Friday, 21 May 2010
None of the above (including UKIP)
An excellent critique of Farage, Pearson and the Buckingham campaign by Noel Lackland of the 'Critical Reaction' blog.
Devastating but true!
It Wasn’t the Squeaker We Were Promised
None of the above (including UKIP)
Now that he is on the mend, one can ask the question that many have privately asked, but which they have refrained from raising while he was in hospital, out of good taste and also because, bluntly, there have been more important considerations in the political world over the past ten days. But just what in heaven’s name was Nigel Farage doing aboard that plane on election morning?
The polling stations were open in Buckingham, where he was opposing John Bercow in what he had promised would be a hard-fought battle. The tried and tested, efficient way to achieve electoral success is to spend the campaign weeks canvassing for your pledges – identifying your definite or at least, if as desperate as Farage clearly was, your likely supporters – and then concentrating your election day resources ruthlessly upon them in order to maximise your vote. But while the pocket-sized Speaker was tearing round the constituency from dawn on May 6th in his usual fashion, UKIP’s ex-leader was many miles away at an airfield in Northamptonshire, posing for press photos (just in time for Friday’s local papers!) as he strapped himself up and all the while getting out precisely zero per cent of his Buckingham pledges.
It’s arguable whether or not trailing a “Vote UKIP” banner high in the skies around the Home Counties, as was the plan, could ever have been an effective polling day tactic, but, even if could have got the votes out, why did Farage have to be in the plane? Here was the man who said he would “professionalise” his party upon becoming its leader in 2006, neglecting the most elementary requirements of electioneering, the sort that a twelve-year-old could grasp, in order to indulge in what was, in terms of the necessity of his own presence, nothing but a jolly jape at best, and a vanity project at worst.
It’s little wonder that Farage, by his own admission, was so out of touch with the Buckingham voters, absurdly saying, ‘I wasn’t to know just how popular Bercow was with his constituents’, which could have come straight out of the Alex Ferguson Book of Lame Excuses. A quick glance at the archives shows that UKIP had stood candidates against Bercow in at least the two previous elections. Is Farage suggesting that his Buckingham party colleagues had gleaned absolutely nothing about their major opponent in all that time? On the evidence of his own approach to marshalling the vote, perhaps they hadn’t.
Worse still, Farage is so out of touch with Buckingham that, even after the event, he has managed to draw the wrong conclusion. In an election in which none of the major parties stood against the Speaker, over 24,000 people still chose to vote against him (and that’s deliberately not counting those who voted BNP). On any scale, that’s a lot of evidence against Bercow’s overwhelming popularity. The problem for Farage, about which he is conveniently saying nothing, is that two thirds of them chose to express that evidence next to a name other than his own.
Perhaps Farage is simply unaware of the result. Certainly the UKIP press office struggled to interpret it, declaring, in one of the most stupid pieces of spin imaginable, that Farage was ‘the leading candidate amongst the ten who had (challenged) Bercow … in third place behind John Stevens’.
The bigger issue which both Farage and his successor as UKIP leader, Lord Pearson, must address is this: May 2010 was truly the “none of the above” general election, the first in living memory when not one of the main parties could happily let the results speak for themselves. In such circumstances, UKIP ought to have been perfectly positioned as the leading “none of the above” party. If it was unrealistic to expect that it could have matched its vote in the last two European elections, when different factors were at play, it was not unrealistic to expect that it should have polled much better than the 3% that it managed.
But when handed the ball in front of an open field, UKIP, instead of running with it, immediately kicked it into touch. We had the bizarre sight, surely unique in electoral history, of its leader campaigning with another party’s rosette. Equally uniquely and equally bizarrely, Pearson also advised electors to vote for the Tory candidate in a constituency where his own party was standing. That was in Wells, where the Tory candidate still lost. Up the road in Stroud, Farage was doing his bit by backing another rival candidate, Labour this time, describing him as ‘a good egg’ despite the fact that he was shown to have tabled a Commons EDM calling for an EU directive to be tightened up and properly enforced. No matter, he lost too.
What sort of message were all these shenanigans sending out to the electorate? UKIP has long claimed to be the anti-establishment party, yet here it was, backing all sides of the establishment at its own candidates’ expense. One final clue to all this can be found by revisiting that strange interview given by Farage, post-crash (and you take that as a bad pun if you wish). He put his “miscalculation” about Bercow down to the Speaker being ‘somebody who is pretty unpopular amongst the Westminster set’.
And there you have the reason UKIP is missing its current opportunities, in a nice little nutshell. The Westminster set will tell you that Nigel Farage is a common sight around its watering holes these days, both inside and outside the House, a rather sad sight too, given that he sits in another ‘parliament’ a couple of hundred miles away. No wonder then that, on his own admission, Farage’s political antennae are attuned more closely to that set, that establishment, that elite, than to the ordinary voters in Buckingham and up and down the rest of Britain too.
The problem with politicians, these days, is that politics is all they know. That truism has been amply stated with regard to the new double act in Downing Street and to what is likely to be facing them across the dispatch box after the summer recess. But what is now becoming evident is the extent to which the “full-time” political web is ensnaring every party which gets anywhere near it. UKIP, once a gloriously bottom-up party, has been transformed by stealth into as lopsidedly a top-down party as any on the circuit, dangerously over-dependent on the money its MEPs bring back from Brussels and upon the insidious group system from which they derive still more Euro-funding. On the back of that, it gets a press office in the heart of the Westminster village, absurdly detached from reality given that it has no MPs in the Commons, because that is where the European Parliament, as opposed to ordinary UKIP members, says its press office should be – though Farage’s rather pathetic wannabe inclinations, it must be said, do not help.
Of course Farage is guided by the Westminster set. He’s part of the Westminster set. And when it comes to the political establishment, UKIP, sad to say, isn’t part of the solution – it’s part of the problem.
To see the original: LINK