Mark Reckless waltzed back into the House of Commons last night as the UK Independence Party’s second elected MP with a comfortable majority of 2,920 over the Conservatives in the Rochester and Strood by-election.
Still it seems, a large demographic, and more importantly mainstream politicians are unable to fathom why. Apparently it is still a protest vote. The party who just a few months ago topped the poll in the European elections were told after “they would never win a seat in Westminster”, they now have two. Maybe it was a protest vote once, it’s resembling a more permanent one now.
The incompetence of the Westminster elite makes me wonder whether they are either stupid or ignorant. I’ll plump for the latter considering they were nearly all afforded Oxbridge educations. But they continue to mislead voters on UKIP policy in attempt to bring them back. It is time they realised they do not own the electorate, and that their lies and deceit are what turned voters away from their parties the first place.
The usually honest and principled Labour MP Dennis Skinner launched a vitriolic attack on Mark Reckless, upon his return to the green benches of the Commons. As he perused over the benefits of global immigration – Syrian and Malaysian in this case – he ultimately agreed with UKIP policy. A points-based system that offered equal opportunities to potential migrants across the world, instead of a system that heavily favours Europeans, would be far more welcoming to the Syrian or Malaysian who wishes to come to the UK. Skinner’s attacks showed he is either unaware of UKIP policy, or that he would rather try to trick the public.
It is this deceit that has turned people away. They think representing UKIP as racist will eventually work, if they continue to ratchet up the bile. For them it is acceptable to label 60% of Clacton, 42% of Rochester and Strood, and according to opinion polls, 15-20% of the nation as racist. The very people they want, and indeed to vote for them. Where is their moral compass?
The fact UKIP has been able to withstand these attacks suggests this is a far more powerful movement than a protest. When Reckless announced his defection in late September, the Conservatives were confident that they would be able to retain the seat. A completely open primary, along with obscene spending, and even the odd kitchen sink, made it clear that for the Tories this was a must win. No amount of spin could hide what was a devastating result. Scrambling around claiming that it was a smaller than expected loss, and that they could win the seat back in May just did not cut it.
Rochester and Strood was marked out as 271st on the list of UKIP targets across the country. Victory here is a major feat and will no doubt have left many sitting MPs in far less comfortable seats worried and thinking, if UKIP can win here, who knows what they could do elsewhere? In a general election, resources will of course be spread more thinly, but the plan to bombard certain constituencies as the Liberal Democrats used to do, will stand UKIP in good stead to send a respectable number of MPs back to Westminster in next year’s General Election.
For Labour and the Conservatives, their only prospects of restoring credibility and quelling the UKIP surge is clear. They must now treat them as a major party and attack them on their real policies. Mocking, smearing and abuse has not worked for the past couple of years, and there is no evidence it will work in the next five and a half months. Attempts to lure back voters by making their own policies more hard line won’t work either, voters have been tricked by their facade too many times and are now more inclined to vote for the real thing, than a tribute act. Miliband and Cameron must try to lead their parties back to their core values, and do so with dignity. No longer can they continue to offend their core voters.
Judging from the last two by-elections they may already be too late. Nigel Farage has taken UKIP to unprecedented heights, and no one in Westminster has any idea what to do about it.