01 Mar

The meaning of Eastleigh – or, why UKIP can’t be stopped by caving in to them

So, UKIP came second in Eastleigh, pushing the Prime Minister’s Party into a humiliating 3rd: http://www.channel4.com/news/eastleigh-by-election-result-lib-dems-ukip

The Tory fantasy has been that by focussing on Europe they could neutralise UKIP. The opposite is true. As anyone with a decent understanding of framing knows, by stoking interest in the opposition’s issues, one stokes support for them too. Every time the Tories talk about Europe, NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY, they increase likely UKIP support. In particular, promising an in-out referendum on the EU certainly INCREASED the basic ‘salience’ of UKIP.

Furthermore, in Eastleigh, the Tories had about the most UKIP-ish candidate imaginable, in Maria Hutchings: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/maria-hutchings-tories-sarah-palin-1729143. This too of course didn’t help them. For, in the choice between UKIP and UKIP-lite, which do you think voters are likely to go for? So Hutchings probably gained the Tories approximately zero votes, while losing them a bunch of votes to the LibDems.

Those from parties that are not the big three, such as the Green Party, can take some heart from the result – the number of voters prepared to vote outside the big three goes ever up. Confirming the analysis I undertook here, some months ago: http://www.greenhousethinktank.org/uploads/4/8/3/2/48324387/strangled_by_the_duoploy_-_inside.pdf

But the result also suggests that it is high time that the media turned their spotlight onto UKIP’s seamier side. The electorate needs to know that UKIP are climate-denying loons; that a not-insignificant number of their MEPs (especially those that haven’t already left UKIP, at least voluntarily!) past and present have confessed to or been found guilty of criminal acts; that they favour untrammelled free trade and new free trade agreements especially across the Atlantic, making us essentially the 51st state (the UK DependentonAmericaParty?); and that their policy platforms are out of sync with mainstream thinking in this country (especially perhaps in their reactionary social conservatism). Here are some of the ways one might seek to show this (thanks to Jonathan Kent for these ideas):

Health: UKIP like private models – and say they’re looking to places like the Netherlands – (mandatory health insurance so less well off get hit hardest for extra payments) or Australia (part privatised financed by extra 1.5% on income tax).  So UKIP want to make you pay more and rely on private healthcare. Vote UKIP, and say goodbye to the NHS.

Education: UKIP want to give parents education vouchers.  The wealthy get subsidised to send their children to private schools, (with a £3000 voucher you’ll still need an extra £7000 per year per child for a private school) so anyone who can’t fund the difference will be stuck with schools UKIP claims are no good.  UKIP: Privatising education, for the benefit of at most the better-off. Vote UKIP if you want to end public education in this country.

Welfare: Anyone on any benefit – even vis a vis housing or council tax – faces compulsory welfare work schemes.  UKIP: Welcoming millions to the chain gang.

UKIP’s 28% vote means that they aren’t entitled to be treated as a fun sideshow any more.