The Politics of ...

The Politics of ...

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Hope Blister

I hope Britain gets what it deserves. Whether that is a better country or one facing a bleak future is where hope becomes a scary thing.

Part of me hopes that whatever the outcome of the General Election, people are happy with it, because if they’re not the following five years could spell the end of life as we know it today (and, really, I’m not being melodramatic, £12billion of planned cuts proves that).

Hope is full of fear and trepidation because, as we’ve seen for the last five years, one man’s happiness has far-reaching consequences – the divide between the haves and have nots has widened – officially. The ‘economic resurgence’ that Osborne assures us is around the corner, but not echoed by others, is highly selective with its bonuses – there are far more people not feeling this economic optimism and it’s being reflected in the polls.

The polls hold hope for just about everyone that isn’t the usual three. Green, UKIP and especially the SNP have benefited from more coverage and it will be reflected in results. The thing is, forget the SNP because there is a certain fait accompli about them, the Greens and the UKIP are going to do a lot more damage than people, pollsters and politicians believe…

I’ll tell you what I hope more than anything – I hope the mood of the nation hasn’t been misrepresented by the press because I have a horrible gnawing feeling that the turn out could be higher than expected and many voters are going to confound the experts.

The election no longer appears to be about policies and visions, it appears to have become a kind of weird Presidential Race, where the leaders of parties dictate the amount of support they will get.

Nigel Farage is many things, most of them arguably libellous, but he said something petulant recently that had more than a ring of truth about it. While accusing the BBC of bias and being left wing, he made the comment that people lie. Activists and militants – left or right – will manipulate procedures to get onto debate audiences, manipulate opinion, etc. Extrapolate that to polls and it is completely feasible that polls can have a greater degree of inaccuracy than offered, or even that the majority of people polled are already decided and might not reflect what the rest of their street feel or intend to vote.

All polls really do is give hope.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time over the last few months subliminally polling people. The election is a talking point and during an average day I will talk to a reasonably substantial number of people – dog walkers, people queuing at the post office, chatting to neighbours, in the pub and I’m building a picture in my head that should have Sally Keeble, Michael Ellis, whoever the Lib Dem candidate is and even Tony Clarke worrying, because if I had to put my poll of about 30 people quizzed in the last week up as any kind of reflection of the mood in Northampton, then Tom Rubython* – the UKIP candidate – is going to have a devastating effect on the vote in this seat.

Let’s put it this way – I have spoken to four people who say they’re voting Green (will make Tony happy); one Labour and the rest have declared for UKIP …

I sincerely hope this isn’t reflected in the election because UKIP could really decimate British politics yet barely win a seat. The effect of them, and to a lesser extent the Greens, on voters could see safe seats overturned and reopen the debate for Proportional Representation, especially if we end up with a minority government with 29% of the vote.

What I want to know is how people who don’t read newspapers, watch the news or politics programmes can form their opinions.

Take one of my neighbours. He has struggled with a damaged foot for the last four years and today he has it amputated. He is a self-proclaimed anti-Conservative. He hates them and all they stand for. He wants a party that will look after the NHS and gives the young a fair crack. So far so good. But he also wants less foreigners, because ‘they’ve caused so much damage to this once great country’. He hasn’t got a clue about the economy; he doesn’t want to know anything except how the NHS is going to be saved and who is going to get rid of all these Eastern Europeans and give their jobs back to people like him who can’t get jobs now because… He wouldn’t vote for that Miliband bloke because he’s a bloody immigrant himself and he hates Cameron because he’s a toff and doesn’t understand the common man. But Nigel? He likes Nigel. Nigel has his vote, even if it isn’t Nigel who is standing in Northampton.

Nigel wants to privatise the NHS, I protest. What if he does, at least it will be British. There was no point in arguing with him because like me, his mind is made up.

When I walk the dogs, I meet all manner of people and unusually politics between ordinary people seems to have become acceptable, almost an ice-breaker now and once where people would keep their voting intentions to themselves, in 2015 they don’t care if you know their fascist tendencies.
Did they watch the debates? No. 
Do they read a paper? No.
Watch the news? No.
What is it about Nigel that they like? He’s a man of the people. He understands the common people. He’s English.
You suggest to these people that he’s ex-Tory and that seems to galvanise him and them.
You struggle to debate with them because they don’t really understand the politics.
Nigel drinks beer, smokes fags, belittles the establishment – he’s everyman.

UKIP is Nigel Farage. People aren’t voting for their local candidate, they’re voting for Farage. If you abolished the monarchy tomorrow and had a presidential election – he would win because everyone would think it was him against the establishment; we all only say these horrid things about him because we’re scared of him.**

If ever there was grounds for a political fait accompli, Farage holds the key to it. What will the pundits and politicians make of it if UKIP split the vote so much that even safe seats suddenly hang in the balance. The ignorant – and I mean that respectfully – view UKIP as an alternative to Labour and its continued march to the centre ground; the wilful view UKIP as an opportunity. For racists, xenophobes and people who view the election as a single issue – immigration – UKIP is a shoo-in, because they’d be even more radical than the Tories.

If this scenario could happen, it should also worry the Conservatives more than Labour, because many Labour strongholds are considerably more UKIP proof than Tory’s would like their safe seats to be. UKIP works on the best way to sell your product – the oldest way – word of mouth; if you are not of a particular political leaning – one of the majority of floating or non-voters – then the passion generated by Farage’s ability to appeal to the silent masses gets their vote.

I see casual racism all the time, even if people aren’t even aware of it and something about the way UKIP has been legitimised by the press has made this extreme Nationalist party considerably much more palatable than the BNP, despite having incredibly similar manifestos. Oh and Nigel isn’t a violent thug.

I’d talk about UKIP policies but frankly they could have published The Beano and the number of people who intend to vote for them might have increased. This is the crazy thing – their ticket is immigration and pulling out of Europe because that’s the cause of the immigrants. No one voting for him gives a hoot about whatever they plan to do with the NHS, the economy, education, anything else, because he will deal with the only real problem they see. The root of all the other problems – get rid of them there immigrants and problem solved.

It is horrible simplistic politics and the damage it could do is unthinkable. There has never, especially in Northampton North, been a better time for tactical voting. I have the greatest respect for Tony Clarke, he’s an old friend and he should be involved in frontline politics; but he could split the Labour vote as severely as UKIP is going to dent Michael Ellis. David Cameron is hoping for a 1992 moment and the floaters will put their Xs next to a blue flag, because that’s what British voters have a tendency to do, but equally many of them might see UKIP as the best form of protest vote they can register and that throws this seat and many others into jeopardy.

Polls suggest a hung parliament with blue and red neck-and-neck on seats and the smaller parties holding the cards. It is quite reasonable to suggest that both the major parties could end up with as many as 20 less seats than forecast and with the Lib Dems facing a real wipe out, UKIP could become the third party by default and have as much bargaining power as the SNP.

Can you imagine that? We get an unexpected 65-70% turn out and pretty much 50% of voter go for a right wing party and 50% for a left wing one. What kind of country - what kind of future - would be have when half the electorate will have politics that is an absolute anathema to them? Especially if two extremes can form a government.

Tories will have it that any Labour government, whether propped up by someone else will destroy everything they’ve done. Everyone else will have it that another Conservative-led government would continue to destroy everything else they haven’t already destroyed and if you are poor or disabled you might as well kill yourself now.

Personally, I’d rather live in a society that views people as equals rather than one that has steadfastly and openly discriminated against the poor and disabled while making their billionaire friends richer.

*Presumably this is the same Tom Rubython that was going to stand for a Dorset seat in 2015 but stood down because of racist comments attributed to him. It is also presumably the same Tom Rubython that used to go by the name 'Batman Rubython' and was convicted of libel in 2006 and someone who can be linked to the infamous tax avoiders the Barclay Brothers. None of this is worth anything to the people who will or might vote for him because all they see is Farage.

** Oh and If you can think of a way to give an easy example of how to dissuade people from voting for a single issue that doesn’t really affect them, when they steadfastly believe that any dissenting voice is through fear and not through logic, I’d be pleased to hear it. I hope you can, because I hope I’m wrong about my UKIP fears.