Monday, 17 December 2012

The British Tea Party?

UKIP definitely aren’t going to supplant them [the Conservatives] as the major party of the right, but they could definitely steal enough votes from them to make it very difficult for them to get a majority in Parliament.

The real sting in the tail, though, is that this could only really ever happen under First Past the Post. If we had a different electoral system – like, say, the Alternative Vote which the Tories worked so hard to (successfully) block – there’d be much less danger of this happening. So it’s possible that the Tories’ rejection of AV could end up destroying their chances of keeping hold of power. Wouldn’t that be beautifully ironic?
The Third Estate

It's going to take more than ditching its crummy pound shop logo to propel the provisional wing of the Mail Online comments section from headlines like 'Could Ukip finally win a seat?' to control of a sizable block of parliamentary seats in a mere couple of years or so.  It seems realistic to suppose that they might damage the Conservatives by appealing to the more reactionary elements of their fan base, without gaining anything like enough seats to supplant the Lib Dems as junior coalition partners.

Maybe we're witnessing the birth of the British Tea Party - UKIP as a social conservative lobby, determined to confound the plans of the hated "liberal elite", holding the major right-wing party to ransom. For all their economic extremism, David Cameron's Tory party does have at least an element of social liberalism. At present, I'm sure there are plenty of senior Tories who genuinely don't have a problem with anybody being female, or black, or gay, or disabled* - so long as they don't commit the unforgivable sin of being poor.

But could the fear of being deserted by Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells change all that? It might turn the Tories from a party that specialises in being nasty to poor people back into the good old fashioned general-purpose nasty party.

Which could be a very bad thing, if there are enough frightened, embittered people out there to vote for a party fuelled by spite and scapegoats, or a very good thing if their extremism and failure to move with the times condemns them to Mitt Romney-style electoral oblivion.

*They've at least moved on from 'some of my best friends are' [insert disadvantaged group here]' to 'I am [insert name of disadvantaged group here].' If that's not progress, then I'm the Duchess of Cambridge.