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On Eastleigh, or the return of the right wing protest vote

David Cameron, before Michael Gove announced that his brand of liberal Conservatism was not for turning, has been heard saying that the way in which to look at the Eastleigh by-election results is as a protest vote. With this much he is right, but perhaps not in the way he imagines.

Firstly it should be said that, in spite of Gove’s words, the party is turning, probably in reaction to the rise if Ukip. Noting the emerging support for the anti-EU party it was no surprise that Maria Hutchings, herself against the EU and with a raft of other right wing boxes ticked such as opposition to gay marriage and past bigotry on asylum and immigration, was chosen to run.

Secondly, I won’t be told that the Daily Express headline at the start of the week (above) was a coincidence, showing David Cameron to say: I’ll Stop Migrant Benefits. The Tory spinners, pulling the strings, knew what they were doing, entering an election where an electorate, generally speaking, basically liked their Liberal Democrat member of parliament for the work he did, but were willing to try their luck with a right wing anti-Europe, anti-political party who told a baying audience that Huhne is just the one who got caught, all politicians are like this really.

What choice did the Tories have but to launch into dogwhsitle territory?

The second place in the Eastleigh election was destined for whoever could be more anti-politics, though Cameron said he is not for turning, he is sadly behind the curve on the kind of politics that evokes excitement – and Ukip are successfully tapping in to that.

It should go without saying, especially from a left wing blog, that this needs challenging, but in suggesting that Cameron’s Tories are staying true to a Disraelite vision of One Nation Conservatism, while in fact obliging themselves to the rancid politics of the Daily Express and bigotry, is absurd.

Cameron is right that Ukip’s success is a protest vote, but it is not reflective of an alienation with the mainstream as such. It might include that, but this political turn is not predicated on it. Ukip have successfully positioned themselves as the voice of the silent majority, though since they are little more than a single-issue party, on an issue that few voters really get excited about, this is probably a little overstated to say the least.

The lesson from Eastleigh is that Ukip are going to do well telling the country they are the real voice of people’s concerns, that the Tories are no longer bold enough to raise, since they’re arrogant and Westminster-centric. Because Ukip’s anti-politics are vague they can be a number of things to different people, and succeed where mainstream parties fail. This should concern us all, but particularly for the left, Eastleigh tells the story of right wing politics being the main stick to hit politicians with.

13 Comments

  1. Dave says:

    “I’ll Stop Migrant Benefits.”

    Didn’t Crudas float the same policy a few days ago when he suggested linking benefits to amount contributed?

    And with shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy doing his ‘Blair on steroids’ act and promising preventative war in Africa it now appears Labour are all set to out-flank UKIP from the right.

  2. Is it now time for a British Unite the Right movement, and a merger between the Conservatives and UKIP? Because if this result is replicated across the UK in 2015 there could be a large majority of votes cast for right wing parties but a massive left wing, Europhile majority in Westminster after the next general election.

  3. Tom Blackburn says:

    ‘if this result is replicated across the UK in 2015 there could be a large majority of votes cast for right wing parties’

    I’d say that’s extremely doubtful. For instance, today’s YouGov has the Tories on 29% and UKIP on 11% – still some way short of a right-wing majority. Labour alone are on 42%.

  4. Alasdair says:

    To Shanna Carson – Very unlikely, UKIP would never agree to it. If anything, a ‘unite the left’ plan between Labour and the Lib Dems is more plausible and more likely to succeed. It would require ditching Clegg first though…

  5. Patrick Coates says:

    On the same day Labour won a By-Election in Ashford, Kent, the last time I looked this is in the South East of England; beating the Tory, Ukip, Lib dem, Green, Independent, and Ashford First.
    Why was this not reported by the Media or indeed the Labour party.

  6. Matty says:

    “Didn’t Crudas float the same policy a few days ago?”
    No

  7. Dave says:

    @ Matty
    Then how does the policy of linking benefits paid to contributions made differ from preventing new arrivals from receiving benefits?

  8. Patrick Coates says:

    Faridge has just said on Tv his party will tax pensioners, why did nobody know this.
    I think labour also won other elections on that day but khan did not mention it on the same TV channel, failure of communication again, maybe they should phone the CWU.

  9. Dave says:

    On hearing the news this morning it now seems the Tories and Labour are on the same page in wanting to establish a link between entitlement to benefits and amount contributed – thus disqualifying new arrivals.

    More common ground can be found in William Hague’s and Jim Murphy’s enthusiasm for the militarisation of foreign conflicts.

    Surely a coalition between Tory and Labour must soon follow – how else will the two mainstream parties be able to defeat UKIP’s one admirable policy – opposition to unnecessary military adventures?

  10. Matty says:

    Dave
    Provide some actual evidence that Labour is proposing this and I’ll take you a bit more seriously. What you seem to be referring to is a long, waffly speech by Cruddas to a think-tank which barely mentions immigration. It’s hardly the same as the Tory spin doctors getting the Express to publish its xenophobic headlines. Anyway, there already are links between contributions and benefits which restrict migrants access to benefits – see http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/ECintheUK/getting-the-facts-straight-eu-rights-to-reside-in-another-member-state-eu-benefit-claimants-and-nhs-treatment-entitlement/

  11. Dave says:

    @Matty:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b975c4d0-7c1c-11e2-bf52-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2MbIb97Fz

    Cruddas also floated this revival of the Beveridge ‘contributory principle’ in an extended piece on Newsnight last week – it is available on youtube.

  12. Dave says:

    If you are unable to access the ft here’s a quote from the report:

    “Labour officials want a far greater proportion of out-of-work benefits to reflect what a person has already paid in tax. They are working on the exact policy formula to do so but want to ensure an “extra hand” for experienced workers who fall on hard times.
    They are understood to be looking both at higher “salary replacement benefits” for those who have paid in during their working life or, alternatively, a form of loan arrangement.”

    My feeling is that Labour will eventually propose a form of insurance – provided by the private sector. I have no problem with this as it stands – if Labour want to place this policy before the electorate in the hope of driving a wedge between ‘skivers’ and ‘strivers’ that’s a matter for the Labour Party – thankfully I am no longer a member.

    My point is that, on this matter and at least one other (as noted above), there appears to be little difference between Labour and Tory policy.

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