As I sit at Bristol Temple Meads preparing to head up to London it is 8.30 AM and just 7 of 34 councils have declared the local results from last night. But already it is clear that the ONLY clear winner is UKIP. There is little doubt that Nigel Farage’s party will make further big gains from the other 27 counts and that it is a triumph. But does it mean much?
The results are pretty spectacular given that four years ago UKIP stood in few of these seats. In other words they have come from nowhere. As things stand UKIP is on 42 seats (level pegging with Labour) and a net 42 ahead. The Tories are 66 down, the Lib Dems 15 down and Labour 30 ahead. Where UKIP has stood it has averaged 27% of the vote and should gain c20% overall – well ahead of the Lib Dems and not far behind Labour.
So what does it mean? The easy calls first.
Together with its abject result in the South Shields by-election (the worst by a major party since 1948) the locals are a disaster for Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems. There will be yet more angry beardy weirdies losing their seats today and calls for Clegg to go will be heard. To sacrifice your principles in pursuit of power (secret courts, gagging the press, etc.) is bad enough. To sacrifice your activist base with their cushy Councillors allowances as well is a disaster. It is hard to see the Lib Dems making anything other than big losses come the General Election.
Folks like my Dad had hoped that UKIP would take mainly Tory votes so let the Lib Dems win in all those traditional Blue on Yellow contests. But the Lib Dem vote has just evaporated going to Labour, the Tories, to UKIP in big numbers and just to nowhere. What is the point of the Lib Dems anymore? No longer a protest vote they have no principles either. Can it still be described as “one of the three main parties?”
Labour should have done marginally better. It has also lost votes to UKIP and also to “I can’t be bothered.” But in largely rural areas this was never going to be a night for big headline gains. It is probably satisfied enough given the problems facing the other “main parties.”
Call Me Dave’s Tories had prepared the ground for a disaster by saying that they expected to lose 350 seats. They will thus meet those low expectations and say “midterm blues, we are listening, blah, blah, blah.” Well maybe, but it strikes me that the results are pretty dire and UKIP is clearly eating into its vote.
It is all very well to say that this is just a protest. But I sense that the same people will protest in the same way in next year’s Euro elections. It might just become a habit for some of us.
And so to UKIP. It has done spectacularly well in terms of seat gains and its percent of the vote. It will gain more than 100 seats so confounding the polls. It is winning in Counties up and down the land although the results from Lincolnshire (where migrant workers are an issue) are a real stand out. Its activists are the only activists of any party to be en thu9sed and will be out recruiting and building up the party all summer. It is perfectly conceivable that by the end of 2014 UKIP will have more party members than the Lib Dems.
Will this ever translate into MPs? That is a harder call. But for a postal voting set up by the political elite to protect incumbent parties UKIP would have won Eastleigh and come close in South Shields. At this rate it will win a by-election at some stage.
The old parties dismiss UKIP as a protest vote, a party without policies and a home for fruitcakes, racists and assorted loons. They do so at their peril. On Question Time last night, David Starkey ( more on this later) was bang on the money when he described the anger at the failure of the established and quasi hereditary political and media elite to address the real concerns of we mere plebs while, ostentatiously living the high life at our expense.
I disagree with UKIP on immigration. But there is a debate that should be heard. However the main parties have closed down that debate by branding anyone who raises the issue a racist. That fat old career politician scumbag Ken Clarke was at it again last weekend.
On a day when Russian scientists warned that we now face a period of global cooling, I saw Alan Johnson dismiss UKIP as loons because they did not believe in global warming. Bloody hell the next thing you know UKIP will dare to suggest that the Earth is not flat. Bloody loons. Actually Alan, the loons are the political elite who have spent squillions and raised taxes for we mere plebs to fight Global warming on the back of bogus science. The elite just knew better. It always does. And that is why so many of we plebs hold you all in contempt.
Did I mention MPs expenses? Westminster is still packed with proven fiddlers – men and women who stole from the taxpayer. And I am told that UKIP are clowns or lectured that I am racist if I do not vote for parties lead by thieves?
And there is Europe. The UK clearly wants a vote now. Not in 2017. And we want to vote No. Yet the mainstream parties force on the mere plebs silly votes on voting systems or whether we want elected Mayors or on which nonentity will waste our cash as a Police Commissioner but deny us a say on this matter. It is too important and complicated for it to be left to the plebs.
And we are told that the TV debates in 2015 will feature the leaders of the three main parties only. This is a win win for UKIP. If it is allowed into the debate Farage will tear the three lightweight main party leaders to shreds. If he is excluded (given that it will win the Euro elections next year) that will clearly be a scandal and will ram home the point that the political elite want not open debate but simply to protect the status quo.
So yes, UKIP did well on protest. But if the main parties continue to support expense fiddling MPs and to ignore the wishes of the electorate on a wide range of issues and to clearly gang up on UKIP to protect the status quo, that protest vote will harden. The choice in the 2015 General Election will be between three parties offering candidates from the “beltway classes” and a basically pro-European social democrat platform and a refusal to address or discuss awkward issues. I cannot see why anyone would be enthused to vote for this and UKIP is now a credible fourth way.