Politics at By-Elections

There was quite a fun piece in the Telegraph by Asa Bennett and Laurence Dodds where they used statistics to demonstrate what any reduction in Labour’s vote in Oldham’s by election would mean if extrapolated right across the UK:

As they point out, this is not the way things work in the real world and no by election result can really be used to accurately predict the outcome of a General Election but it leads to some interesting thoughts…

A Comment

I posted a comment but of course, most of the people who comment on a regular basis in the Telegraph do tend to suffer from tunnel vision and write pretty much the same thing regardless of the content of the particular article. Pots, pans, bottoms, music, cars, dogs, horses, football or cricket, no matter the topic it is all the same to them.

“Interesting and amusing but by-elections like elections for the European Parliament are usually treated by the general public as a bit of a joke, only die hard activists think that they signify anything fundamental. Of course there is one other factor to remember and that is past voting patterns.

Traditional Labour voters just like their Conservative counterparts, do not “swing vote” although both may vote tactically. I suspect that if Labour’s vote is halved it would most likely be because their supporters didn’t turn out to vote.”

This elicited a comment from likely a UKIP supporter, the Telegraph comments section being the home of UKIP supporters and David Cameron ‘haters’. It always seems odd to me that as more instant abilities to comment have appeared both in this format, Twitter, Facebook and social media generally, the amount of inappropriate bile has risen to epidemic proportions. Still the following was the reply to my comment.

“I think the real point of this story is ‘how much of a threat are UKIP to the Conservative party?’.”

Light Switch

Sometimes we trundle along and are unaware that something has changed radically until ‘some trigger’ makes us realise that that actually, with regard to UKIP, the situation has already changed rather dramatically since the May General Election so my reply to that was as below:

“Not too sure that is terribly relevant at the moment. What UKIP represent in Oldham is similar to what the SNP means to Scottish voters who normally voted Labour, an “acceptable other vote” that doesn’t mean voting Conservative.

This was very common in the Southern England some years back when LibDem was the “acceptable other” in mainly Tory voting areas, voting Labour as the alternative was never going to happen. But for the SNP being a localized cult in Scotland only, if they were standing in Oldham, they would do well, better than the Tories too.

Because of current circumstances, the obvious failings of the EU over the Euro, Greece and migration, right across Europe nationalistic and anti-the-status-quo political parties are doing well, whether this turns into anything significant as a movement will depend on events over the next 2 years. So I wouldn’t advise UKIP supporters, even if they won the seat, to read too much into the result, its a by-election after all.”

UKIP is So Over…

Well I suppose that I should qualify that a bit but what I am really pointing to is the fact that prior to the 2015 election, UKIP were deemed a very big threat to the Conservatives, if not in the direct terms of gaining Tory seats from them but rather in terms of splitting the Right wing vote and thus allowing them (Tories), to lose seats to Labour or the LibDems.

The first thing was that whilst UKIP polled well nation wide, because of a lack of concentration in their support, only held on to the one seat that they had already courtesy of Carswell’s defection from the Tories in the previous Parliament. However it was a lot more than that, thanks to the Scottish electorate, Labour got virtually wiped out north of the border and the consequence was a Conservative majority Government, albeit with a very slim overall majority. Additionally, the LibDems took a big hammering UK wide.

Never the less, a majority was sufficient for David Cameron to get an IN/OUT Referendum on the Statute Book to be run by end 2017 and therefore, start discussions with our EU partners on reforming the UK’s relationship with the EU. Consequently and as originally intended, Cameron has ‘shot UKIP’s fox’ by delivering the Referendum that UKIP never could. Now at this point in time, one could reasonably expect that UKIP would still have a ‘position’ in terms of refuting whatever terms Cameron bought back from Brussels as “Not Enough !” But even here UKIP have become unlucky because things have changed to such a degree with regard to the EU that they may well find themselves left high and dry with the tide going out on them.

The Developing Game

There have been a number of issues where the EU has shown itself as incompetent and totally ineffective but even their foolishness in the way Greece has been dealt with and the glaring problems of the eurozone generally by themselves are hardly enough to make EU membership a burning issue for the UK electorate. No matter how passionate the UKIP or Pro EU lobbies get, the reality is always the same, it is probably only a minority issue that does not seriously engage the broader British public.

However that has all changed and by the strangest of coincidences which are worth looking at.

David Cameron spent a fair time in one to one meetings with the leaders of other EU countries, all of whom have to agree to any changes, exploring what ‘changes’ to the UK’s relationship he might be able to ‘get away with’. The resulting ‘demands’ amount to pretty minor changes truth to tell with no single stand out “Big Thing” he could present to the British public as being worth all the hassle of holding the Referendum and as one of his bank bench MPs said in the House, “pretty thin gruel”. The truth is that if that was that, David Cameron and the Conservative Party would be in pretty dire straights with his Right Wing loony boneheads giving him Hell but “Events” have intervened.

Refugees crossing the Mediterranean for a ‘better life’ in Europe is nothing new but then this year with Syrians finally giving up on any prospect of a life in their homeland have headed for Europe in their tens of thousands and in the process caused a vortex which has sucked in a whole rag bag of other nationalities, Afghan, Pakistani, Balkans, Africa any other Middle Eastern country and so on. The death of one child on a Turkish beach, the photograph of which went viral and started a gushing emotional outpouring across Europe and resulted in Angela Merkel, normally the most pragmatic of politicians, foolishly declaring Germany an open refuge ! The result was a Tsunami of people which has not abated yet even though Winter is now closing in, border fences have gone up everywhere, two of the Paris attackers are known to have travelled to the EU through Greece posing as refugees and Merkel’s poll ratings have plummeted.

Not just the Euro is still under pressure but also Shengen and the free movement of people too, even the most sanctimonious of countries have “temporarily” closed their borders. The UK meanwhile sees over +300,000 net immigration and mainly from other EU countries because of “free movement”, this will be the major issue in the UK Referendum.

What This All Means

Without going into all the arguments again because I have already expressed them previously on this site which amount to Cameron should be focusing on major issues that will reform the whole EU rather than more opt outs for the UK, the situation is that in reality all the other EU members should immediately agree with Cameron’s rather modest demands because they are piddling. However there is a fair chance that they won’t in large part because they are still in total denial about just how bad these past 18 months have been for “The European Project” and are yet to grasp how potentially terminal things are right now, let alone moved on to finding solutions. You can only “muddle through” problems for so long before you finally hit one that has to be resolved and you just can’t get round.

This brings me back to the reasons UKIP’s goose may well be truly cooked. If David Cameron gets a crappy deal from Brussels he can do one of two things:

Try and sell it to the electorate but giving his own MPs a free vote. As he has already declared his intention to stand down before the next election, he can afford to lose the Referendum, prepare to stand down and hand over to his successor leaving the Tory Party electorally intact with its “EU Ghost” finally laid to rest.

Do the opposite, put the deal to the public in the Referendum but lead the OUT vote on the basis that the EU didn’t take us seriously enough to cut a decent deal and therefore the one on the table he will not support.

In either case, the Conservative Party is home and dry with UKIP locked out altogether and it would be no better if Cameron got a reasonable deal from the EU and he recommended it to the electorate because then it will be down to the voters and last May’s results can offer little comfort there to Nigel Farage and his strange bunch of men and women. Whilst it would be better for UKIP if Cameron got a halfway decent deal that he felt that he could endorse which they could oppose happily, because other more significant reasons why the UK should consider leaving the EU that do not concern the “Little Englander” reasons much beloved of UKIP are emerging, their voice will only be one of many and not the leading one in the Referendum.

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