I found the weekend’s EU election results - which saw UKIP emerge as the UK’s most popular(?) political party with some 28% of voters opting for them in a turn-out of just 34% - arguably the most depressing of my voting life.
It was a weekend full of euro-sceptical election results throughout the EU (with extreme parties on the left and right having successful campaigns). I feel sure that, over the coming days, newspapers will be full of political analysis which will express things far more lucidly than me. But, for what they’re worth, these are my own brief, knee-jerk, raw reactions:
1. I personally despise UKIP and all it stands for (eg. its demands for the UK to pull out of the EU; its attitudes towards immigration – bordering on racist at times; its general jingoistic, little-Englander view of the world and this country in particular)… but, whatever your views, it hasn’t needed rocket-science for UKIP to come up with a successful political formula for the EU elections.
2. UKIP was always going to appeal to those on the right of the Conservative party and, especially to the large numbers of euro-sceptics amongst them.
3. The UK coalition government has been trying to tell us that the economy is recovering and everything is rosy (and, indeed, the rich have been getting much richer!) when, for the vast majority of the population, life has continued to be very tough financially. In such an economic climate, where secure jobs are still difficult to find and keep, it’s very easy for UKIP to point the finger at immigration.
4. The weekend’s results could be seen as a vote against traditional politics (“nobody’s listening, nobody understands”?). The major parties obviously claim they’re listening but, in reality, they continue to do “their own thing” or actually “don’t get it”.
5. The fact of the matter is that UKIP, despite a) having no members of parliament, b) making countless errors and making numerous inappropriate remarks (duly reported in the national media) and c) having no track record, has been able to make a simple, straightforward appeal to disillusioned voters.
6. In the light of remarks coming from a UKIP representative excusing the party’s poor results in London being due to the fact that the electorate was “cultural, educated and young”, it would be far too easy, completely unfair (and yet very tempting) to describe the typical UKIP voter as possessing the opposite characteristics!
7. Somewhat pathetically, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m rather opposed to democracy! Essentially, the electorate is composed of idiots (oh dear, grumpy old man!)… if we had a referendum on bringing back capital punishment or on withdrawing from the EU, the country would no doubt overwhelmingly approve.
8. I voted Green in both the local and EU elections (the Greens gained a MEP in the south-west and our local council now has six Green councilors). The fact remains that the Greens are highly unlikely to feature as big-players at next year’s General Election.
9. I’ve previously expressed my thoughts on the Labour Party and its leadership (this is one example from September 2012, but there are others if you want to be bothered to search!). My own political instincts are left-of-centre and, traditionally, the Labour Party should be my spiritual home. Unfortunately (as well as it no longer being “left-of-centre”), in my view, the Labour Opposition has fundamentally failed to communicate a coherent message. Given the political climate, it SHOULD have been the party who was pressing for change and highlighting key issues… it SHOULD have been the leading UK party in this weekend’s election by a long way. But it didn’t. Its performance, in my view, has been appallingly bad.So, yes, over the next few days, all the major political parties will be telling us how they’ve been listening to the electorate and how everything’s going to change… and, of course, it won’t (well, not enough to satisfy people like me).
For the Labour Party, in particular, a massive shake-up is required. I don’t anticipate a change in leadership (if ONLY it had opted for Alan Johnson as leader!), but it does need to communicate effectively. At present, the message is both lacklustre and incoherent (Alex Salmon or Nigel Farage could give lessons!)… Milliband is a decent bloke and earnest in his beliefs, but he often comes across as a lightweight - and not someone the country is looking for as a leader.
I feel very apprehensive about the outcome of the next General Election.
The Labour Party SHOULD be forming the next government but, as things stand, I can see the Tories winning – even in a coalition with UKIP (perhaps UKIP will have a dozen MPs by then? How depressing would that be!). What’s worse, in the absence of an effective Opposition, I can foresee the Tories becoming more right-wing and, eventually, pulling us out of the EU altogether.
Give us all the strength and determination to try to ensure this doesn't happen.