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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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The result of the Corby by-election has wider implications beyond the borders of this disputed constituency…

That the Conservatives lost their Corby seat in today’s by-election came as a surprise to no one, least of all the Conservatives. Their majority was always precarious, but not unmanageable. Their mistake was to ever think that the lobotomized Louise Mensch was ever a credible MP, let alone one strong enough to hold on to such a narrow margin, especially when the potent forces of her own ego would always come before public service.

Whilst the odious Edward Miliband paraded the victory of his candidate, the Liberal Democrats were not only beaten into fourth place by UKIP, they lost their deposit after receiving a woeful 1,770 votes.  The Conservatives only beat UKIP by a mere 4368 votes, a statistic that should have them very afraid, especially in a seat seen as a litmus paper for the views of middle England.

At this point one might suggest that Mr Cameron has some thinking to do – he could lurch to the right and cast off his social democrat colours in favour for radical Tory reform – but as has been implied, this would mean Mr Cameron has to not only think, but think strategically and perform acts of self-evaluation and intellect that he is woefully incapable of commanding.

Instead, what do Mr Cameron and his cronies say? They spin the result as simply the mid-term blues that all incumbent governments undergo as voters register their discontent with the direction of the ruling party.

It is a line that typifies the disconcertingly patronising tone of politicians from all the main parties. It suggests that to them it is almost a badge of honour, a virtuous failure, to be mauled by the electorate halfway through a parliament, as if governing in the interests of the electorate and securing or sustaining a popular mandate are laughable impossibilities. They chose to ignore what is in front of them – whether it is the striking election results by UKIP or by the success of independent candidates as Police Commissioners – this is not a mid-term blues protest: it is the result of long-term disenchantment with the useless politicians and the discredited parties they serve.

By voting Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem, the electorate are merely changing the guard, all of whom protect the same thing: their interests, which are dependent upon their mutual survival as political parties. Today’s results are a victory for independent candidates away from Westminster, and it is a story of success for UKIP, whose ascent is damaging the three party system, and above all, Mr Cameron, who had better watch his back from his own party members before anyone else.

Mid-term blues? Hardly! Things have rarely looked better…

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

More from The Panopticon:

Retiring in the UK is a bleak prospect for many. Whilst fuel poverty blights and sometimes takes the lives of among the most vulnerable in society, a protected budget of £11 billion is committed to aiding poverty abroad. In the UK, the government’s charity does not begin at home.

It is no secret that the UK’s population is taking longer to shuffle off its mortal coil. A recent report by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has indicated that Britain’s ageing population is growing at its fastest rate since the 19th century and is projected to hit 70 million by 2027, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).  The current 62 million UK population is rising at 0.8% a year and may increase by 4.9 million to 67.2 million by 2020 and to 73 million by 2035. The ONS also suggests that the oldest age groups are the fastest growing and the number of people over the age of 85 is expected to more than double from 1.4 million now to 3.5 million within 25 years. Centenarians are set to rise more from 13,000 in 2010 to 110,000 in 2035, with the median age rising from 39.7 years in 2010 to 39.9 in 2020 and to 42.2 by 2035 [1]. Of course, this does not include mass uncontrolled immigration into the UK’s porous – rather – non-existent border.

Yet, in the present day, there is good reason to fear old age. Hardly a week seems to pass without reports of the appalling physical and psychological abuses dispensed by manipulative  sadistic and criminal employees at ‘care’ homes. Such abuses include:

  • Not being given adequate support to eat or drink, in particular those with dementia
  • Home helps not carrying out vital tasks such as washing and dressing because of lack of time;
  • Financial abuse, such as money being systematically stolen;
  • Talking over older people (sometimes on mobile phones) or patronising them;
  • Physical abuse, such as rough handling or unnecessary force. [2]

Even those not occupying care homes face difficult times, especially during the winter months. In 2007-09, around 35% of single pensioners were living in fuel poverty (defined as when someone needs to spend 10 per cent or more on heating their home) with many cutting back on food to meet their energy bills; around 2 million elderly people are so desperately cold that they go to bed when they are not tired or else move into a single room, in an attempt to keep their energy bills down.

The UK government has every reason to feel embarrassed at this shameful state of affairs, especially since the ‘Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000’ is meant to eliminate fuel poverty by 2016 [3]. Worse still, a number of the UK’s main energy suppliers have decided Christmas will arrive early for them this year:

  • EDF announced they will raise prices for domestic gas and electricity by 10.8%, meaning its typical dual-fuel bill for a direct debit customer will rise by £122 to £1,251 a year.
  • SSE, which trades as Southern Electric, Swalec and Scottish Hydro, increased its tariffs by 9% on October 15, the same day as Scottish Power announced plans to hike bills by an average 7% from December 3.
  • British Gas will impose an average increase of 6% affecting 8.5 million customers from November 16, with Npower planning an average rise of 8.8% for gas and 9.1% for electricity from November 26.

The government previously estimated that the total number of deaths relating to fuel poverty in the UK at 2,700 a year, but according to Prof. Christine Liddell (University of Ulster), some 7,800 people die during winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes properly. This figure suggests that there are 65 such deaths a day [4].

In the mean time, the government has responded by suggesting consumers ‘Switch utility providers and use price comparison sites’ – hardly a possibility for the computer illiterate pensioners who make up those most in need.

At the present time the government has budgeted £7.3bn for elderly social care in 2012, whilst the budget for overseas aid in 2013 is projected to be £11bn, ring-fenced by the philanthropic Mr Cameron. Both sums are large, but why should Mr Cameron be prepared to spend more on foreign aid than combating poverty within the UK’s borders? It is not a question of one life being more important than another, it is about dutifully serving his fellow countrymen, or (if one wishes to put it clinically) assisting British taxpayers who have paid money to the state all their lives, trusting that when they need assistance in turn, their taxes may well help them.

It is not even remotely cynical to suggest that committing £11bn in foreign aid is much more glamorous to career politicians like Mr Cameron than it is committing the same amount to help the vulnerable at home.

Domestically, Mr Cameron and his cross-party kin preside over a flat-lining economy, a crumbling society, a decrepit rule of law, an increasingly undemocratic politics and a talent for populist policy (which never comes to fruition either).

On the international stage, however, Mr Cameron has a chance to radiate statesmanship and policy. Whether it is preaching democracy in other countries, demanding the cessation of conflict, insisting that important things are attended to, or patronising third world countries with the British taxpayer’s money, there is a chance to cast himself in the role of a world leader.

It is all sound and fury, signifying nothing, but what else might one expect from the likes of Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg, who have only ever seen their parliamentary careers as an apprenticeship to their entrance on the world stage. Whilst their future (like their past) will be comfortable and they will never know what it is to endure, elderly men and women will have to suffer  all manner of indignities and hardships because they are less efficient political capital.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes

No you have not been out of the loop, nor is your memory failing you – the 2012 Lib Dem conference has been the usual blend of forgettable people and forgettable policies, save for those ones which are so brain-numbingly stupid that they leave one incredulous.

What has emerged out of the Lib Dem conference in Brighton is the Robin Hood rhetoric of easy/lazy policy making and demagogic politics, that is ‘take from the rich and give to the poor’. Cries like these, usually the stuff of the vacuous Ed Miliband to his ignorant tribal voters, are what one expects from sixth form or student politicians, not professionals. Quad erat demonstradum.

Mr Clegg made it quite clear that under his plans the wealthy top 10% of earners would be obliged to pay more to foot the bill for the feckless and for the poor decisions made by government. Thus, anyone earning over £50,500 would have the collection plate thrust at them with even greater eager righteousness than before by the Deputy PM and his league of crackpots.

Andrew Neil, quizzing the nature of this enterprise, pressed Jeremy Browne MP (yes, this man is an MP – a bag of boiling micturate has greater substance) on the point that the top earners already foot 55% of the UK’s income tax bill, asking in what way should the top 10% pay more? Browne, naturally, did not answer the question, instead deciding to deploy a dribbling, meandering response that puts one in mind of the drunken ramblings of a village idiot [1].

Today, Mr Clegg has more sensibly suggested that those pensioners with over £1 million in assets could probably do without the universal benefits afforded to OAPs. This announcement was probably made to take the sting out of his previous proposal, but it leads to an essential point missed by Mr Clegg and the politicians of big government: the wealthy should not be penalised for what they have earned, rather the government should better apportion, spend and invest the money it has at disposal. It is not the job of high earners to take care of or bail out the state because it is incapable of balancing the books.

It is a skewed understanding of ‘fairness’ that is preached by the Lib Dems and those operating on the left. The Lib Dems cannot talk of a fair(er) society since none of their policies connect with the real world that they are meant to serve. A fair society should no more penalize the wealthy for their money than they should the poor for their lack of the same.  For the Lib Dems, a fair society is finding any way they can to fund the realisation of their mandate, one which promises the ongoing ruination of the UK.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes

The Lib Dems are a party of such remarkable irrelevance that it is worth reminding oneself of why this is the case.

The Huffington Post (UK) recently reported that LibDem MPs claim the British public as ‘a grotesquely distorted view’ of Europe [1]. The article cites the conclusion made by Lib Dem politicians which conclude that this is the result of a ‘obsessive focus by some on the worst aspects of the EU’ [2].

The report scorns Mr Cameron’s veto of the EU fiscal compact treaty in December suggesting that it will damage the UK’s influence and put distance between the UK and decision-making within the EU [3]. The Lib Dems will no doubt be glad that, even were this the case, the EU will not be putting any distance between itself and its ongoing effort to exert its unaccountable powers over the UK.

Mr Cameron is not alone in being targeted. It is suggested that the EU itself is imperfect and that reform is required, but it also remarks “The vast majority of MPs have little or no engagement with substantive EU matters at all. The level of understanding of how the EU operates and Britain’s role within it is staggeringly low and the awareness of EU policy developments practically non-existent.”

The Huffington Post quotes Robin Niblet, the director of think-tank Chatham House, who argues  that greater UK integration with the EU is  ‘the best choice for the UK, in light of both the compelling economic case and the strategic realities inside and outside the EU.’

The wearisome views espoused by this beleaguered and defunct party should be treated with the same contempt with which they disdainfully conceive of the electorate. Consider the views of one of their Goebbels impressionists, Graham Watson MEP, who during a debate with Nigel Farage remarked that the ‘EU is doing remarkably well’ – in the same way the village idiot does well when they mark an ‘x’ to sign their name? Mr Watson’s propaganda typifies the Lib Dem attitude towards Europe, one guided by misplaced ideology and wishful thinking as opposed to anything practical or substantiated.

The Lib Dems’ report, for all the figures it proposes and the ideological whimsy is commits itself to, misses an essential point. If something works and functions correctly then its usefulness becomes obvious and dependency upon it, a natural reflex.  If the EU was not the dysfunctional institution it has proven itself to be, its benefits should and would be obvious to voters. That they are not, that the structural integrity of this unelected body is brittle, that its politicians are seen to be at a remove from the people and lives they claim to represent, must then be the fault of the institution.

The Lib Dems talk of EU reform in the same vague and insincere way that associates reunited by chance suggest they must meet up some time and go out for a drink. Their recommendations are entirely cosmetic. They do not suggest that the EU is awash with vested interests and unelected persons creating and enacting legislation, nor do they address the years of un-audited accounts, the grossly inflated sums spent on entertainments and gifts, nor do they address the non-existence of a link between taxation, representation and expenditure at Brussels level. [4] ‘How quickly nature falls into revolt | When gold becomes her object.’ [5]. That democratic precepts such as these are not attended to by the Lib Dems or the EU itself is enough to ensure that this engorged institution and the Lib Dems as a party are both seen as obscure irrelevancies.

When it comes to a domestic agenda, the Lib Dems are no less unsuccessful. Why should this be so? Their collective non-identity formerly presented the electorate with an opportunity to dispose of their vote in such a way as to protest or remain neutral – no one actually meant for them to get into power. Unfortunately this party, which has been untested in government for over a century, has shown itself to be as incapable in governing. Daily their pledges crumble like burnt paper, lit by their senior partners or consumed by the flames of their wishful thinking, as ideology always combusts when it is oxidised by reality. As leader of this anonymous and insubstantial band, it is little wonder that Mr Clegg failed to make an impression in any capacity.

It is suggested that an alliance with the Conservatives in the wake of the 2010 hung parliament was an unnatural cohabitation of two diametrically opposed parties, but this supposes that the Conservatives were pursuing a conservative agenda which they were and are not. To secure this deal, both parties offered concessions which were probably not conducive to core members. Of these concessions, by far the most uncomfortable one for Mr Clegg was his party’s abandonment of the abolition of tuition fees, which now amount to the princely sum of up to £9000 p/a. This is quite a significant turnaround and he was widely ridiculed for it. Certainly there remains an element of excess in the attacks heaped upon him  –  find me an opposition party that has not reversed a specific pledge once it attained power, or in some cases the other way around. Mr Cameron’s ‘cast-iron guaruntee’ of a referendum on Europe? Labour suddenly deciding in opposition that they no longer agree with the idea of academy schools? The list is endless.

What characterises Mr Clegg and his party is their extreme imprecision. Take remarks Mr Clegg has made in support of gay marriage: ‘your freedom to love who you choose is a fundamental right in a liberal society’ [6]. Many, I’m sure, will exhale with relief knowing that love is endorsed by Mr Clegg and his kin, but this misses the point: love and marriage may go together, but they are as different as are a horse and carriage. Once again, we see a politician giving leave to emotional rather than articulate responses.

If it is not imprecision, it is that old chestnut of hypocrisy that helps undo Mr Clegg, Of his desire to reform the House of Lords, he writes:

As you read this I am with statesmen and dignitaries from more than 100 countries at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. There are leaders from countries with a wide range of different democratic systems and almost overwhelmingly they are united by one belief: that the people who make the laws should be elected.It seems bizarre to think that, in Britain in the 21st century, that should still be a controversial statement, and yet the majority of politicians in our own Parliament are not elected. They sit in the House of Lords, a body of appointed politicians that is growing at a startling rate and has no democratic mandate. [7]

Do these remarks not describe the EU with unintended exactitude? How does Mr Clegg square his desire for democratic reform with his refusal to allow the British people a referendum on the EU? Formerly I had a degree of sympathy for Mr Clegg at having to suffer the indignity of being attacked by the House of Commons’ most senior student politician, the odious Ed Miliband; but when he is as fatuous and openly inconsistent as this, he deserves ridicule and contempt.

In concluding, though it may seem a little late, one must remember that there is little benefit in getting worked up about this report or the Lib Dems attitude towards public opinion; instead, it is worth remembering public opinion of them. At the last General Election they received only a 23% share of the vote, a figure not so much in diminution but free-fall in recent times. On almost every subject the Lib Dems have nothing important to say; even before they get to policy, their share of the vote is so low it should be enough to impress upon them their irrelevance.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes