Saturday 25 February 2017

Is the party over?

Following Paul Nuttall’s failure to win the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election, the future of UKIP as a party has been called into question. Surely, if it can’t win in one of the most pro-Brexit and working-class seats in the country, can it win anywhere? And, given that Britain has voted for Brexit, and Theresa May’s Tory government is busy implementing it, is there really any point to UKIP any more?

In reality, winning in Stoke was always going to be a challenge, and would have depended on successfully squeezing the Tory vote, which UKIP were unable to do. Paul Nuttall certainly did himself no favours by pretending to have an address in Stoke, and over-embellishing his connections with Hillsborough. But, had a lower-profile local candidate been standing, the result was actually quite creditable. UKIP retained second place, improved its share of the vote and recorded a swing towards it from Labour. Although they retained the seat, the real losers were Labour, who lost vote share, not something you expect an opposition party to be doing in one of its own safe seats in mid-term. And, of course, on the same night they lost catastrophically to the Tories in Copeland.

It may appear that the Tories have stolen UKIP’s thunder on Brexit, but how are things going to appear a few years down the line? Are they really going to curb immigration in the way they have promised? And there are other issues where the Tories are likely to prove a severe let-down. Are they going to ditch their naïve belief in “Global Warming” and implement a sensible and cost-effective energy policy? Are they going to abandon their enthusiasm for restricting lifestyle freedoms and maintaining the war on the motorist? Are they going to make a properly robust response to the growing threat of Islamist extremism? My expectation is that, on all these issues, voters who enjoyed a honeymoon with Mrs May are going to feel severely disappointed.

Under Nuttall’s leadership, UKIP have explicitly adopted a strategy of targeting disaffected Labour voters in provincial England and Wales. There’s a lot to be said for this, given how many working-class people feel completely alienated by the way Labour have concentrated on identity politics at the expense of issues such as employment and immigration. And, if UKIP falls by the wayside, where do those voters have to go? Many of them have a visceral antipathy towards voting Tory, who are seen as the party of the comfortably off and the toffs.

But, as Stoke showed, it’s important not to forget the appeal to disillusioned Tories as well. Such as me. Plenty of people feel that the current Tory Party, both under Cameron and May, is far too wet and centrist and, well, not really Conservative enough. We want lower taxes, we want political correctness given the boot, we want the Nanny State to butt out of our lives. UKIP may be an imperfect vehicle for those sentiments, but it is a much better vehicle than none. Ideally, I’d like to vote for a Delingpoleite party, but if that’s not on offer, UKIP is the best there is.

So my advice to UKIP would be not to let yourselves be disheartened and keep plodding on. Some day, the events will fall in your favour, and you need to be there to take advantage.

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Taking back the mile

One of the depressing aspects of life over the past few decades has been the steady replacement of comfortable, familiar British measurements with the confusing and alien metric system. This is often blamed on the EU, but in fact our own government had set the ball rolling many years before we joined.

Fortunately, two bastions of proper measurements have managed to survive. One is pints of beer and milk, and the other, more significantly, is the use of Imperial distances, widths and heights on the roads. While I’m sure there have been plans made in the past to convert these to metric, as has been done in Ireland, the enormous cost and the likely scale of opposition has always put governments off, and realistically it’s very difficult to see it happening now.

Indeed, not only are Imperial distances in miles and yards mandated for official road signs, it is actually illegal to display metric distances. Dual units for width and height restrictions are permitted, but not metric-only signs. However, despite this, in many areas council officials have taken it upon themselves to erect metric signs, even though they must know full well that they contravene the regulations. One can only speculate as to the motivation for this – presumably it arises from a loathing of their country’s heritage and distinctive identity and a desire to elimate all signs of it.

But fortunately help is at hand. As the Daily Mail reports, veteran anti-EU campaigner Derek Norman has formed a campaign group called Active Resistance to Metrication which is dedicated to tackling metric road signs. So far, he claims to have removed over 2,000 of them. Although some may regard this as vandalism, he argues that his actions are legal, provided that he tells councils where he has put the signs, because the signs are in contravention of regulations in the first place and thus constitute illegal obstructions to the highway. So far, this argument has held up in several court cases.

I say more power to his elbow in standing up for this country’s traditions. Any blame should be attached to the council officials who allowed the signs to be erected in the first place. They should be subject to disciplinary action and made to pay the cost of replacement with signs using the correct measurements. A defence of ignorance of the rules simply will not wash.

And hopefully, once we have finally extricated ourselves from the clutches of the EU, we can restore the use of proper traditional British measurements for all everyday purposes, and confine the metric system to its proper domain in the scientific and technical sphere.

It is also disappointing how the National Trust, which is supposedly dedicated to the preservation of Britain’s heritage, has often chosen to erect metric signs at its properties. While these are not bound by government signing regulations, they show a contempt for this country’s traditions, and the Trust should put under pressure to replace them all as soon as possible.

Friday 25 November 2016

Turn of the tide

When I started this blog, I have to say I saw it as little more than a howl of rage against the dying of the light. I didn’t really see much hope that the inexorable tide of banning and restricting everyday activities and curbing people’s freedom of speech and action could be stemmed. All I could do was to enjoy a touch of Schadenfreude when someone managed to throw a spanner in the works.

However, slowly but surely, the tectonic plates have begun to move. The first serious sign was the rise of UKIP in the opinion polls during 2014, and the two spectacular by-election victories in the Autumn. Then came the Conservative victory in the 2015 General Election. Now, this ushered in a government that in most respects was scarcely better than the Coalition that preceded it, and the election result was desperately disappointing for UKIP in terms of seats, if not votes. But the result confounded the expectations of the pundits and opinion pollsters and, excluding Northern Ireland, the Conservatives and UKIP together won over 50% of the vote, giving the lie to the oft-heard notion that Britain is in some way a “progressive country”. The annihilation of the Liberal Democrats was particularly delicious.

And of course it opened the way for this year’s EU referendum. And what a glorious day that was when, again against all expectations and opinion polls, the people of Britain turned upon the political élite and told them where to stick it. The discomfiture of so many establishment figures and politically correct luvvies was a joy to behold. Yes, the political class are doing everything they can to dilute or block Brexit, but they know that something has been unleashed that cannot be put back into the bottle. There really is a new spirit of hope and optimism in the air.

And then came the US election result earlier this month. Yes, in many ways Donald Trump was a flawed candidate, but it probably needed someone with unconventional appeal to energise parts of the electorate that mainstream politicians could not reach. And it caused worldwide consternation on a scale far beyond Brexit. The wailing and gnashing of teeth was truly wonderful, although the widespread contempt shown for a democratic verdict was distinctly chilling.

And now it’s Europe’s turn. We have the Italian constitutional referendum next month, the Austrian presidential election, then Parliamentary elections in the Netherlands and Germany. Biggest of all is the French Presidential election in April and May. Had I been an American, I’m sure I would have held my nose and voted for Trump, but I’m not sure I could do the same for Marine Le Pen, given her party’s fascist antecedents. However, a victory for her, or even a close defeat, would send a message ringing around the world that ordinary people just weren’t prepared to take it any more. If the establishment politicians won’t listen, then who can blame them for taking their votes elsewhere? People are finding a voice and telling the ruling élites that they’ve had enough of being told how to think and how to live their lives.

The overriding priority has to be combating the global spread of Islamofascism, which poses a truly existential threat to Western civilisation, and about which most of our existing leaders seem to be in complete denial. If they won’t even name the enemy, how can they fight it effectively?

And, now that ordinary people are finding that they can really make a difference, hopefully we can look forward to a rolling back of the tide of lifestyle restrictions, politically correct curbs on freedom of expression, and pandering to minority agendas from cycling to transgenderism at the expense of the majority.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Won't get fooled again

I was recently reading an article offering a post-mortem of the EU referendum result, which quoted a middle-aged man as saying “They just don’t show us any respect.” That sums up in a nutshell what the result as all about. It went far beyond the EU itself to become a generalised expression of discontent with the many small ways in which the political class had become accustomed to treating ordinary people with contempt and not regarding their views as worth listening to. On my other blog, I suggested that the smoking ban may have been one factor behind it.

There can be no better example of this than the “child refugees” that we have allowed in from the Calais migrant camp. Everyone can see from the photos that they’re not children, they’re grown men of military age. Twitter and Facebook are awash with jokes on the subject. The attempts by the likes of Stella Creasy and Gary Lineker to tar anyone pointing out the bleeding obvious with the brush of racism simply do not wash, and just invite contempt.

We can see through it now. We know you take us for fools, but we’re not. And, one day, the revenge will come, on a massive scale, at the ballot box.

Saturday 11 April 2015

Managing expectations

In the 2014 UK elections for the European Parliament, UKIP topped the poll with 26.6% of the vote. It was recognised at the time that a substantial proportion of this represented a protest vote that was unlikely to stick with UKIP in the General Election. In particular, many Tory supporters and even members lent their votes to UKIP in an attempt to prod the Conservatives in a more Eurosceptic direction.

So, as the General Election approached, the level of UKIP support was inevitably going to decline. In the Autumn of 2014, the defections of Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless, and their subsequent by-election victories, gave the party a notable boost, and it was often polling in the high teens or even in one or two cases the low twenties. Then, in the early part of 2015, it fell below 15%, no doubt affected by a wave of negative publicity stirred up by the media, with one or two polls showing it as low as 10%.

However, now that the rules on balanced TV and radio coverage during the General Election campaign have come into effect, it seems to have stabilised, and even turned upwards a little, with a couple of polls recording 19% and 17%. David Cameron’s appeal for UKIP voters to “come home” has fallen on deaf ears, with many ex-Tories feeling that the party has left them, not the other way round. It now looks likely that this level of support will be sustained until May 7th, which will mean UKIP winning around four million votes. But, given the disadvantage the first past the post system confers on challenger parties, especially those without a strong local pocket of support, what is that likely to mean in terms of seats?

Some UKIP supporters harbour dreams of a surge in support leading to dozens of seats, but realistically I would say that is highly improbable and, to avoid disappointment, they should take a much more cautious view of what they are genuinely likely to achieve. It makes sense for UKIP to target their efforts in a relatively small number of seats where they have a realistic chance of success. I would say that a reasonable “par score” would be:

  1. To outpoll the Liberal Democrats and become third party in terms of vote share
  2. To gain at least 10% of the popular vote
  3. To elect four MPs, including Nigel Farage in South Thanet
That outcome would represent a disproportionate ratio of seats to votes worse than anything ever achieved by the Liberals or Liberal Democrats. Anything less would have to be regarded as disappointing, but the reasons behind the rise of UKIP are not going away, and indeed are likely to become stronger with the passing years.

12% of the popular vote and six MPs would be a pretty good result, anything more a bonus. I hope UKIP can break through in more constituencies, but it shouldn’t be seen as a failure if they don’t. It’s also very likely that they will gain second places in many “safe” Labour seats in the industrial parts of England and Wales, which will show that they are the only credible opposition to Labour in those areas and will put them in a strong position if there is a weak Labour-led government and by-elections start to crop up.

However, another factor to bear in mind is how accurate the opinion polls are anyway. They were badly caught out in 1992 when the vast majority of pollsters failed to predict the narrow Conservative win, and since then have been applying ever more sophisticated weighting techniques in an attempt to correct for such errors. This, though, is the first time that accurately predicting the UKIP vote share has been important, and so they have no past experience to guide them. Apparently they are significantly weighting down the raw UKIP vote shares. Only the actual results will show whether they are correct to do so, but there must be a distinct possibility that the headline poll numbers significantly understate the UKIP vote.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Limited liberalism

You often hear people being spoken of in approving terms as being “socially liberal”, or indeed describing themselves as such. This seems to cover a vaguely-defined range of issues including supporting gay marriage, women’s rights, cycling and drug legalisation, opposing racial discrimination and strongly believing in man-made global warming.

All very laudable and motherhood-and-apple-pie, you might think. But, while claiming to support free speech, they are often strangely quiet when it comes to the freedoms of those who take an alternative view. If you don’t support their right-on agenda, you really don’t have a right to be heard. And they suffer from a bizarre cognitive dissonance when it comes to their attitude towards Islamic fundamentalism, which opposes all they hold dear, but of which they regard any criticism as “racist”.

They are also very selective in the kind of causes they will stand up for. I can’t remember the “socially liberal” doing much to oppose any of the bans implemented by the last Labour government – handguns, hunting with hounds, tobacco advertising, smoking in enclosed public places, not to mention the ongoing war against alcohol and constantly expanding restrictions on private motor transport.

So it seems that their vision of liberalism is actually extremely limited. Supporting freedom doesn’t add up to much if you only support the particular freedoms you happen to approve of. I always take the view that someone’s attitude towards smoking and smokers is a reliable touchstone of how liberal they actually are. Indeed, whenever I see someone proclaim themselves to be “socially liberal”, I tend to assume they are actually, in many respects, extremely illiberal.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Watching the world burn

Elections have always been seen as a means of deciding who should make up the government. But, in recent years, there has been a growing view that it doesn’t really make all that much difference. “Whoever you vote for, the government always gets in,” people say. It looks more and more like something that is done to you rather than something in which ordinary people have a say. Another saying is “it’s like choosing which colour of stick you want to be beaten with.”

We seem to be ruled by a political class that, whichever party is in power, adopts a very similar internationalist, politically correct, metropolitan, liberal, pro-global-warming standpoint that seems increasingly detached from the grass roots. So it’s not surprising that voters have been deserting the two main parties and, over the past four years, the split-the-difference LibDems too. South of the Border the main beneficiary of this trend has been UKIP.

However, there’s a tendency to regard a vote for UKIP as a howl of rage rather than an expression of any coherent sentiment, as in this generally quite perspicacious Guardian article by Matthew Goodwin, which suggests it has a “nihilistic” quality.

What Conservatives (and Labour) fail to understand is that Ukip’s appeal is as much about a diffuse but intense feeling of unease over the direction and pace of social change in modern Britain as it is about a specific and yearning desire to end immigration, leave the EU or reform Westminster. These voters do not like how Britain is changing, and they loathe politicians even more. This explains their nihilistic quality. In their hearts most Ukippers probably know that they might not get what they want. But some people just want to watch the world burn.
Surely, though, if you believe that the major parties have forfeited the right to your support through ignoring you, you are quite entitled to vote for someone else to show your disgust or teach them a lesson. And the same applies just as much to anyone voting for the Greens or the SNP. You know that, in the short term at least, your chosen party is unlikely to be able to implement much of its programme. But you will be choosing a Westminster MP who will represent your views, and who may, depending on Parliamentary arithmetic, be able to bring some influence to bear on government policy.

As US President John Quincy Adams once said. “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” So, today, if you live in Clacton or Heywood & Middleton, go out to the polling station and do just that. No vote is a wasted vote if it reflects your own beliefs.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Revolt from below?

It won’t come as a surprise to readers of this blog to learn that I am a strong, although not uncritical, supporter of UKIP. So I was very interested to read the new book about the party entitled Revolt on the Right by academics Robert Ford and Matthew J. Goodwin. It includes an in-depth account of the party’s somewhat tortuous rise to prominence which is put across in a generally fair and balanced way that even comes across as mildly sympathetic at times, even though I doubt whether the authors are UKIP voters. It also offers an in-depth analysis of the social profile of UKIP supporters and their motivations, and looks at the potential future opportunities for an electoral breakthrough.

However, I would say a major drawback of the book is that the authors are essentially psephologists rather than students of political thought, and they fail to give sufficient coverage of the ideological motivations of UKIP supporters. They are also too ready to lump the party in with the rest of the European “radical right”, when its origins essentially lie in a free-market, small-state outlook rather than xenophobia.

They try too hard to shoehorn all their statistics into an overarching theory that UKIP essentially appeals to poorer, older voters who feel left behind by modern socially liberal, internationalist, multicultural political trends. There is undoubtedly a substantial element of truth in that, but the party’s appeal spreads far wider, and indeed many of the local council seats they have won have been in distinctly middle-class areas.

While I agree with the view that we have far too much immigration into this country, combined with too little quality, it isn’t really a hot-button issue for me. My main motivations for supporting UKIP are opposition to the European Union, scepticism about demands to use man-made global warming as an excuse for far-reaching policy changes, and detestation of the growing climate of lifestyle bullying that has found its supreme expression in the smoking ban which has ripped the guts out of the British pub trade and particularly penalised the working class.

There is a strong feeling across all social classes that a homogenised political class has grown up in the UK that is increasingly detached from the lives and experiences of ordinary people. At times, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband can be hard to distinguish – a view set out by Janet Daley in this article, in which she says “There will really be only two contestants in the next general election: the political class and the people.” That is the feeling that UKIP is channelling with growing success.

I’ve seen Nigel Farage in the flesh at a fringe event at last year’s Tory conference, and he’s an accomplished public performer with whom I would probably agree on at least 95% of political issues. But there’s evidence of a growing faultline in UKIP between the “small-staters”, who want to see low taxes, an end to banning things and the debunking of the global warming myth, and the “right-wing populists”, who are more exercised by immigration and gay marriage and even toy with such ideas as renationalising the railways. If the party ends up going too far down the latter road it will eventually run into the same sand as the BNP and leave many people such as myself who are fed up with the self-serving LibLabCon triumvirate without a political home.

Sunday 10 March 2013

The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

In the 2010 General Election, UKIP gained a 3% share of the national vote. Recently, though, they achieved 22% in the Rotherham by-election, and 28% at Eastleigh, in both of which they came second. An opinion poll published today shows their support at 17% of voters. The figures indicate a party very much on the rise. However, it it is widely suggested that much of this support will evaporate at the 2015 General Election when voters will have to make a clear choice between Conservative and Labour.

Will this really happen, though? The record of the current Tory-led government isn’t all that different from Labour. They have not reclaimed any powers from the EU, they have continued Labour’s disastrous green policies and done nothing to ensure future energy security, they have maintained Labour’s war on the motorist and they have taken Labour’s lifestyle bullying even further with the ban on tobacco displays and proposals for minimum alcohol pricing and plain packaging for tobacco products.

Yes, the Conservatives are in coalition with the Liberal Democrats and thus are restricted in what they can actually do. But from their rhetoric I don’t get the impression they really want to do anything different. So a Tory vote in 2015 will just be a vote for more of the same, whereas a vote for UKIP will send a strong signal to the political class that things cannot just go on as they did before. A few years of disastrous Milibandism might be a price worth paying for the return of decent government that is in tune with the instincts of the British people.

It’s also interesting that the Conservative Home blog recently featured a list of 20 election-winning policies for the Conservatives in 2015, most of which seemed to be lifted straight from the UKIP manifesto.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Blue-eyed boys

A recent proposal that teachers should be subjected to performance-related pay has been widely welcomed. Surely it will reward the conscientious and dedicated while weeding out the incompetent and the timeservers.

However, in reality, performance-related pay doesn’t work like that at all. Rather it tends to reward those who commit themselves to corporate objectives, who are good at ticking boxes, who toe the line and don’t rock the boat. In other words, crawlers and arselickers. It is what has been described as “blue-eyed boy syndrome”.

Many years ago, I saw someone spectacularly promoted far beyond his abilities because he was adept at saying what the top management wanted him to, and enthusiastically adopting every latest fad and buzzword, while being able to maintain the image of being a bit of a hard-talking rough diamond. He eventually crashed and burned, but for many that is the route to the absolute pinnacle of corporate life.

How can a system in which pay increases are determined by the capricious whim and prejudice of management be in any way regarded as fair? People should be paid the rate for the job, dependent on how much it takes to recruit suitably-qualified candidates, and bonuses should be handed out to everyone determined by overall corporate performance.

In my experience, the most effective workers in any organisation are those who are dedicated to their job, but plough their own furrow and have a healthy disrespect for management bullshit. Consequently they are often dismissed as “difficult” or “mavericks”. But slavish, toadying conformity never produced any business breakthrough, nor inspired any school pupil.