24/11/2014 Leave a comment
Stayed up last Thursday night to see the result of the Rochester and Strood by-election, absolutely fascinating for a number of reasons but at one point I tweeted about the slowness of the count and how I recalled many an evening on my feet watching other equally slow counts and was so pleased to be on my sofa for this one, flicking as I did between the BBC and Sky coverage to stave off the boredom.
Firstly as someone interested in the use of social media it still surprises at the increasing importance of these things, quite quick and easy to use and to make mistakes, particularly for Labour’s shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry who ended her shadow ministerial career with one of the shortest tweets possible and a picture. Crass, yes and apparently Ed Miliband was ‘Professor Angry’ not so much for the picture or words but because it touches at their real sensitivity about UKIP’s lesser success but still very worrying for Labour in gaining a tradition Labour working class vote in addition to the conservative right flank. Not to mention in a by-election where they hoped the headlines would be about UKIP and Conservatives but it turned out that they had the front pages to themselves, you just could not make this stuff up!
But if you look at it another way it is even more damaging, to me the of the reasons some people are voting UKIP is not Europe, not immigration but because they look a bit more real and human that the Westminster Parties, they are not always on message, they make mistakes and some people like them for it, some people can more easily identify with them and that is important in politics, of course Farage knows and drives this home on a constant basis, but such an overreaction to one tweet rather makes the point for him.
The turn-out at 50.67% was high for a by-election but well below a general election, the truth of the matter is that at the 2010 election UKIP failed to carry forward their 2009 European Election vote share, in May 2015 it will be fascinating to see if it holds this time as the general election arrives and importance of keeping Labour out hits home.
Speaking of making mistakes, this week Mark Reckless was not beyond making a gaff himself having to ‘clarify’ his words on what would happen to European migrants if the UK withdrew from the EU, not that it overtly hurt him at the ballot box, which is my earlier point. However it’s interesting how these things are always expressed in terms of Europeans living and working in the UK (and of course what they really mean is ‘taking our jobs’) and little is spoken of the millions of Britons who live and work in Europe including a couple of my mates and their families, a small but important point, ‘quid pro quo’ and all that?
During the course of the count Sky interviewed the Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett whom I shared a platform with a couple of weeks ago and as she spoke, her words seemed to confirm that the Green Party seem increasingly to be positioning itself to the left of Labour.
Mark Reckless won but not of course with quite the sensational result of Clacton, but hey he’s no Douglas Carswell is he, nor is Rochester the same as Clacton, one small silver lining was of course the Liberal vote collapse with them getting dangerously close to polling less than the Monster Raving Loony Party.
There is no doubt that UKIP do struck a cord with many people but in the white heat of a general election I suspect UKIP’s lack of a broad range of actual policies will, in part, be their undoing, equally as much as UKIP would like the election to be about immigration and EU membership, it won’t, it will predominately be about the economy and on that issue the Conservative message could not be stronger and Labour’s could not be more scary! Having said that it does increasingly look that, as life gets more complex, so does our politics and over the next few months the potential and debate about the smaller parties to be king makers on May 8th will have as much air time as the economy, Farage will argue that UKIP can hold the balance of power, so vote UKIP, but he will simply not have enough MPs with other bigger parties far more likely to be the king makers, whatever happens the next 7 months will be fascinating.