Yet Another Tory Defects to UKIP

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And she did it in style too, ambushing the Prime Minister at the Tory Party spring forum (which is their spring conference).

Here’s the BBC description of it:

Mr Cameron failed to win over a former general election candidate and local councillor called Victoria Ayling, who ambushed the prime minister as he left the venue to tell him that she was defecting to UKIP.

After party aides moved her aside, she explained that there is a new phrase in Tory circles: “After a couple of pints, a lot of Conservatives are UKIP.”

“I suspect there will be a lot more defections,” she added.

Ms Ayling contested Great Grimsby at the general election in 2010. That’s Austin Mitchell’s seat, and she nearly took it, boosting the Tory share of the vote by 6% to 10,063 compared with Mr Mitchell’s 10,777. His share was down by 14%.

I’ve certainly seen the phenomenon she describes with local Tory activists here – except that they don’t even seem to need beer to express support for UKIP!

Welcome to UKIP, Ms Ayling. It’s great to have you aboard!

Rotherham Again – Time for Sackings

The media are full today of the story about the kids taken away from their foster parents because the foster parents belong to UKIP. If you think that was just journalistic misunderstanding, the Rotherham “Director of Children and Young People’s Services”, Joyce Thacker, confirmed it – and defended it:

“There are some strong views in the Ukip party and we have to think of the future of the children.

“Also the fact of the matter is I have to look at the children’s cultural and ethnic needs. The children have been in care proceedings before and the judge had previously criticised us for not looking after the children’s cultural and ethnic needs, and we have had to really take that into consideration with the placement that they were in.”

Asked what the specific problem was with the couple being Ukip members, Mrs Thacker told the BBC: “We have to think about the clear statements on ending multi-culturalism for example.

“These children are from EU migrant backgrounds and Ukip has very clear statements on ending multiculturalism, not having that going forward, and I have to think about how sensitive I am being to those children.”

She added that there was no issue about the quality of care the couple provided.

Pretty shoddy stuff. Ms Thacker surely ought to be “considering her position”.

Nigel Farage has, as you would expect, been scathing:

Actually it goes wider than that though. Remember a few months ago a story about the authorities (police and social services) apparently turning a blind eye to grooming of young kids by Asian men? Guess which local authority was at the centre of that scandal.

Yep, it was Rotherham.

This social services department clearly warrants a full public enquiry. They have very serious questions to answer about their culture and processes.

There is a by-election in Rotherham next week. Expect UKIP to do well if the Establishment follow their normal approach of trying to shut down any race-related debate before it even begins. Especially when the outgoing Labour MP stepped down after being found fiddling his expenses to the tune of £7,500.

With Friends Like That…

Another fun magazine cover: Lord Ashcroft
Image by Michael Pack via Flickr

Headline in the Telegraph: Michael Ashcroft, a “leading donor” to the Conservatives, has admitted they will lose the Corby by-election.

Mr Ashcroft is a former deputy chairman of the party.

Lord Ashcroft, a former deputy chairman of the party, said the Tories would “almost certainly” lose the Corby seat and could face the same result in similar contests with Labour at a general election.

Polling commissioned by the peer gave Labour a 15 point lead to take the marginal seat, with Ed Miliband’s party on 52%, the Tories on 37% and the Liberal Democrats on 7%.

In an article on the Conservative Home website Lord Ashcroft said: “The Conservative Party will no doubt put up a fight in Corby, but it will have its work cut out.”

“As things stand, we could expect to lose many similar marginals where Labour are in second place.”

“Voters are pessimistic about the economy, and are more likely to say the Government is doing badly than it is doing well; few think Conservatives share their values, will do what they say or are on the side of ordinary people.”

A few interesting things to note here.

First, by making this statement, Mr Ashcroft is clearly sabotaging his party’s campaign in the seat. I suspect he knows that very well.

Second, note those polling figures given by Mr Ashcroft. They add up to 96%. And UKIP are not mentioned at all!

Is that credible? In national opinion polls, UKIP have been snapping at the heels of the Liberal Democrats, polling between 7 and 9%. And this is a by-election. You would expect UKIP to do even better in a by-election. As commenters on the original Conservative Home article point out, the polling question was designed not to prompt votes for UKIP.

Third, note those weasel words at the end:

Few think Conservatives share their values, will do what they say or are on the side of ordinary people.

In other words, he is saying the people still think of the Tories as the nasty party.

The whole thing is a continuing example of that analysis that the Tories were defeated three times by Tony Blair simply because they were too Right wing.

And fourth, note that the Telegraph, unusually, has commenting turned off on that article. It seems that somebody, at least, in that paper is happy to help Mr Ashcroft with his campaigning.

It seems to me that Mr Ashcroft can see the Tories’ impending defeat in Corby. One of the reasons for that defeat is the wet Toryism, personified by David Cameron, that Mr Ashcroft has been pushing so hard. With public spending rising in real terms, with seemingly no vision of a future Britain with a smaller State, with defence cuts emasculating our armed forces, with our education system continuing unreformed. with Mr Cameron’s point-blank refusal to countenance keeping his promise of a referendum on EU membership, the blame for the Tories’ present sorry state lies firmly with people like Mr Ashcroft.

Mr Ashcroft, however, is trying to pin the blame for that forthcoming defeat on the Right. After the by-election, he expects to say that the reason the Tories lost in Corby was that they haven’t gone far enough off to the Centre/Left.

He is willing to undermine the Tory campaign in Corby to do that. That means he cares more about his own ideas about the direction the party should be heading, than he does about the party itself. He wants to smother the threat from UKIP, and at the same time pin the blame for the Conservative defeat in Corby on such real mainstream Conservatives as are left in the party.

People like Michael Ashcroft are the reason why UKIP is surging and the Tories are wilting. But of course, he is a “leading donor”, so the Tories are beholden to him.

Far from being a good lesson that the Tories need more “Cameronism”, the Corby by-election is a great opportunity for decent Conservatives to give Mr Cameron a bloody nose and remind him  he’s supposed to be a Tory. I suspect they will grab that opportunity with both hands. Expect a great showing from UKIP.

New Coke, New Conservatives

New Coke
Image by Like_the_Grand_Canyon via Flickr

The Telegraph reports an analysis compiled by Lord Ashcroft for the Tories, that indicates a third of those who voted Tory at the last election have now deserted the party.

The analysis includes a poll that puts UKIP on 9%, roughly neck and neck with the Liberal Democrats. That is pretty consistent with other polls that have been published recently. The poll puts the Tories on 31%. That is less than William Hague managed in the general election of 2001.

The article says:

The Tories are still seen as more competent in [economic management] and Lord Ashcroft’s research suggests they should focus on this rather than confusing voters with pledges about constitutional reform, referendums on Europe and an overhaul of the NHS.

Notice the approach there? The decisions on whether to try for constitutional reform, whether to address Britain’s EU membership, whether to reform the NHS, are not to be based on whether those things are right or not. They are to be based on what will win a few votes at the election.

It’s all tactical, all about grubbing for votes, and none of it about vision or leadership. So far so typical of the modern Tory Party.

Even on the tactics, however, Lord Ashcroft’s report misses the point.

The research also found that a majority of people believe the Liberal Democrats should have more influence on the overall direction of the Government.

Well, that isn’t really surprising, is it, considering the survey included supporters of the Liberal Democrats as well as Labour! Does Lord Ashcroft really think that Mr Cameron will win by deserting his own supporters and pandering to his opponents?

Mr Cameron is, we are told, a marketing professional. In that case, he must be familiar with the “New Coke” fiasco.

Pepsi had a marketing campaign based on the slogan, “the taste of a new generation”. They sponsored new rock music. They were trendy, and they were eating into Coca-Cola’s market share. The Coca-Cola management panicked. Pepsi was sweeter than Coke, so they changed the Coke recipe to match. They launched “New Coke”. The result? Their millions of loyal customers rounded on them. They were eventually forced to back down, and reintroduce original Coke.

David Cameron’s “New Conservatism” might be palatable to some on the left – but the people he wins by it are far outweighed by the loyal Tories he loses.

Wavering groups also need to be offered “reassurance” over the motives of the Tories, who still face problems with being seen as the “nasty party”.

Utterly pathetic. Of course Liberal Democrat supporters, the people that David Cameron wants to win over, think the Tories are “nasty”. Mr Cameron’s main approach has been to “detoxify” the Tories – I think that means remove people like me from the party – to make the party acceptable to the soggy centre, where, of course, Mr Cameron himself sits.

He is still pursuing that approach. It misses the point completely, for two reasons.

First, it has been successful in driving people like me out of the party into UKIP – and many more are defecting all the time. Regardless of the impact on the electorate as a whole, his activist base is being eroded by his strategy. The Tory Party is becoming steadily less able to fight election campaigns – and the expertise and experience of the defectors is being put at the disposal of UKIP, who are thus able to make their campaigns more and more professional.

I know from talking to many Tory activists and councillors, that most of them agree with UKIP on almost everything. The only thing – the only thing – keeping them from defecting is the belief that UKIP are too small to overhaul the Tories. As UKIP support continues to swell in opinion polls and real polls, they will increasingly question that assumption.

Second, the electorate as a whole tend to see very clearly when politicians tack whichever way wins them votes. Even if they disagree on some things, they will support a leader who seems to know where he is going, to have a vision for the future.

The media talk about Tory U-turns. The U-turns are in fact just a symptom of a leadership that has no clear idea where it wants to go. As events unfold and public opinion changes, they change with it. They end up looking weak and rudderless – and indeed they are weak and rudderless.

“U-turn if you want to – the Lady’s not for turning,” said Margaret Thatcher in that famous speech of hers. The majority of the country actually disagreed at that time with the direction she was taking – but they respected her for standing firm. Once her policies started bearing fruit, that respect remained and stayed with her for a decade.

David Cameron is hated by the Right for betraying Tory Party core values – and despised by the Left for not being true to himself. All he has left is the Centre. No wonder he clings so closely to Nick Clegg.

He is like the captain of a ship, steering straight for the rocks while concentrating on avoiding the seagulls around him. All his tactics, all the clever “ducking and diving” being urged on him by his advisers, all his U-turns and policy adjustments, all of that won’t save him – in fact, they are cementing his demise at the election.

The Tory Party that Mr Cameron leads is hollowed out. It cares much more about winning elections than about any principles, values or vision. It is long past its sell by date. Time to take it off the shelf and put it in the dustbin of history.

The Referendum Trap

Vote Now Show cake
Image by BBC Radio 4 via Flickr

There seems to be an unspoken assumption among all commentators, and even UKIP, that we couldn’t leave the European Union without a referendum. UKIP policy is to hold a referendum on EU membership, and recommend to the British people that we should leave.

Interesting.

Commentators generally seem to say that there needs to be a referendum for any major constitutional change. That simply is not true – there is ample precedence otherwise.

Ted Heath and the Conservatives took us into the European Union in the first place, without a referendum.

Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives passed the Single European Act, without a referendum.

John Major and the Conservatives accepted the Maastricht Treaty, without a referendum.

And Tony Blair and Labour accepted the Lisbon Treaty (EU Constitution), without a referendum.

The same thing has happened in other areas too. Membership of the House of Lords, for example, was reformed by Tony Blair’s government, and devolution was granted to Northern Ireland, in both cases without a referendum.

So there is a great deal of history that tells us referendums are not needed for constitutional change.

Why, then, did we have that referendum on the EU in 1975, and why did we have a referendum recently on the voting system?

The referendum on the EU in 1975 was called by Harold Wilson’s Labour government. It was a way to finesse internal party disagreements on whether to accept the decision of the previous Conservative government to go in. The government and the Establishment weighed in on the side of a “yes” vote. The “yes” campaign outspent the “no” campaign by 10 to 1. The Prime Minister of the day declared that there was no threat to British sovereignty, while knowing full well that was not the case. And the people duly voted to stay in the “common market”.

The voting system referendum was fixed from the start. Because he was in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, David Cameron had to face the issue of voting reform. But he chose an extremely strange version of proportional representation to put to the people. The AV system that he offered is used almost nowhere. And having chosen it as the system to offer, he then poured cold water on it, pointing out its eccentricities and that hardly anyone had adopted it. During the campaign, the “No to AV” campaign outspent the “Yes” campaign, and pretty much the whole Establishment campaigned for a “No” vote, mostly by subtle attempts to scare the voters off voting for change. The people duly voted to stick with “first past the post”.

Notice a pattern here? The truth is that referendums are not devices for ascertaining the will of the people.

In both cases, the referenda were used to silence dissent, by enlisting the support of a popular vote to prevent change.

Referenda are of course unpredictable. No Prime Minister can be completely certain of the result in any referendum. They are therefore a last resort. But if there is no other way for a Prime Minister to silence critics and avoid change, they can be very effective, as those two examples showed.

In the case of any EU referendum now, pro-EU politicians like David Cameron could manipulate the question to avoid a vote to take Britain out. They could muster the full power of the government (and indeed Her Majesty’s Opposition) to persuade people to vote to stay in. They could even rely on liberal dollops of funding from the EU itself to ensure the vote they wanted.

Even imagine an unlikely but not impossible scenario of a UKIP government being elected at the next general election. If that government called a referendum, the Establishment would still weigh in for a vote to stay in. A succession of “leading business people” would be wheeled out to express their extreme concern. Shadowy Bank of England figures would mutter darkly about the “risks involved”, while declaring that of course it was a decision for the people and not for them.

The EU would pour money into the “Yes to EU” campaign. The vote itself would be held several months or even a couple of years into the Parliament, allowing ample time for that UKIP government to become unpopular. In many ways the referendum would become a referendum on the government’s performance, rather than a referendum on the substantive question.

In short, the referendum would probably be lost.

That government would have fallen into the “referendum trap”.

Alex Salmond has already done so. Having won a convincing and surprising victory in the Scottish elections, he has now declared a referendum on independence. He may yet pull off a “yes” vote, but I doubt it. The vote will go against, and Scottish independence will be declared as “settled for a generation” and no longer discussed – just as voting reform has been.

Referenda are devices to stop change, not requirements before change is enacted.

We (by which I mean UKIP) should not be promising a referendum. We should be promising that a UKIP government would take Britain out of the European Union.

The 1980s, The Revolution and Today

 

Margaret Thatcher Statue  (Hillsdale College, 2008)
Statue of Margaret Thatcher at Hillsdale College Michigan – image by cseeman via Flickr

 

The Telegraph today has an interesting article by Sarfraz Manzoor, looking back at the 1980s.

The article talks about the polarised politics of that decade, about the Cold War which was then still raging, and about the new cultural phenomena of those times.

Mr Manzoor was eight years old in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher came to power, which he identifies as the moment the 1980s began.

I was 16. I had joined the Conservative Party two years earlier around the time that Mrs Thatcher won the leadership. I can remember listening in my bedroom to the result of the “No Confidence” motion that she put in the House of Commons against Jim Callaghan’s Labour government. She won by just one vote. How different things might have been if one of those Tory MPs had not been present!

The resulting election ushered in an era of huge change in Britain, of course. There was a massive sweep of privatisation and of deregulation. There was restraint on public spending growth (though not the “cuts” that are common perception).

There were the council house sales – in my opinion Mrs Thatcher’s most lasting legacy of change. They brought the middle classes and the working classes together really for the first time. At the beginning of the 80s those classes were using different toilets in the factory where they worked. By the end of the decade they were next door neighbours, since ex-council houses had become a standard first time buy for home-owners. This single reform did more to disrupt Britain’s class system and increase social mobility than any actions by the Socialists had ever done.

There was the close personal relationship between Mrs Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, that enhanced the alliance between Britain and the US, and helped Mr Reagan finally win the Cold War.

And I remember all the other things that Mr Manzoor talks about in his article – Madonna, Ben Elton, Steve Davies at snooker, and My Beautiful Launderette. Reading the article I was struck by the similarity between my recollections of the decade and Mr Manzoor’s. I am a white British man; he is a British Asian. And we have this shared history, as part of this shared country of ours.

True, he seems in his article to be more sympathetic to people like Ben Elton than to Mrs Thatcher. For me, Mr Elton and others like him were “the other side”, the people trying to stop our Thatcherite revolution.

Ironically, Mr Elton thought of himself as “anti-Establishment”, and yet he was fighting against the revolution. By opposing the revolution, he was effectively fighting in support of the class system and the traditional ways of doing things.

Mr Manzoor touches on this in one paragraph:

One can reduce the decade into a neat set of clichés as if everyone spent their time weighed down by giant shoulder pads, cruising the streets in a Sinclair C5 with a breeze-block-sized mobile phone stuck to their ear. The Eighties were more subtle and significant: there would be no Katie Price without Samantha Fox, no Lady Gaga without Madonna, no Simon Cowell without Stock, Aitken and Waterman and no David Cameron without Margaret Thatcher. The Eighties marked the death of one Britain and they hinted at another Britain busy being born.

Exactly so – except the bit about David Cameron. Because Mrs Thatcher’s reign did not end in glory. It ended in a counter-coup by the Establishment, who ousted her as party leader. She was replaced by John Major, certainly not a revolutionary (although Mrs Thatcher herself initially thought he would carry forward her legacy). And without John Major there would be no Tony Blair, or David Cameron.

The idea that David Cameron is the heir to Mrs Thatcher is risible. It is much more true to see him as part of the Establishment counter-revolution against everything that Mrs Thatcher and the 80s Tories stood for. That is why it is so important for our country’s future to destroy Mr Cameron’s premiership.

We started so well, we Thatcherites. We changed Britain for ever. Let’s not let that Establishment wreck what we worked for and send us all back to the cosy decline that she inherited.

The Establishment that fought against Mrs Thatcher from the first to the last has overrun once more the seats of power in our country. But it is not over. Their position is unsteady. The people are not on their side. The people have been empowered by the Thatcher revolution to speak up for themselves and not request, but demand that the government do what they want, not what those Establishment figures want.

I have said before that Nigel Farage is much more the heir to Mrs Thatcher than Mr Cameron will ever be. And that, in short, is why I belong to UKIP now and not to the Conservative Party. The fight we began in the 1980s is still raging, and I still have the stomach for it.

The Result of All That Hard Work

It’s finally election night. So here was my result (in a three-member Ward):

Adam Collyer (UKIP) – 245 (25.7%)
David Earles (Conservative) – 336 (35.3%)
Gloria Edwards-Davidson (Conservative) – 335 (35.2%)
David James (Labour) – 358 (37.6%)
Chris Long (Conservative) – 397 (41.7%)
Maureen Luke (Labour) – 379 (39.8%)
Andrew Piercy (Liberal Democrat) – 86 (9.0%)
Ken Ritchie (Labour) – 308 (32.3%)

Well done to the winners and commiserations to the losers. And many thanks to all who lent me their vote!