog or the new lead in an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical than we are to vote for those who will make the big decisions. It is the 140 character representation of every politician who answers for their own failings by pointing out the failings of their opponents. It is every bent statistic traipsed out by a Minister to justify another cut.

We are sick of it. Sick of the meaningless utterances. Sick of the point scoring. Sick of the avoidance of responsibility. Sick of the falsehoods. Sick of being treated with such utter contempt.

I would never vote for a politician who so clearly thinks the citizens that they wish to represent are stupid enough to fall for such cheap tricks. Sadly no politician recognises this. Not Tory, Lib Dem, Labour or UKIP. From ministers making profit from policy, to broken promises to cling to power, to members of the opposition failing to oppose, to casual racism excused by exhaustion the political class believe they can act with impunity because we will not notice.

Well, we notice alright. That is why less than 40% of us turned out to pop an X in a box. It is so often said that people fought to give me and you the right to vote. Those same people fought so we would have leaders better than this. If Milliband, Cameron and Clegg want to know what they have to do to fight off Farage all they have to do is stop treating us like idiots and start earning our vote.

Perhaps we can just start with Mr Skidmore. And a Tweet that says “we lost, we will try to do better by you.”

So Close Yet Still so Farage

Did the earth move for UKIP, dear? Well Farage offered us a political earthquake and there has been a degree of upheaval in the council chambers of England. I suspect we are still some way from Nigel holding Cabinet meetings in the snug of the Red Lion.

If it has been an earthquake it has been one of those very British earthquakes with their epicentre somewhere in the vicinity of Shrewsbury. The sort of thing that causes the tea of Mrs Poppycock of Ludlow to spill into her saucer and the residents of sleepy hamlets to wonder why a heavy goods vehicle has just rumbled by.

When slapping himself heartily on the back the Leader of the new UKIP on the block should pause for a moment and consider how far his message is reaching. He is not inspiring a generation. He is not speaking so loudly to the hearts and minds of the whole nation.

Why do I say that? All he can claim is that he is speaking to the dissatisfied voter. It is not as if he has inspired people to the polls to vote, he has just persuaded some of those who regularly vote to put their cross next to UKIP. In an age where dissatisfaction abounds with austerity that turns people away from the Conservatives; where the perceived craven failure by the LibDems to curb the natural instincts of the Tories is costing them dear; and where Labour suffer from Ed’s failure to convince an electorate of his suitability to be Prime Minister, UKIP have become NOTA – None Of The Above.

Turnout remains pitiful low. It has been falling since Tony Blair’s crushing victory in 1997. If there really was a new player on the political stage, if there was someone who appealed to the voter with their new ideas they would capture the imagination and reignite our passion for democracy itself.

The nation may be prepared to trust the future of potholes and refuse collection to UKIP devotees but we are a long way from being content to see Nigel Farage welcoming the Romanian Ambassador to a light ale at No 10. Actually, it may be worth voting for UKIP just to see that….