Week 41: Prat(s) – Labour’s UKippy MPs

by George_East on October 12, 2014

Labour_PratThis Week’s Prats of the Week are those Labour MPs who have reacted to the UKIP surge of support in Thursday’s by-election by calling on Labour to adopt more UKIP-like policies

There is no doubt about which political party won the political battle last week, and it was not the Lib Dems whose conference in Glasgow even the Lib Dems themselves seemed to be barely arsed to turn up to.

In winning the Clacton by-election from the Tories and coming within in sniffing distance of winning Heywood and Middleton from Labour, UKIP demonstrated that not only are they a force to be reckoned but (contrary to the conventional political wisdom of the last 3 years, they are not going to just fade away). UKIP are rampant and the established political parties appear to be completely clueless in knowing what to do about it. The prospect of the Tories also losing Rochester and Strood when that by-election is finally called, is already leading to reports (from the very well connected James Forsyth) of a leadership challenge being lined up against Cameron if it happens (these reports only a fortnight after Cameron’s conference speech had according to the pundits not only steadied the Tory ship but assured a Conservative victory next year).

David Cameron’s attempts to deal with UKIP (and the fear of defections to UKIP) are instructive about precisely how not to go about it.   At every turn, he has made concessions to the right – the non-veto veto in 2011, the promise of a referendum in 2017, the proposals in the conference speech to repeal the Human Rights Act and in for all intents and purposes withdraw from the ECHR. Each of these moves has been met by a further swing to UKIP. Inevitably, as it is conceding the UKIP case, fighting on their turf. Why on earth would anyone convinced by that case (that you are conceding), do anything other than vote for the real thing.

Which is why it has been so depressing over the last few days, since the shock of Heywood and Middleton by-election result, to find Labour MPs queuing up to urge Ed Miliband to adopt more UKIP-friendly policies – tougher immigration rules, tougher benefits policies and worst of all demanding that he pledge a redline re-negotiation on EU free movement rules (this is an impossibilist demand that is tantamount to accepting withdrawal from the EU).   Ed Miliband’s interview with the Observer today made equally depressing reading, focusing as it did on immigration restrictions.

The most revealing polling of the weekend has been that of Lord Ashcroft on the attitudes on UKIP voters, which appeared in today’s The Sun on Sunday. It shows that 92% of UKIP voters consider that they have not benefited from the economic recovery and only 10% approve of David Cameron’s record as PM. These are therefore not just the politically but also the economically disaffected. They ought to be ripe for Labour to connect with, but it won’t happen by stealing UKIP’s clothes because there is nothing that Labour can say that will convince voters that they are tougher on immigration than UKIP.

On the other hand there is a whole bunch of stuff that Labour could and should say on economic policy, if it had the wit and the will, with the potential to give these voters hope about their economic futures. This requires countering the idea that immigration is to blame for all their woes. Sadly the message Labour has adopted of permanent austerity in order to look ‘serious’ is just not going to cut it.

Jack Straw, John Mann, Frank Field, Simon Danczuk , Graham Stringer and the rest, you are self-defeating prats indeed.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Killingworth October 13, 2014 at 10:04 am

Most voters know perfectly well that immigrants haven’t taken their jobs, since none of them would work for a week for £7 and a mattress in a room shared with 3 or 4 others, as the eastern Europeans have let themselves be conned into doing. And if we only wanted to enforce the laws we already have, the “gangmasters” (slave-traders, more like) would be out of business by to-morrow fortnight.

Alas, this is about something far more visceral. White people with degrees are more than happy to live in a multi-cultural society. Such people even flock from towns and villages with few black and brown people in them to cities, especially London, where there are lots and lots more. White people without degrees are far less trusting, whether of their opportunities in life, other human beings who look a different to themselves, or even of the goodness of God.

Calling for the return of class politics ain’t gonna cut it, though. Class-based parties came second in the Weimar Republic, and the Soviet Union collapsed by being impaled on the “nationalities question”. And to-day Colonel Putin, let alone sundry Turks, Kurds and Arabs, will tell you that race war is part of human nature.

No, I don’t like it either. But I achieve nothing by shutting my eyes to reality.

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George_East October 13, 2014 at 10:59 am

But Mike that is simply a counsel of despair. It is tantamount to saying UKIP have got the analysis right (or that the reality of the position is that those arguments will inevitably win out). At the moment my fear is that both the Tories and Labour are adopting that approach, which has the result of it becoming conventional wisdom (UKIP effectively setting the agenda) and is politically self-defeating, as if it is correct, you may as well vote for the real thing. The experience of Cameron’s appeasement of his own right in the light of the threat from UKIP has been that every concession has emboldened them and made them stronger. Labour seem to be falling into the same trap.

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Mike Killingworth October 13, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Counsel of despair? Was it a counsel of despair when the officer of the watch told the skipper of the Titanic that they’d just hit an iceberg?

It is a constant of human nature that people don’t want equality, they want power and privilege, and when they feel that they are losing these they vote for the Kippers. Or do worse things.

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Eddie Kaye October 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Eternal optimist that I am, I don’t think we need to plan too heavily for the Con/UKIP Coalition just yet. They are still a protest vote. If the worst came to the worst, those who claim voting UKIP as a snub to the Westminster establishment, would very soon find out that (in Government) they are just as much the bastard sons of Thatcherism as their Tory counterparts.

Being able to mobilise their support to run Labour close in a 36% turnout by election should simply not worry Labour too much. Not to the extent it obviously has as you point out in the article George.

Clacton was a bit of a different kettle of fish, with the incumbent MP retaining his seat on a different ticket. Further defections may yield similar results.

Regardless of UKIP, being tough on immigration, complainign about Europe etc seem to be on the political Carte du Jour like it or nor. Con and Lab need to appear to be tough (although personally I an fed up with tough being confused with effective perrenially). I am not 100% sure that Labour would deviate too far from the (now) established line where UKIP to have not been there.

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nino October 13, 2014 at 6:23 pm

But Labour and Ukip have such a lot in common. Nepotism and inbreeding are rife in the shadow cabinet and Ukip policies ultimate achieve the same result. So instead of a feared Tory/Ukip coalition we’ll end up with a Labour/Ukip coalition. So that’s all right then

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Chris December 20, 2014 at 8:50 am

As a Ukip activist I did not think I would find much to agree with in the comments made by people using this site,however I can see the sense in
all the comments made so far.
Ukip is seen as far right,and the lunatic element,that the media love to focus on, certainly are.That said, the people who vote for us,the people I talk to when canvassing,are not right wing,they are not lunatics,they are decent people who feel abandoned by Labours champagne socialists.
Labour need to refocus,stop pretending to be champions of the disadvantaged in our society,and actually do something for them.
The Labour Party of old,could be trusted,they fought for what they believed,even if it was not always right,they had decent people with principles,now you have a leader who betrayed his own brother.

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Ray_North December 20, 2014 at 9:06 am

Very fair comment Chris – people who just dismiss UKIP voters as racist, stupid and bigoted are completely missing the point.

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