Friday, 10 October 2014

A plague on at least one of your houses

So, we've had a couple of by-election results. In one place, Ukip displaced the Conservatives, to gain its first MP. In the other, Labour held on to its seat by a narrow margin, with a Ukip surge pushing the Conservatives into third place. The supposedly neutral BBC have been presenting the narrow Labour win as a "Labour leadership crisis" story, echoing Ukip's claim that they've shaken up the whole of British politics and present just as much of a threat to Labour as they do to the Conservatives.

I'm not so sure. Labour only won by a narrow margin in Heywood and Middleton, but they won. In the 2014 by-election, Labour won 40.9% of the votes cast. The last time the constituency went to the polls, in the 2010 general election, Labour got 40.1% of the vote. The number of votes cast for Labour was down this time (6,866 fewer than in the general election), but the overall turnout for the general election was much higher (17,653 more people cast a vote in the general election than in this by-election).

Now look what happened to the Conservatives. They won 12.3% of the votes cast this time round, down from 27.2% at the general election.*

Wikipedia 1, BBC,0

Ukip, the ravening beast from the conservative id, is taking bites out of both major parties, but it looks pretty clear to me that it's taking far bigger lumps out of the Conservatives, which doesn't surprise me at all, given that it's a party largely led and funded by ex-Conservatives, built around a set of policies which mirror the narrow obsessions of a vocal sub-section the Conservative party.

I also noticed that Douglas Carswell, the Ukip victor in the other by-election did even more to Toryfy the Ukip brand with a victory  speech which was supposed to sound disarmingly emollient and inclusive, but instantly brought to mind The Blessed Margaret's 'Where there is discord, may we bring harmony' speech.

I've always thought (and hoped)** that Ukip would damage the Conservatives more than Labour and, so far, I'm  feeling vindicated. Mind you, I might have to revise my opinion of Jacob Rees-Mogg, after mocking him for his panicky call for the Conservatives to 'get into bed' with Ukip.

The imagery might be icky (the mental picture of Cameron - or Johnson, or May - and Farage in bed together, even in a platonic Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise sense, calls for industrial quantities of mind bleach), but his article shows that he's at least aware of the threat that the newly-independent provisional wing of the Conservative Eurosceptics poses to his own party. So maybe he's not quite as big a twit as he looks.

Well, I think I've done my bit to rectify the almost total lack of unsolicited opinion and political insta-punditry on teh Internets, so my work here is done. All part of the service, you're very welcome and so on...

*The figures for the Lib Dems show an even more dismal slump, although it seems unlikely that many disappointed former Lib Dems would find Ukip as homely as ex-Conservatives.

** Not that I think there's anything else remotely good about the rise of this pointless party of resentment-fuelled golf-club bores.


Update - a belated scan of my blogroll shows that some others haven't been taking the "Ukip coming second = Labour leadership crisis" spin at face value, either.