How sad it is that the racist vote continues to rear it’s ugly head. Canvassing has become a pretty full time occupation lately, but for the most part I am enjoying it. But every now and then (and twice on Saturday):
ME: ‘Hello, I’m Steve Guy, one of your Liberal Democrat cand…’
VOTER: ‘…and you can f*** off, because your lot won’t send the f***ing immigrants back!’
ME: ‘Err, no – thank you’. Walks off slightly depressed and ticks ‘ANTI’ column on canvass card.
One of the most commented upon threads in this blog is this one criticising the BNP. Most of the comments are full of spelling mistakes and look like they should have been written in green crayon – but just how many of these nutters are there?
Of course, we don’t expect anything else from the BNP. Despite the attempts to disguise themselves as a bona fide party concerned with Britishness and patriotism, most of us here know the kind of nasty people at the heart of the organisation and their true agenda. But something else I saw recently worried me more. A voter handed me a UKIP leaflet, with a banner headline which screamed ‘500,000 Immigrants’. The leaflet then went on at great pains to point out that UKIP were ‘not a racist party’. But the headline is clearly designed to appeal to the green crayon wielding brigade.
My message to UKIP is simply this, to claim not to be a racist party whilst clearly courting the racist vote in such an obvious way is just rank hypocrisy.
UKIP were the only British group in the European Parliament to vote against the enlargement to the EU to include Eastern European states. UKIP’s argument for this was that ‘a flood of migrants’ would come here seeking work which would be bad for our economy.
Knapman boasts about how he likes to buy British. So who do you think he has hired to carry out building work on his Devonshire mansion? It turns out that like that other arch-fruitcake, Kilroy, Knapman will take advantage of the benefits of being in the EU as and when it suits him.
Roger Knapman is employing Polish builders (able to work for him because of the enlarged EU) to carry out his work at half the cost of employing British builders.
If I was a raving Eurosceptic, and a member of UKIP (don’t worry, I’m neither) I would feel that Knapman’s position was untenable.
So UKIP want an apology after David Cameron called them ‘fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists’. Said Nigel Farage ‘let him tell us anything that we have said that could be construed as remotely racist, otherwise we demand an apology’.
So you admit to being fruitcakes and loonies then?
Robert Kilroy-Silk, the man who destroyed his media career with racist comments in his newspaper column clearly inhabits a strange and different world to the rest of us.
On May 6th, he released a vengeful press release against this former party UKIP quoting the BBC
‘UKIP, shorn of its most high-profile campaigner Robert Kilroy-Silk, has lost its deposits in at least 451 seats – costing it about £225,500’
Then on May 8th we had
‘it is evident that UKIP and Veritas are – almost under the radar – making steady gains in a hostile electoral environment. Seats fought over the last three elections have increased from 194 and 434 to 497, while the national share of vote has increased from 0.34% and 1.47% to 2.38%, with deposits saved increasing from one in 1997 to six in 2001 and 45 in this current election’
So which is it Kilroy? Are UKIP stranded without you or are they making steady progress? Bob Davis, UKIP candidate for Wycombe, accused the other parties of having a ‘conspiracy to keep Europe off the agenda’. I attended two public hustings meetings in Wycombe where all the questions came from the floor. The reason we didn’t talk about Europe was because it never came up (although Bob tried to get it into every answer: ‘what do the panel think about Council Tax rises?’ – ‘well, if it wasn’t for Europe…’ yawn). The simple fact is that while there are important issues that need resolving (CAP, the Constitution etc etc), UKIP and Veritas don’t have any rational contributions to make. Their ‘nuclear option’ of pull out and to hell with it would send the pound through the floor and most of Britain’s top businessmen out onto a window ledge.What is self-evident is that UKIP and Veritas are the political equivalent of the Flat Earth Society – single issue politics with no firm grasp on reality
The dust is settling over the results. The counting is over and the psephologists will pick over the bones and make their pronouncements. If a week is long time in politics, then it is an eon until the next general election. In the meantime, we are where we are – what does all this mean?Blair has been returned to his post, but with a very poor mandate. Only 36% of the electorate who turned out still supported him. Questions of trust have not been adequately answered, and in areas where Labour have lost seats both to ourselves, to the Tories and to Independents like George Galloway, local parties wil feel that Blair has cost them dearly. Here in Bucks, Labour now only have two County Councillors left. Speculation about his leadership will not go away. He claims to have listened to the electorate – but has he? Blunkett’s speedy rehabilitation after only five months smacks of ‘business as usual’ for Tony and his cronies. The first battle in the new house will be over ID cards, and there are rebels in the depleted Labour ranks. I would have liked a still-smaller Labour majority, because I fear that Labour will press ahead with it’s authoritarian agenda. Britain had an enviable reputation for civil liberty – and it’s going to be threatened still further by this administration.
The Tories will claim progress, but in reality they have stood still while Labour has lost ground. They have proved once again that they remain firmly rooted in the past. Their rhetoric and their policies look outdated and irrelevant. The world has moved on. They still have less seats and less influence than Michael Foot did. That is not progress. That Michael Howard swiftly fell on his own sword is not surprising. He has failed to do any more than capitalise on the falling Labour vote at the margins. The Conservative campaign was negative and unpleasant. They have done nothing to dispel their ‘nasty party’ image and seem to have learned few lessons from their years of exile. They are held back by the very people who destroyed the Major government – the right-wingers, the eurosceptics and the moneyed. Chatting to Tories at the count I asked why they wouldn’t move to a moderate leader who was electable – like Ken Clarke. I was told that the party rank and file would not accept that. Well the party rank and file need to wake up and smell the coffee. It’s 2005 and the world has (thankfully) moved on.
Liberal Democrats have most cause to celebrate. Despite an electoral system heavily stacked against us, we have made steady progress both on share of the vote and number of seats held. But we must not underestimate the challenges that still lie ahead. There are lessons to be learned – particularly on the amount of resource we aimed at our ‘Tory decapitation’ strategy which largely failed in the South. We must choose our targets more wisely – having regard to both national and local trends. Yet we made gains where they weren’t fully anticipated. There is huge public sympathy for our cause among many sections of our society. We have to be intelligent about harnessing that support to ensure that we continue to move forward. Above all, we must never be tempted to compromise on our principles in order to be more popular. One thing that people tell me time and again on the doorstep is that we seem more honest than other politicians. If you want better public services or a better deal for pensioners, it has to be paid for. We may have lost a few votes from the selfish over our tax proposals – but we won many more from the fair-minded.
The verdict on the electoral system is once again damning. In Wycombe, more than half of the voters voted for a progressive candidate – but they got a Tory. On Bucks County Council, the voting shares were similar, yet we have 44 out of 57 Tories running our local services. The same system that works for Labour in government works against them in Bucks. Many people will feel once again that their vote was worthless. Forget postal voting – if we want higher turnouts, we have to convince people that every vote counts. We demand electoral reform in this parliament.