Gales View - 4th June 2014
are, historically, an opportunity for the electorate give the government a
kicking”. Politicians are never, and administrations very seldom,
popular. In the past it has been the Liberal Party or the Liberal
Democrats who have been the beneficiary of being perceived as what one elder
Statesman described as a home for disgruntled votes”. With the Liberal
Democrats in government, however, and with the official Opposition in
disarray, it has been the United Kingdom Independence Party” that has
mopped up these votes and, rather like David Owen`s Social Democratic Party (if
you remember them) has surprised itself, and caused consternation in the
Westminster Village and amongst the Chattering Classes, by seeming to sweep all
us in the House of Commons are expected to take a message from this and I do.
It may not, though, be precisely the intended signal that has got through and I
shall no doubt immediately be accused of arrogance and of missing the point”.
understand that the public have gone out and voted in significant
numbers for a party that includes a motley ragbag of malcontented former
and failed Conservative Party candidates and fellow travellers that embraces
some people who have, by their own twitterings and Facebook entries, been
revealed as racist, homophobic and otherwise singularly unpleasant. That
these people have, as each revelation has emerged (and more will follow) been
expelled from the party led by Mr. Farage is scarcely relevant. That they
should have been there in the first place is bad enough and suggests that, in a
desperate attempt to recruit the right” to its cause UKIP has attracted those
whose names should never have been allowed anywhere near a ballot paper. That
is dangerous and it is seriously worrying.
parties are not expected to have sophisticated and costed plans for government
because there is no prospect of them ever being required to deliver on anything
remotely representing a promise or an economic policy. It is enough for
them simply to take a broad-brush approach to immigration” or Europe” or
benefits” and to strike a chord with the basest of gut instincts amongst those
who feel hard done by or are simply just fed up with the government of the day.
Particularly, in this case, a Government that is perceived to have failed to
deliver Conservative policies. No matter that David Cameron and George
Osborne have picked up a basket-case economy, have steered us away from the
precipice and back on the road to recovery. No matter that Theresa May
has, after years of Labour`s profligate approach to immigration (which I first
warned of in August of 1997), made the first serious and successful
effort since Michael Howard to reduce net immigration under. No
matter that Iain Duncan Smith and his team have got to grips with a benefit
system that was spiralling out of control while seeking to provide fair and
affordable pensions for a population that is ageing. Forget the health
service reforms that might just save the NHS from bankruptcy and education
reforms designed to inject some serious standards and quality and meaningful
qualifications back into a discredited system. It is not what
governments have done (save for same-sex marriage about which my personal view
is a matter of record) that counts. It is, rather, the manifesto promises that
have not been delivered that is the focus of, I think, some rather ill-informed
The fundamental myth is that we have a Conservative government”. We do not. My
own political party lost the last General Election. As a result we
labour, in the national interest, under a coalition. While much that is
good has been achieved with to be fair, the support of the Liberal Democrats
there are items on our agenda for which the parliamentary arithmetic – and
votes are simply about numbers – do not stack up.
for example, a long way down the road towards reducing the number of
parliamentary seats and, therefore, the cost of parliament, to a number that
properly reflected the geography of modern-day Britain. In a fit of
pique, and having lost the referendum on proportional representation that they
were promised and that we delivered on, our colleagues in Government declined
to support the legislation. No deal.
We made a manifesto
commitment to repeal, in government, the Human Rights Act and to replace it
with a British Bill of Rights that more properly reflects our national
requirements. Again, the junior parliamentary colleagues in the Coalition made
it plain that on this issue they would side with the Labour party and defeat
the proposed legislation. No deal.
Finally, there is the thorny issue of the referendum. We did not, as UKIP
supporters have disingenuously claimed promise a referendum on the Treaty of
Lisbon”. We did undertake to submit the Treaty to a referendum provided that it
had not been ratified by Gordon Brown`s government prior to the last General
Election. Unfortunately, it was and that item was therefore not on the
agenda at all and was certainly not contained within the last Conservative
What we have promised is, given a Conservative majority government, an in/out
referendum on our continued membership of the European Union by 2017.
Why not before?” Parliamentary arithmetic again. A referendum requires a piece
of enabling legislation. Our young colleague James Wharton, with the
support of the entire Conservative parliamentary party from the man in Number
10 down, skilfully piloted the necessary bill through the House of Commons. It
was then killed off by an alliance of Liberal Democrat and Labour peers in the
House of Lords. No deal.
So back to the man with the ever-full beer glass and the perpetually burning
lighted cigarette. My own opinion, which I am lawfully entitled to
hold, is that a Mr. Farage, who cannot be an MP and an MEP simultaneously, does
not wish to be elected to the Westminster parliament at all.
First, voters in East Kent have become used to MPs that respond to their
problems and concerns. By contrast, my impression is that one of the ten
European Members of Parliament representing – I use the word loosely –
The South East has, in terms of constituency casework, never knowingly
been overworked and might just find the three hundred or so constituency
enquiries that we receive daily a trifle tiresome.
Next, there is the
matter of League”. Mr. Farridge” is used to being a big fish in a small
birdbath. He is unlikely to enjoy the Caroline Lucas” effect. Sitting on
the Opposition benches, where she might possibly be joined by a Mr. Farage, MP.
Ms. Lucas attracted novelty attention as the Leader of a new party for a few of
months before sinking back into the mire of anonymity that is a backbencher`s
lot. Nige”, the ordinary bloke”, used to being the star of the saloon
bar, might not care for that either.
And then there is the combined salary, euro-expenses paid in full to do with
as I see fit”, and the pension fund (which would be transferred to the UK
but for how long?) that add up to a comfortable lifestyle at your expense.
No, my hunch is that Mr. Farage will seek to do as much damage as possible by
splitting a Conservative vote while keeping in his back pocket the security of
a European Parliamentary seat. If I am wrong, let him have the guts to
renounce the European Parliament, take his chances like the rest of us, and
stand for Westminster. If I am right then North Thanet would be an ideal
seat for Le Farage to fight: he will not win but he would possibly have the
satisfaction of seeing a Eurosceptic Tory replaced by a europhile Socialist –
which is, of course, precisely the result that those who support his particular
brand of populism claim that they least want!