The Eastleigh by-election has been and gone. The Lib Dems won, UKIP came second and the Tories were pushed into third place. Labour came a distant fourth.
As is the case with by-elections, the nation’s leading psephologists and political cognoscenti will attempt to divine meaning from the election result.
Naturally, Dan Hannan paints this as a straightforward contest between Europhobes and Europhiles. The blog title says it all.
The Eurosceptic Right wins more than half the vote, the Europhile Left gets in with less than a third
Sophistry. That’s understandable. But remember that Hannan sits in the Euro Parliament as an MEP for the Conservative Party but who often makes noises that wouldn’t be out of place in UKIP. He’s previously spoken of how the Tories should make some kind of accommodation with this far-right party. He tells us,
It was precisely because I was worried about such an outcome that I suggested a Conservative/Ukip accomodation a year ago. I had hoped that my party might settle then from a position of relative strength, but the idea didn’t take off. All those clever chaps who do polls for the Tories said that I was being absurd, that UKIP wouldn’t get into double figures, that it was best ignored. Now, the problem is on the other side: for many Ukip supporters, the party has become an end in itself rather than a vehicle to deliver policies, and there is a possibility that, in a paradox of cosmic proportions, Ukip might be the reason that there is no parliamentary majority to deliver an In/Out referendum.
The thought of a Labour politician proposing an alliance with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1983 would have been considered heresy. Nonetheless, Nu Labour did a pretty good impression of the SDP for the better part of 13 years. For example, Adair Turner, a former SDP bod, slotted in quite comfortably with Tony Blair’s new model regime.The SDP, in effect, dragged the Labour Party to the Right. UKIP will drag the Conservative Party even further to the Right than it is already. The Tories are clearly nervous.
But that’s another matter…
What matters is that the results weren’t good for the Tories and the Lib Dems can breathe slightly easier. Their share of the vote was down 14.44%, the Tories’ share dropped by 13.99%, while Labour’s share went up by 0.22%. Wow. But it was UKIP who scored big even though they came second.
But Hannan’s point that the Eurosceptic Right has “triumphed” is based on the presumption that the party, to which he professes to be a member, is united over the issue of the EU. We know that isn’t true. It is entirely possible that, in time, some Tories may flake off and join the Kippers because of their disgust over the vote on equal marriage and what they perceive as Cameron’s ‘leftism’.
One question though…
Where’s the left revival?
TUSC did shamefully again. A pity. But this is Eastleigh, a conurbation in the South of England. Hampshire, to be precise. It used to vote Tory in General Elections, then it swung to the Lib Dems in… would you believe it? A by-election? Eastleigh, we can safely say, is somewhat middle class and conservative in its electoral habits. But Eastleigh is also a railway town, so what happened to the working class vote? Did it shift en masse to UKIP? If so, why? UKIP offers nothing to working class voters. They use dog whistle words to coax out the reactionary feelings among voters. “Do you hate immigrants? So do we”!
Perhaps a look at the composition of the borough council will help us. There are 40 Lib Dem councillors to the Tories 4. Labour doesn’t have a single seat on the council. Since 2004, the Labour Party has gone from having 4 councillors to none. Was it ever possible for Labour or, indeed, a left-wing party to do well here? Probably not. That said, my borough council is under the control of the Tories but the local MP is Labour, so perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into that.
There’s no doubt that UKIP’s increased share of the vote has emboldened them. It now allows them to spuriously claim that the “majority” of British voters support their xenophobic, hate-filled, anti-intellectual agenda. Some have said that UKIP is the BNP in suits. There is some truth in this. Many of the party’s leading figures have been members of the BNP, the National Front and the New Britain Party. But I would also suggest that there’s a closer connection between UKIP and the Conservative Monday Club. Indeed in 2009, Farage addressed a Monday Club meeting. At one time there were even serious suggestions of a merger between UKIP and the Monday Club.
UKIP describe themselves as a mainstream political party, but they are only mainstream in the sense that they’re attempting to legitimize far-right political discourses and insert them into mainstream discourse. You will often see their members leaving comments on articles and blogs that contain phrases like “racism doesn’t exist” and “racism is a left-wing invention”.
UKIP, like Hannan, their Tory party champion, finds it difficult to be honest and will rewrite definitions to suit their narratives. For example, they share with Hannan the belief that the BNP has “socialist policies”. But they go further: they claim that members of the BNP have joined Labour as this commenter on Alex Andreou’s New Statesman blog claims,
There has been a surprising amount of to-ing and fro-ing between the Labour Party and the BNP. Many of the BNP’s policies are distinctly socialist, which may explain it.
Perhaps it would be better if Labour did have a ban on ex-BNP members joining?
I don’t accuse the Labour party of being racist because of this. It isn’t. That doesn’t mean that a quite a few of its members aren’t. Unfortunately, this is true of all parties.
It’s an attempt to smear the Labour Party and also claim some distance between themselves and their ideological relatives.
Today, Cameron claimed that the Tories would not lurch further to the Right because of UKIP’s good-ish fortune. In a moment reminiscent of Tony Blair, he told the Sunday Telegraph,
“It’s not about being Left-wing or Right-wing – it’s about being where the British people are.
The Tories are already further to the Right than they like to tell us. Their policies on welfare, disability and housing marks them out as a far-right party and as if to prove this is the case, Chris Grayling repeated the call to repeal the Human Rights Act. Remember, like UKIP, the Tories also like to claim that they’re ‘libertarian’.
Dan Hannan may be in denial about where his allegiances lie but according to this article from “London Loves Business”, former Tory, Roger Helmer urged Hannan to join UKIP.
Presented with the example of renowned maverick Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, Helmer responded: “The big question is to ask Dan Hannan what he’s doing because he’s completely out of sympathy with Conservative policy, but he must speak for himself.”
The article also says,
A UKIP spokesman told LondonlovesBusiness.com that Hannan was “definitely an able and bright MEP who is clearly sympathetic to our views”.
“If he did come along and want to talk to us, what’s wrong with that?” she added.
LondonlovesBusiness.com contacted Hannan’s office but no-one was available for comment.
Hannan would deny it, but he is on the far-right and like many of his fellow travellers, he deflects attention from his position by regularly asserting that the BNP is not a far-right party but a “far-left party”. This assertion is not supported by evidence but then, those on the Right don’t like evidence much because it exposes their arguments for what they are: narratives.