From the Telegraph:
On Thursday, the British public goes to the polls. One thing is for sure: voters are in a mood to punish MPs from all the main parties for their venality, arrogance and, in some cases, dishonesty. Inconveniently, however, these are not Westminster elections. The candidates are standing for the European Parliament or local councils. Their expense claims are not yet a major issue and, in theory, the scandals uncovered by this newspaper have only limited bearing on the elections.
But let us be realistic. The European Union and local government will not be uppermost in many people's minds as they reach for the pencil in the polling booth. For staring out at them will be the names of the main political parties to which greedy MPs belong. After weeks of eye-popping revelations about a system of expenses which was disgracefully lax, even when it was not being abused, how can we expect voters not to react in some way?
One strong temptation will be to vote for one of a range of minority parties, some of which are sinister or silly, while others have fresh and thought-provoking ideas. In normal circumstances, some Eurosceptics might be tempted to vote Ukip, while libertarians might plump for the (also Eurosceptic) multinational party Libertas. Middle-class environmentalists might decide to desert the Liberal Democrats in favour of the Greens, newly endorsed by Joanna Lumley.
But we do not live in normal times. The executive and legislature of the United Kingdom are effectively paralysed by revelations of shabby behaviour, on a scale that has shocked all but the most diehard cynics. The European and local elections offer an opportunity for a protest vote, a vote that expresses disgust at the moral collapse of an entire political class. But there is only one meaningful protest that the electorate can register at the polls, and that is one that helps force the Government to call a general election in the near future. And that excludes voting Ukip.
The recent history of Ukip raises serious questions about its competence, to put it mildly. The fiasco of Robert Kilroy-Silk's involvement with the party was just one of many bouts of vicious infighting. It has sought to make capital out of the expenses scandal, but is itself no stranger to financial controversy. One of its MEPs, Ashley Mote, was expelled from the party and later jailed for benefit fraud. (He hopes to appeal the verdict.) Another MEP, Tom Wise, is facing prosecution for alleged false accounting and money laundering relating to his EU expenses. He denies the charges. Meanwhile, one of its most distinguished former supporters, the economist Tim Congdon, has left Ukip, claiming that it has been "captured by the European institutions" and neglects its British Eurosceptic supporters. More worryingly, as this newspaper reported last weekend, it has "become a haven for elements of the far Right". In David Cameron's phrase, it attracts "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists".
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