Today, all freedom-loving people are UKIP
If His Grace were resident in Rotherham, today he would vote UKIP. Not because he agrees with all of their policies (see here); not because they’re more intuitive conservatives (see here); and certainly not because they’re necessarily any nicer than Conservatives (indeed, there are utterly repugnant people in both parties, for in politics it rains on both the unrighteous and the even less righteous).
No, today His Grace would break with his life-long political allegiance because Rotherham has become a microcosm of overbearing statist bureaucracy, illiberal interventionism and egregious political correctness. When a local authority presumes to remove vulnerable foster children from two loving parents solely on the basis that those parents are members of UKIP, all freedom-loving people everywhere must realise that we are all UKIP, or we are all in chains.
Nigel Farage has his faults and detractors, but no-one can doubt the fact that he has steered his ship to double-digit delight in many opinion polls, often surpassing the approval ratings of Nick Clegg and the ‘official’ third party in UK politics. This high tide of support is overwhelmingly coming from despondent Conservatives, who ae slowly waking up to the fact that David Cameron is actually more Social Democrat than Conservative; more third-way Blairite than convicted Thatcherite; and, for all the glorious rhetoric, just as Europhile as the most enthusiastic of his prime ministerial predecessors.
If UKIP were to develop anything like the LibDem machine of local activism, focusing on community priorities to take seats in local government, they would be well on the way to winning seats in Parliament. But they don’t think strategically: their scatter-gun approach is damaging the Eurosceptic cause just as much as Cameron’s obsession with ‘modernisation’ and ‘detoxification’ are clouding conservatism and alienating Conservatives by the thousand. Apparently, even if it were to be offered, there will be no election 'pact' with the Conservatives until Cameron has apologised and been replaced as party leader. How are such dogmatic ultimata in the national interest?
Nigel Farage’s decision to stand in Buckingham against Speaker Bercow was more theatre than politics. And his show was a flop, especially considering the number of (former) fishing constituencies which are crying out for a concerted UKIP campaign tour around their decimated/eradicated industries. With the right candidate, UKIP could win there. But they have neither strategist nor strategy: there is no UKIP Lynton Crosby, as there is no dedicated core of local activists with the time, means or tenacity to think and plan patiently in long years rather than simply entertain over a few ephemeral weeks.
Recent by-election polling has been encouraging, but a loss is still a loss: a national electoral breakthrough remains something of a distant dream. Or perhaps not too distant, for 2014 sees the next round of Euro elections and, this being the only election when people are thinking about ‘Europe’ more than health, education, the economy, law and order and immigration, UKIP might well top the poll. In 2009, they came second to the Conservatives, so it’s not at all inconceivable, especially if they were to become the repository of those thousands of protest votes which traditionally went to the LibDems. The death of the yellow parrot may be good news for the purple meerkat.
So, to Rotherham, and today’s parliamentary by-election. It has been safe Labour territory since 1933, and the shame of Denis MacShane would not ordinarily have been sufficient to wrest the seat from whichever donkey-with-a-red-rosette was selected to stand there. But the UKIP fostering row has changed the perception of Labour in its white, working class heartlands, which are already grumbling about the rising number of Eastern Europeans taking their houses, jobs, dentist appointments and school places. And people don’t like an officious council bully, especially when children are involved. Where two or three are gathered together in political disaffection, there is UKIP in the midst of them. The electorate might even now prefer a crank, gadfly, fruitcake, loony or closet racist to any of the bland, uniform ‘mainstream’ candidates.
Did His Grace say ‘mainstream’? Ah, the real ‘third force in British politics’ has at last been recognised by inter alia Michael Gove, who has done more in a weekend to detoxify UKIP than David Cameron has managed in seven years with his own party. It is no longer sad, mad or bad to oppose mass immigration, reject multiculturalism or insist that marriage is heterosexual. It is no longer bigoted or backward to demand racial integration, selective education or low taxation. It is no longer extreme to wave the union jack, criticise the burqa or express a desire to leave the European Union. After the Olympic flag-waving fervour of this past summer, the people’s consciousness of sovereignty has resurfaced; patriotism has gone mainstream; nationalism is reasserting a political identity.
UKIP may profess a muddled libertarian philosophy, but their politics are increasingly coherently conservative. And no other ‘mainstream’ party is defending the liberty of the individual and freedom from the state. On the contrary, we appear to have a Conservative/LibDem coalition which is about to propose state regulation of the press. Enough of this. Today, in Rotherham, His Grace would vote UKIP.