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The real victories of last night’s by-elections belonged to UKIP. But what might this signal and how will  Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg translate the messages?

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

 – ‘The Second Coming,’ W.B. Yeats

After last night’s by-elections, the only party that has cause to celebrate is UKIP. Coming second place in both Rotherham and Middlesbrough, and third in Croydon, is no small achievement for a party that has worked tirelessly along the tributaries of British politics into the mainstream in only a matter of years.

That Labour won in all three seats is no surprise, but as Daniel Hannan has remarked with regards to Rotherham in particuar, ‘I don’t want to hear any Rotherham Labour voters moaning about the arrogance of the political class’, since it was under the governance of that party that Denis MacShane resigned after criminally obtaining public money by deceit, and it was also the party that saw inactivity over child grooming cases and the removal of foster children from UKIP-voting parents [1]. Tribal voting is the stuff of primitive thinking, so of the 9,866 voters in Rotherham who voted Labour, it is probably fair to claim that some did so with only half their wits.

It is also no surprise that the Conservatives should made no progress in these areas. That the Liberal Democrats lost their deposits in Rotherham and Croydon proves beyond doubt that they are the party of insignificance and that they can no longer be used to amplify the voices of discontented voters. Expect them to be annihilated at the next General Election.

What of this? In a previous article, this blog suggested that UKIP’s ascent in Corby was not the result of a mid-term blues protest suggested by the Conservatives, it was the result of long-term disenchantment with useless politicians and their discredited parties. UKIP’s showing in Rotherham and elsewhere would seem to underscore this notion.

Mr Miliband need not break the habit of his leadership; he need do nothing, nor come up with credible policies – the coalition are perfectly adept at blustering incoherence and unravelling without the aid of parliament’s odious Chief Scout. Heaven help the UK when Prime Minister Miliband has to actually make the ‘tough decisions’ he bleats on about. Yet what the Rotherham vote has shown is that UKIP are not just a party of and for the right, they are increasingly a party of and for all political colours. If they can succeed in Labour ‘safe’ seats at the same level as they have in Rotherham, Corby and Middlesbrough, then Mr Miliband may actually have to call an inquiry into thinking about the direction in which he is heading.

And what of Mr Cameron? He is the best publicist of his own stupidity. He continues to alienate the sort of Conservative voters his party has haemorrhaged to UKIP under his leadership, not only because of his dogged determination to make social democrats out of the Tories, but also by refusing to  retract his typically immature remarks that UKIP members are mostly ‘closet racists’. The truth is that ‘centre ground’ politics is not only unpopular, it is inherently damaging to democracy. Yet it is clear that Mr Cameron is just a less uncomfortable looking version of the unhinged Gordon Brown: he is intractably stubborn, to the extent that an easy victory in the 2015 General Election will not be his for the taking. He will sooner listen to the likes of Matthew D’Ancona, who wrote in a wildly inaccurate and faintly bizarre recent article:

…the very worst thing Cameron could do now is to rip up his centre-ground strategy and hurtle off to the Right in search of these voters. Not many of them would come back. And many more centrist waverers would be lost in the process. [2]

Though this is precisely what Mr Cameron would want to hear – and certainly the only advice he is likely to listen to – it is at the cost of his own party and democracy. So Mr Cameron’s likeness to Mr Brown is evidenced once again: when a person (let alone a politician) cannot be seen to fight for their own survival, then it rings as defective. By heading off in the right direction, Mr Cameron could outflank UKIP’s ever growing number and bring under his wing the working class vote that UKIP appeals to: immigration, crime, withdrawal from the EU. Since the moribund Lib Dems have had their life support terminated, what consideration need Mr Cameron give to them? Yet he persists in targeting none of these matters, which appeal to all voters. The consequence is a further disenfranchised electorate and the collapse of his vote. As Yeats wrote:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

UKIP may yet have to win parliamentary seats, but it signals the direction in which any successful party or thinking person should be heading: a politics of consent, of decisiveness, of the nation state. Under their current leaders, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are interested in ideology, not practicality. Ideology is cheap and easy, since it exists in the mind. Practicality and workable policies are much more credible victories, but intellectually beyond the reach of those on parliament’s front benches today.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes

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Some notes on matters that have arisen over the last week

Europhile Denis MacShane is a criminal – no, I am sorry, he’s not a criminal – he made a ‘mistake’ and because of some technicality cannot be prosecuted for defrauding the taxpayer with their own money and using it to further his own political and financial ends.

Mr MacShane attempted to blame the BNP and other members of the political right for his actions, doing nothing to disprove that those on the left are incapable of applying personal responsibility for their actions. Indeed, in an effort to make it sound like he was doing the taxpayer a favour, he alluded to his efforts to tackle anti-Semitism – did he hope this would somehow justify his criminality to an already squeezed taxpayer?

One thing is for certain – as both a Europhile and a criminal, Mr MacShane is perfectly qualified to obtain a position on the European Commission.

*

I cannot have been the only one nauseated by the expressions of uninhibited delight that greeted Mr Obama’s re-election as US President, especially in the UK. The suspension of critical faculties was total, so in awe of the image of Mr Obama were those expressing adulation. No one seemed to mention the way in which Mr Obama is saddling future generations of Americans (and, let’s face it, the world) with trillions of dollars in debt, nor was his flaky attitude towards the Middle East situation probed with any purpose.

So star-struck were the Media Politburo of the Labour Party (the BBC), that they interviewed an actor who had played the part of a communications director, who worked for a fictional president, during an imagined Democratic presidency. Could his opinions be any less important? I hope that on matters of national security they will consult Daniel Craig, or else on matters of scientific revelation, they will grill Dr Who.

*

Every time there is a crisis at the BBC, commentators tend to remark that this blighted corporation needs to regain the trust of the British public, as if it were a long-term relationship were suddenly imperilled by indiscretion. But does any thinking person ever really trust  the BBC any more than any other company or media outlet? To do so would seem rather incautious, but I dare say there are those so slavishly devoted to the idiot box that nothing short of relationship counselling will help reconfigure their dependency.

*

There is a backlog of immigration cases in the UK equivalent to the population of Iceland – this blog has said more than once that if this was any other department, heads would role. But why don’t  they? Because the main political parties a) do not care and b) because, as Theresa May alluded to today, despite temporary curbs imposed on immigration from the EU in 2005 to protect the British labour market, these are set to expire and that it is not possible under EU law to extend them.

Miss May also suggested that the government was on target to cut immigration into the UK from people outside of the EU as a way of deflecting the point that it is largely people from within the EU, flooding the labour market and seeking benefits who are the most prominent strain on the country’s already overstretched resources.

*

I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! – a celebrity reality TV show – a televised equivalent of the stocks returns soon enough to offer vital life support to the ever swelling legions of the UK’s brain-dead populace. One does not even need close analysis of the title of this sub-genre to realise that neither celebrities nor reality are constituent ingredients in this soup of human indignity.

That Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has decided to participate in this year’s series of the programme has caused her to be suspended by her party. This is not an unreasonable course of action from the Conservatives, especially since she will continue to be paid her salary whilst being absent from her constituency and from parliament – rather like that moulding potato Gordon Brown.

Ms Dorries’ has claimed that with an audience of some 16 million viewers (what did I say about ‘the ever swelling legions of the UK’s brain-dead populace’?), she will be able to profile who she is and what she stands for to an audience who are probably generally concerned with neither. Of course, one can hardly imagine a better place for Ms Dorries to champion her campaign to lower the point during a pregnancy at which an abortion can be performed than from a jungle in Australia.

Speculation has arise over whether or not she will defect to UKIP, especially since she is to the right of the Conservatives and a welcome stone in Mr Cameron’s flip-flopping shoes. Some seem excited about this prospect, but one may also be inclined to think that a discredited Ms Dorries could undermine UKIP’s efforts to make its outfit more professional and a part of the celeb-chasing culture that characterized the New Labour years.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

David Cameron looks set to be the first one-term PM in decades. Even if his party wins the next election, it would not be long before a purge from within would topple him. How could this have happened? This article speculates on the question all Conservatives are likely to be asking: ‘where did is all go wrong?’

“He’s the first leader in history to flunk an election because he thought he was going to win it!” [1]

Mr Cameron’s cutting quip at the expense of then prime minister Gordon Brown’s ‘election-that-never-was’ was masterful in its timing and execution, scripted or no. It exposed a central weakness in Mr Brown’s flank – that he had never faced an electoral contest within his own party when he assumed leadership of the clapped out New Labour bandwagon, nor had he faced the electorate. He was a prime minister hitching a ride on a mandate bestowed upon his predecessor. Indeed, at every subsequent election, Mr Brown was punished by the electorate, not only because the public were weary of the New Labour management, but because Brown had exhibited the fact that he was a dismal and incompetent leader.

Yet Mr Cameron’s witticism now yields a prescient historical irony. He could show leadership, consolidate his power within his party and from the general public by calling an election of a different kind – a referendum on the EU. Yet with Brown-like stubbornness, he pursues defeat, division and disenchantment from within his own party and the public at large by not only denying such a vote [2], but also having his aides brief that the electorate do not want such a vote.[3]

It should be made clear that this is not the only reason Cameron’s leadership is crumbling. The necessary but unpopular cuts the coalition claim to have made have grown wearisome for an impatient public who are not seeing the promised growth such cuts were meant to stimulate. Disquiet with ill-conceived policies has led to so many u-turns the coalition is driving in circles and ministers such as the discredited Jeremy Hunt and the disliked Baroness Warsi only compound the PM’s destabilised position.

Not to mention the savings a rejection of the EU would provide the UK economy, an in-out EU referendum would also galvanise his leadership among the party and the public and showleadership in its defiance of unpopular and unelected EU bureaucrats who have been proven to be inept at governance. At this juncture in an unprecedented historical crisis, Mr Cameron has bottled when he had the opportunity to grasp the initiative proving that he has  – like Mr Miliband – neither the intellect nor the strength of character to show true and much needed leadership.

Quite simply, an EU referendum is an open goal for Mr Cameron to win the next General Election. That he does not seize this opportunity fundamentally undermines him.

Even before major indecisions concerning policy undermine Mr Cameron, the Conservatives must be wondering what happened to the compelling verbal assassin who, weekly, destroyed the fumbling Gordon Brown. It was a bloodsport not to be missed. If he managed to land such powerful blows on a ‘heavyweight’ like Brown, why does Mr Cameron struggle to confound the insipid Mr Miliband?

Readers of this blog will know that it regards Mr Miliband with utter contempt. It’s not personal, there’s simply no way he can disguise what a lightweight he is; the more he tries, the more he blunders. He is a clueless leader at the head of a policy-less party. What grates is both his obsequious and ingratiating tone on the one hand and the way he flounders and squeaks like an indignant teenager on the other. Not only does the Labour party have no policy, their track record in government leaves them with no legs to stand on.

If Mr Cameron is unable to outmanoeuvre the Labour party when they are bereft of credibility, if he cannot defeat the witless Mr Miliband, then it follows that Mr Cameron deserves to lose the next election, especially when he has had every opportunity fulfil such promise.

Where did it all go wrong? Take your pick. That the Conservatives did not win the 2010 General Election outright did not bode well and, in the opinion of this writer, this was probably quite likely down to Mr Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ notion. Certainly this idea had shades of promise – encourage voluntary work as a means of restoring social cohesion (lost under the Labour government) and, plainly, get something for nothing. Who can blame them for trying. The trouble was that the Big Society lacked clarity or defined parameters – this is understandably disconcerting – if a government in waiting has not defined their message, then it is only logical that the electorate will be wary. So it may have been the Big Society – but luckily the Conservatives are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the root causes of their current ills. One cannot deny that coalition with the Lib Dems has curtailed Tory policy, but even so, there is no sense of what the Conservative policy is, so it matters not.

The Lib Dems may now be dead as a party, but the Conservatives are mortally wounded. Mr Cameron’s socialist leanings have stripped the Tory party of their identity. He may have betrayed the Conservative’s traditional members, but in so doing, he has haemorrhaged support to UKIP – which is no bad thing so far as this blog is concerned.

The Conservatives are suffering a fool gladly in Mr Cameron, a PM whose guileless leadership has further damaged democracy by giving the electorate every reason to be disaffected and disenchanted.

It is a striking end. After all, he was the future once.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes

This article speculates on the possibility that David Cameron is playing a long game that could win him the next election.

Whilst recent u-turns would seem to indicate that, when it comes to domestic policy, the Conservatives lack foresight, I cannot help but wonder if David Cameron is playing a long game when it comes to Europe. As eurosceptic pressure from MPs, UKIP and from around the country becomes increasingly pronounced, is the Prime Minister waiting for a particular juncture in the current euro-crisis where he can suddenly announce himself as the saviour of Britain’s sovereignty?

The notion that, imminently, the eurozone is going to have to enact full fiscal integration seems increasingly likely; so far as the UK is concerned, this should trigger a referendum on our relationship with the EU. [1] So are the domestic policy u-turns we’ve seen, which have been characterised as the result of ‘listening to the people’, merely seeding Cameron with the opportunity to perform a volte face on the European question under the auspices of heeding popular consent?

Cameron’s veto of the amendment to the Lisbon treaty at the end of 2011, although a sham in itself, was regarded by some as an accomplished cosmetic exercise; he could flex his eurosceptic credentials whilst also appease europhiles, since his veto had no substance. But was this a cynical dry run in anticipation of something more substantial and politically lucrative?

Cameron has everything to gain by adopting an ‘in-out’ EU referendum or eurosceptic strategy. He can consolidate the palpable sense of eurosceptic support from among the electorate and he could unify his party on the issue. [2] Indeed, if the Lib Dems kicked up a fuss, the strength of a referendum may well be enough for him to call a snap election that he would have the possibility of winning outright on the strength of anti-EU feelings alone. This would, of course, scotch Labour’s referendum soundings and steal the initiative from UKIP whose pressure has splintered the Tory vote.

This is the prime minister’s opportunity to perform a deus ex machina and position himself as a strong leader for his party and for the country, or else let all fall down.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes

  • 1. Given previous promises, the use of ‘should’ is here used very loosely
  • 2. Certainly there is a great deal of europhilia in the party, but with MPs no doubt fearing they will be one-term tenants of their constituencies, now might be a time to listen to the eurosceptic electorate who will keep them in power