A UKIP breakthrough in 2015?

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UKIP has been consistently polling in the high single digits and low double digits across Great Britain for well over a year now. This is the most significant and sustained burst of polling for a fourth party in Britain since at least the Greens’ post-Euro election surge in 1989. Arguably, the UKIP surge is more significant than that, as it has not depended on the positive publicity generated by an unexpected breakthrough in an off year election fuelled by protest votes, but has simply emerged from nowhere, driven doubtless partly by ex-Tories disillusioned with the party’s record in government, and partly by the crisis in the Eurozone. Its support is also remarkably consistent from month to month, as opposed to the ‘sine curve’ of sudden emergence and equally sudden collapse more common to ephemeral minor parties in the UK and internationally.

The context of the unexpected 15% Green Party vote in the 1989 European Elections is also instructive. An unpopular Tory government faced a Labour Party beset by internal personality conflicts and led by a man with mediocre popularity ratings hounded by the right-wing press. The LibDems were in the midst of their immediate post-merger turmoil and, just like today, were not in a position to be the recipient of protest votes.

By the 1992 General Election, of course, all three major parties had gotten their act together to some extent and the Greens sank without trace. When they did eventually return their first MP in 2010, it was a result of the entire resources of the party being put behind tenacious local activism in a single seat, rather than a national breakthrough.

Despite the consistently high votes they now attract at Euro elections, UKIP have yet to come even close to winning a parliamentary seat. Their vote has hitherto disappeared like frost on a sunny morning come general election time, and unlike the Greens and the LibDems, UKIP’s local government base is virtually non-existent. The party simply didn’t operate a targeting strategy in any general election before 2010, when it decided to throw its resources behind a quixotic attempt to upend Speaker John Bercow in Buckingham, a constituency with no UKIP track record and without especially favourable demographics for it.

This encapsulates one of UKIP’s problems – it has yet to grasp that the electorate does not care all that much about many of the things that UKIP cares about. While Bercow may be seen as the spawn of Satan among highly politically aware voters on the radical right, he’s hardly a household name, is reasonably liked by his own constituents and in any case, with no Labour or LibDem candidate standing against the speaker, was always going to receive the votes of the large liberal-left minority interest which exists in any parliamentary constituency.

UKIP equally has yet to grasp that it may better advised to shut up about the EU for a while (people know they’re against it), to focus on issues like immigration and law-and-order, regarded as being of much more importance by the electorate. Presenting an economically right-wing alternative that isn’t in thrall to the City of London might also prove surprisingly popular.

I think this is the make or break moment for the UKIP project. UKIP came second in the 2009 Euros, and although they trailed the Tories by 28% to 17%, this was at a point when the Tories were riding high in the polls and UKIP were, until the surge of coverage they always get immediately before a European election, barely registering. In a low turnout election that most people don’t care about to an explicitly European body, it is not impossible that UKIP could actually be the largest party.

Could they then ride a post-Euro election surge to a breakthrough in the House of Commons? Possibly – the British electorate, like those in just about every Western country besides the USA, is becoming increasingly disaffected and consequently disloyal. But it’s a big ask.

UKIP does not seem to have much of a clue about how a minor party builds up to winning parliamentary seats and it seems unlikely that they will get one in the time they have left. Especially as the few defectors they attract with serious election organisation skills come from the Tories, where campaigns are heavily nationalised and most effective when they are, rather than the LibDems whose hyper-localised campaigning style is more suited to insurgent minor parties. The Greens copied the LibDem playbook successfully in Brighton and almost in Norwich in 2010, and the BNP also frankly plagiarised LibDem campaigning material before being undone by its transparent fragility as a political party. UKIP just doesn’t seem to get it.

It’s hard to think of anywhere where UKIP has a local government base or a significant month-in-month-out ground operation. Nigel Farage has stalked around the South Country at election after election, from Salisbury to Bexhill to Ramsgate to Buckingham, without ever leaving an infrastructure behind him.

UKIP’s ideological model ought to be the Canadian Reform Party of the 1980s, which broke through by winning over those who felt culturally repelled from Mulroney’s pro-Quebec, socially liberal, Tories. The problem for UKIP is there is no Alberta, no great reservoir of culturally conservative, anti-centralist, tendency even in their best regions of the UK.

It’s not hard to identify the constituencies that might prove most amenable to a UKIP breakthrough, though – pockets of Southern England which are almost entirely white, with high elderly populations, relatively poor national transport links which prevent them being sucked into London’s ever expanding exurbia, and relatively low levels of either public sector employment or non-age related benefit dependence. They are particularly thick on the ground along the south and east coasts, where there are even places where it’s relatively common to see Union Flags on flagpoles in gardens these days – the Isle of Wight and the Sussex coast in particular.

A LibDem collapse in the South West might open up space for UKIP to break through there, although I’m not sure that they aren’t perceived as being too economically right-wing for the LibDems’ working-class core vote in the West Country, despite the big Euro election vote they get in the region.

In any case, all this depends on some hyper-active UKIP member or small group of members getting the personnel and money together make this happen, and having the time and stamina to sustain relentless activity, week after week, for two and a half years. I’m just not aware of anyone who fits the bill.

You Gov’s Peter Kellner notes the nightmare scenario for the Tories is a sort of 1983-in-reverse where UKIP does well enough to cost the Tories dozens of seats while not actually winning any MPs itself. Such an outcome would have been rendered impossible had the AV referendum gone through. It would be deliciously ironic if a UKIP surge, mediated through the First Past the Post electoral system, wrecked Tory chances in 2015. But there is far too much water yet to flow under the bridge to predictions about what might happen in 2015 with any confidence.

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  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    I cant see UKIP being much more than a Party of protest for Tories. Winning a set at a General Election would be almost impossible. But they COULD cost Tory seats and that will put pressure on Cameron from his right wing.
    I tend to see UKIP as a mirror image of Respect…….George Galloway took Bradford West and that seems as much a problem for Labour as UKIP is for Tories.
    Respect MIGHT be seen to be confined to constituencies with a high migrant population but Galloway got quite a lot of disenchanted traditional Labourites.

  • GEF

    What happens if and when UK leave the EU, what will UKIP stand for then?

  • iluvni

    “UKIP equally has yet to grasp that it may better advised to shut up about the EU for a while (people know they’re against it), to focus on issues like immigration and law-and-order, regarded as being of much more importance by the electorate.”

    aye, right enough, the UK being swamped with immigrants has nothing to do with the EU at all, has it?
    Dear me.

  • http://sammymorse.livejournal.com Gerry Lynch

    You really don’t understand political communication from the point of view of a micro-party, do you? UKIP has virtually no air time. People already know it’s anti-EU. It’s pretty obvious from the name, n’est-ce pas? Being anti-EU has netted it no MPs and brought it no closer to seeing the UK leave the EU. It needs to have a few other strings to its bow, and it has few chances to put these in the minds of the public.

    But then again, maybe you’re showing us why UKIP isn’t going to break through?

  • gendjinn

    iluvni,

    very little in fact. The vast majority of immigrants in Britain are from the former colonies and it began in earnest during WW2.

    Instead of focusing entirely on the 1690s you might want to acquaint yourself with the events of 1960s. Tis a wee bit more relevant.

  • Dewi

    Trouble is Farage – he’s not perceived as serious….there might be a coherent EU exit movement but whilst he’s in charge it will fail.

  • http://www.openunionism.com oneill

    UKIP equally has yet to grasp that it may better advised to shut up about the EU for a while (people know they’re against it), to focus on issues like immigration and law-and-order, regarded as being of much more importance by the electorate

    I think you were overly harsh in your reply to iluvni, Gerry.
    If people are worried about immigration then then they are invariably worried about the most recent immigration (because the previous immigrants have already and inevitably melted into the UK’s population mix). Latest wave of immigration was from Poland, the Baltics and the rest of the new entrants from the class of 2004 and that was indeed brought about by the free movement of labour guaranteed by the European Union.

    I personally am very pleased they did come but the fact that they are here can be quite easily attributed to the UK’s membership of the EU. If the UKIP is wanting to capitalise on anti-immigrant sentiment it’s not that difficult an equation to point out to the electorate.

  • Framer

    Farage has spotted how the EU and immigration can come together in the arrival next year of a large batch of Romanians, as from 1 January 2014 they can claim all social security benefits – previously they were only eligible for housing benefit and child benefit.
    A hundred thousand have made it over for those benefits alone since accession plus self-employment jobs. The government has only counted 25,000 in but have issued 85,000 national insurance numbers to people who weren’t noticed arriving at ports.

    PS very well-written and interesting article except you haven’t mentioned UKIP are likely to win the Rotherham by-election on Thursday.

    This explains why the council are desperately sitting on the report as to why the EU children were whipped off the UKIP foster parents.

    Labour is split with an all-women shortlist having been imposed, and a lady outsider selected by 13 votes to 7. Most members walked out of the selection meeting because a local male Muslim councillor was thereby excluded.
    Yvonne Ridley (Afghan convert) of Respect will soak up the Muslim vote.
    Oh forgot to mention Labour not flavour of Rotherham this month either as fanatically pro-EU MP Dennis McShane resigned over his corrupt expenses claims and may well end up in jail.
    Farage could not ask for more optimum circumstances to get a Westminster seat for his candidate who came second in the recent Barnsley by-election.

  • iluvni

    I suspect Gerry’s harshness came from being a tad put out that someone pointed out the nonsense of him seeing no connection between the EU and the immigration issue. Still, I’ll go brush up on my ‘political communication from the point of view of a micro-party’ skills as he advises.

  • Comrade Stalin

    PS very well-written and interesting article except you haven’t mentioned UKIP are likely to win the Rotherham by-election on Thursday.

    Framer, as with those Christians who feel it appropriate to give specific dates for the apocalypse, I think it might help your credibility if you stayed out of making predictions that are laughably false.

  • Framer

    Comrade

    Predictions are never ‘false’ before the event.

    So why did Gerry not offer a view on Rotherham?

    And why was Romney in the end one percentage point behind Obama when the conventional wisdom was he could hardly get up in the morning.

  • DC

    UKIP and any progress is probably best judged by looking at whether the political climate is right for right-wing populism to succeed. All indicators suggest so.

    A relevant piece on the Progress website adds to the backdrop and it identifies the issues: http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2012/11/26/fading-away/

    The piece was written mainly concerning the BNP and whether it was fading away, but no doubt the issues set out below will be the ones swirling around in the minds of people considering voting for populist parties (the levels of extremism being the difference in choice of how one would like to deal with them, the BNP choice cruder than that of the more sophisticated and mild mannered UKIP one).

    Across Europe, conditions for the far-right appear better than ever. An ongoing financial crisis, lingering public concern over immigration, low levels of public trust in political institutions, and fraying bonds between citizens and the main parties have all – in their own ways – carved a favourable landscape for populist extremists. In Britain, these wider trends have also been joined by more specific opportunities for the far-right: the eruption of a parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009; the apparent dismissal, as embodied by Gordon Brown’s encounter with Gillian Duffy, of public anxiety over immigration by the incumbent government at the 2010 general election; and the emergence of local tensions – especially in northern England – over issues such as the alleged ‘grooming’ or sexual exploitation of young, white girls.

    So can UKIP succeed and breakthrough? Yes probably.
    But:
    Overall, the movement will be more unpredictable, chaotic and diverse than during the heyday of the BNP.

    Personally, in terms of immigration, the perception is that EU enlargement has affected the UK more so because English is largely to date the language of the global business community and internet – the lingua franca – just like it is used over the airways in aviation navigation. It would seem that the rub has been that the UK has experienced a great deal of EU immigration, simply because most Europeans tend to speak English for the reasons above and have chosen the UK as first port of call for a new life, new employment etc. I don’t have figures at hand but I wonder if the UK has been disproportionately affected and experienced greater levels of immigration post 2004 EU enlargement?

    Perhaps the Labour government should have opted out till at least the very end of the opt out period, 2010? Just like Germany did.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I believe the simple formula is this …

    First Past the post – Constituency Politics first, National politics second.

    Proportional Representation – National Politics first, Constituency politics second.

    Simply put UKIP isn’t doing constituency politics well.

  • http://Conquistador17@gmail.com Conquistador

    I believe the simple formula is this …

    First Past the post – Constituency Politics first, National politics second.

    Proportional Representation – National Politics first, Constituency politics second.

    Simply put UKIP isn’t doing constituency politics well.

    I think that’s far too simple a formula. Look at the PR system of the Irish republic and tell me local constituency politics doesn’t feature.

    A better rule of thumb would be:

    Electoral systems with small constituencies – Constituency Politics first, National politics second.

    Electoral systems with large*/no constituencies – National Politics first, Constituency politics second

    And I’m not even sure I agree with that.

    *large as in those used to elect english MEPs, Weimar Germany, or just giant areas with closed party lists as a rule of thumb.

  • Ruarai

    Possibly – the British electorate, like those in just about every Western country besides the USA, is becoming increasingly disaffected and consequently disloyal.

    Gerry – the US?

    Consider:
    • Independent voters are at an all-time high and climbing
    • Party seat gains or losses in the House have been flipping forwards and backwards in most every recent election of late in contrast to the near ownership of the House by Dems for decades until Reagan.
    • Rock solid Red states like Virginia have turned Blue for now – but are highly volatile
    • Latino voters are even putting a state like Texas ‘in play’ in the very near future
    • The polarization people talk about often masks not only the rise of floating voters but the impact polarization of the extremes has on the rise of the independent floaters.
    • The GOP coalition itself may be about to fracture and rebuild following the collapse of Nixon’s Southern strategy
    While polarization exists it’s more based on voting against than voting for but the real story is the rise of the disloyal Independent, surely?

  • Jimmy Sands

    And why was Romney in the end one percentage point behind Obama

    Is there a central repository of right wing madey uppy “statistics” or do you all grow your own?

  • Jimmy Sands

    There will be no breakthrough in the sense you suggest. They will do well in 2014 for the same reasons that they and the BNP won seats before, and the Greens in 89, that is the voters don’t take these elections seriously and they don’t care who gets elected. Perversely the UKIP’s success, such as it has been, has depended entirely on the electorate not sharing its obsession with Brussels. They have identified that there is a Poujadiste constituency in the UK and they will take the bit they don’t have back from a BNP in disarray, but it wont be enough for a Westminster seat. Farage’s tilt at Bercow was the most favourable opportunity they are ever likely to have and yet he couldn’t even manage second. Spink having defected was comfortably seen off by the tories. There will be saved deposits, the odd decent place, but no seats. After a false dawn in 2014 it will fizzle out.

    And winning Rotherham? Give your head a wobble.

  • Ruarai

    PS -Any topic on Farage gives me an excuse to re-post this epic rant.

    Say what you might about this guy and his politics but as acts of political rhetoric go, Farage lambasting Europe is classic “man on a roll” delivering a line that’s only gonna become more resonant and potent to the ears of the British. People may know his views on Eurpoe but they don’t yet know how much so many among themselves agree with him. Increasingly, he’ll articulate what more and more feel with more and more strength. It’s a winning message.

  • Harry Flashman

    On its own UKIP won’t make a breakthrough and despite all their bluster they know that but we are missing the rather obvious game changer that is now being considered seriously by the Tories; an electoral pact.

    In 2015 the Tories aren’t going to be any more popular than they are now and the Lib Dems will be wiped out. So it’s five more years of Labour with a small majority.

    Unless.

    The UKIP undoubtedly cost the Tories 20 seats last time out. It will be much worse the next time round and with the Lib Dems in the tank there will be a lot of third party/protest votes washing around.

    The Tories have already gone into coalition with a thrid party, they have established that particular precedent, why not go into coalition with a party whose policies 90% of their voters agree with? It’s win win, well except for Cameron and the remaining rump of Tory wets.

    UKIP don’t stand in any Tory held seat and the Tories don’t challenge UKIP in the remaining top thirty seats that the UKIP did best in last time around and actually assist UKIP with canvassing and logistical support. In return Farage gets into government and an in/out referendum on the EU.

    Can’t see what’s to lose for the Tories.

  • PaulT

    Just to point out the mistaken believe that UKIP is made up of disaffected Tories means everyones crystal ball is off-kelter.

    here’s a link to a YouGov poll from 2010.

    http://cdn.yougov.com/today_uk_import/YG-Archives-Pol-YouGov-BNP-UKIP-Formattedv2-291110.pdf

    The fact that only 30% (ish) of UKIP is ex-Tory was a key reason given on the news this week for rejecting the offer of a pact with the Tories.

    Regarding policies, their view on education will potentially win votes from teachers, esp after Gove,

    Taxation policy is decent as well, and appeals to Labour and Lim Dem voters

    Policies on defence are out of step with public opinion

    but the hoary old immigrant policies will win votes.

    regarding immigration, it’s mostly from Asia nowadays, kicked off during new Labour and continues to snowball as many Asians go home to get married and return to the UK with their new wife/husband. London now rivals Leicester for the best curry (has Dosa come to NI yet?)

    What noone is factoring in is that the 2010 elections were heady times for the Lib Dems (I agree with Nick) and the Tories (I’m gonna cut and cut) well noone agrees with Nick anymore he’ll be lucky to have a job come 2015, and it was funny (in a gallows sense) when people realised that old bum faces cuts were actually going to hurt them, UKIP still managed to go up by 30% even if it was only to about 4% in total, but I’d suspect they’ll grab a lot more next time esp if Labour don’t find a credible leader soon

    Incidently I know several UKIP supporters and you’d be surprised at how much they are growing at street level

  • http://fitzjameshorselooksattheworld.wordpress.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Whats to lose for the Tories is the Election.
    Clearly a lot of Tories would be more comfortable being in Coalition with UKIP which is not that much different from the Tory europhobe right.
    But potential Tory voters would actually be frightened off by the prospect of a coalition with UKIP……..as the average voter either doesnt take them seriously or is downright wary of them.
    It would be like Labour trying to form a pact with the prospect of a coalition with the Green Party.

  • Harry Flashman

    “But potential Tory voters would actually be frightened off by the prospect of a coalition with UKIP”

    Really?

    You think there’s a big pool of voters there dying to vote Tory if only they would move further to the centre left? I think that theory was done to death at the last election when shiny Mr BBC-friendly Cameron couldn’t even squeeze a majority in the Commons after the most catastrophic Labour government in British history.

    The way for the Tories to get re-elected is to try and reconnect with the millions of former Tory voters who have abandoned them in droves for the now defunct Referendum Party, UKIP or to a much lesser extent the BNP (who are actually ex-Labour voters in the main) or are simply not voting at all.

    The centre left is a pretty crowded place in the current British political spectrum while a lot of right wing conservatives feel no one is speaking for them.

  • Jimmy Sands

    The UKIP undoubtedly cost the Tories 20 seats last time out.

    If you look at UK Polling report you’ll see this claim comprehensively demolished. Had UKIP stood down last time it may have been worth and extra five seats. A pact with UKIP would probably cost them more seats than it would gain them.

  • Jimmy Sands

    the BNP (who are actually ex-Labour voters in the main)

    Where do you get this idea from? I see this constantly from right wingers and whenever asked to back it up they go quiet. The last ComRes poll indicated that BNP voters without a candidate plumped firstly for UKIP and then for the tories. Other parties (with the puzzling exception of Plaid Cymru) were nowhere near.

  • PaulT

    “catastrophic Labour government” really Harry, thought that dead horse was well and truely flogged to death by now, even Bumface has given up trying to blame Brown for the economic woes, esp as the current crowd are aping his policies,

    more borrowing, more PPI Gideon? Yes Please

    Also your claim that UKIP cost the Tories 20 seats is very ropey, it is based on the various Tory candidates losing by the same number of votes as votes for UKIP, however as the YouGov poll (link above) shows that in 2010 only 37% (ish) of UKIP support came from ex-Tories (indeed this weeks news claims only 30%) the maths just don’t add up, had UKIP not stood the votes would have returned to all the parties standing.

    In Britain since Thatcher a large % of voters actually vote on the personality/appeal off the party leader as policies and ideologies are so samey nowadays (Blair & Brown admired Thatcher, Cameron modeled himself on Blair and Clegg looks just like Cameron) so as long as policies are vanilla it’s all good – it’s the ice-cream vans on the beach concept.

    Cameron is shown up as a posh boy as is Clegg, and Ed, is well Ed. Farage was made to look a tit in 2010, not helped by the plane crash and regardless of the OP Bercow is well known and him and the wife play the public well (until recently anyway)

  • FuturePhysicist

    Why does everyone in UKIP have foreign names? :S

  • FuturePhysicist

    I mean surnames.

  • http://sammymorse.livejournal.com Gerry Lynch

    And why was Romney in the end one percentage point behind Obama when the conventional wisdom was he could hardly get up in the morning.

    He wasn’t. There are still well over a million votes to count, only 19 states have certified final results yet, and Obama’s lead has been growing all the time. Currently Obama leads by 3.53% (50.95% to 47.37%). Most of the remaining votes are either in strongly Democratic areas or are ‘provisional ballots’ waiting to be certified, which are always disproportionately Democrat. Obama’s lead should finish at around 3.8-3.9%.

    Consider:
    • Independent voters are at an all-time high and climbing

    At any given stage in the 2012 campaign, there were vastly fewer undecided voters that at any previous election for which we have decent polling. There is a lot of evidence that a lot of the Independents are:
    * tea partiers who won’t identify as Republican, because they think it isn’t a real conservative party, but will never vote anything but GOP.
    * liberals who won’t identify as Democratic, because they think it isn’t a real liberal party, but will never vote anything but Democrat, and;
    * Moderate Republicans who don’t want to be associated with the Tea Party but will never vote anything but GOP.
    * Moderate Democrats who don’t want to be associated with liberals but have never voted GOP since Reagan and probably won’t ever again.

    American voting behaviour is now incredibly rigid and ticket splitting less and less common. Those big swings in states like Virginia and Colorado are driven by demographic changes. The Democratic declines are concentrated in a handful of states in the Upper South (especially MO, WV, TN) which are finally following the regional pattern which originally began in the Deep South.

    PS very well-written and interesting article except you haven’t mentioned UKIP are likely to win the Rotherham by-election on Thursday.

    Because I don’t call elections that I have no particular insight into 48 hours before polling day. If you’re right, you can gloat in a few hours time. If you’re wrong, I’ll do a bit of gloating.

    It’s been a good month for gloating, for those of us on the centre-left.

  • Jimmy Sands

    you haven’t mentioned UKIP are likely to win the Rotherham by-election on Thursday.

    Well spotted.

    Farage could not ask for more optimum circumstances to get a Westminster seat for his candidate

    Ergo…..?

  • Harry Flashman

    “really Harry, thought that dead horse was well and truely flogged to death by now, even Bumface has given up trying to blame Brown for the economic woes”

    Yes, how could I?

    I mean the 1945 Labour government borrowed too much, spent recklessly and devalued the pound ending in economic collapse, Wilson’s government in the 1960s borrowed too much, spent recklessly and devalued the pound ending in economic collapse, Callaghan in the 70s borrowed too much, spent recklessly and devalued the pound ending in economic collapse, but no one could possibly blame Brown for the inevitable economic collapse after he borrowed too much, spent recklessly and devalued the pound, could they?

    After a while with Labour economic policies you begin to realise it’s not a bug in the system, it’s a built in feature.

  • Comrade Stalin

    In Rotherham there was what, about a 10% swing from the Conservatives to UKIP ? If repeated across the country that would undoubtedly net a handful of seats but as has already been observed it’s mid-term and people tend to register protest votes.

    Framer, with your daft predictions the only person you are fooling is yourself.

    Harry, I know a lot of people on the right think there’s a groundswell of eurosceptic in the UK right waiting to be tapped, but I’m not sure it is as big as people think it is. Historically – since the 1970s – the major political parties have won elections when they were being pro-Europe and lost them when they were taking a eurosceptic line. I don’t think this is pure coincidence.

  • PaulT

    Harry, can’t argue with that, however, bet you can’t point to any Tory success with the economy, Labour spend to much on the many, the Tories spend too much on the few, Thatcher is probably the one individual who broke the British ecomony beyond repair, oil revenue was wasted on tax cuts for the wealthy (still waiting for that extra cash to trickle down into the economy – whoops it all went abroad) family silver, utilities etc flogged at knocked down prices, and manufacturing base destroyed to create a financial services economy.

    What’s cause all our woes today, clue, it’s banking.

    At least in 1945 the British people got the NHS.

    Heard some historian quoted recently, words to the effect that we once strived to make the country better, now we strive to stop it getting any worse.

    There will be no more golden moments for Britain like the creation of the NHS or indeed the creation of social housing in 1919, and that is very sad. I think its beginning to dawn on people that as bad as it is now, for most it will only ever get worse.

    Therein is the opportunity for people like the BNP, UKIP, Greens, or whoever can spin a reassuring story.

    On a tangent, I’ve been surprised at the success of the recent ‘Enemy of the State’ series, heartwarming rubbish, but has it been a success because it’s what the British actually crave

  • Harry Flashman

    You didn’t notice the standards of living for the poor increasing dramatically during the Thatcher era Paul? You weren’t paying attention my friend, I can remember the 1970s and I frequently return to the UK today and let me tell you the standard of living for the poor (who really were poor in the 1970s) has risen astronomically.

    Don’t know if you’ve visited places like the Creggan estate or similar other working class estates lately but you’ll just have to trust me that you won’t find much poverty there now, not like it was back in the 70s.

    You may say that the gap between rich and poor has widened since Thatcher and you may have a point but under no circumstances could you say that the “poor” of today are as badly off or even worse off than they were in the 1970s, that would be absurd.

    As for all the other box-ticking against Thatcher, she didn’t devastate the manufacturing sector, Britain is the sixth or seventh largest manufacturing nation on planet earth (there are almost 200 nations just for the record). Britain produced the most amount of cars ever last year. It is simply that due to automation fewer people are employed in the manufacturing industry and a lot more are now employed in the service industry, it’s simply a matter of industrial economics.

    Jesus, flogging off the family silver, we’re not still rolling out that mangy old one are we?

    I remember the first sell-off of the beautiful silver, it was British Telecommunications, a fine institution under the control of the Post Office. You’d phone them up on a Monday and if you were lucky within a month a bloke from the GPO would show up to check if he could install a line and then put you on a six-month waiting list for a phone.

    You know that minor British company called O2? Yup, that’s what happens when you free up business from the control of politicians and bureaucrats.

  • PaulT

    Sorry Harry, didn’t know NI housing estates were a economic barometer of any note : )

    British manufacturing is about 50% of what it was in 1980 when it accounted for 5.5% of global output think it’s circa 2.5% now.

    FYI Britain has FALLEN to 7th nothing to crow about, here’s a depressing link

    http://www.imeche.org/knowledge/themes/Manufacturing/engineered-in-britain

    “Manufacturing continues to contribute only 12% of Gross Domestic Product (down from 20% in 2000 and 30% in 1970) with signs indicating this downward trend will continue.”

    Add to that the foreign ownership of manufacturing which means the profits disappear abroad.

    The Tories have created (with help from Blair) a badly unbalanced economy, not only dependent on a fickle Banking sector, but that sector dicates economic policy which will continue to damage manufacturing and sucks up the brightest kids to sit in front of Trading terminals instead of inventing stuff.

    Re: the family silver, surely you mean that minor Spanish company called O2 or Telefónica UK Limited as we call it (do keep up lad, or is the family silver disappearing out the door to quickly to keep track – bit like O2’s profits across the water.

    Or indeed BT, still charging line rental but not actually investing it in a modern telecoms infrastructure, well the shareholders must come first. Bit like the gas, electricity, water, public transport etc shareholders really.

    Although to be fair the national Telecoms company BT does stream movies now, so it’s not all bad, even if you can’t get a broadband connect in large parts of the country to watch them

    Britain, should be on a par with Germany, it ain’t, it’s nowhere near it, and unlikely to ever be again

    until people stop this “my country right or wrong” crap and start prodding the people responsible to fix it…that is

  • PaulT

    And Harry, as for improvement in living standards, strangely it coincided with the availability of easy credit, if that credit was reduced to 1970’s levels would the standard of living be shown to have improved in real terms, personally I don’t recall the high street been full of payday loan shops in the 70’s or 80’s

  • Valenciano

    “UKIP don’t stand in any Tory held seat and the Tories don’t challenge UKIP in the remaining top thirty seats that the UKIP did best in last time around and actually assist UKIP with canvassing and logistical support. In return Farage gets into government and an in/out referendum on the EU.Can’t see what’s to lose for the Tories.”

    Actually it’s hard to think of a more self defeating policy for the tories. Besides the many votes they’d lose from centrist voters, they’d throw away their biggest advantage over UKIP. At the moment their trump card is that UKIP have no Westminster seats and thus a vote for UKIP can be accurately portrayed as a wasted vote which would have been better cast tactically for a tory candidate. If the Conservatives handed UKIP the very substantial leg up of 20-30 Westminster seats they’d instantly lose that advantage, not to mention they’d have handed UKIP the airtime, cash and greater credibility that would come from being in Westminster.

    “the BNP (who are actually ex-Labour voters in the main)”

    real election results from London and Scotland, suggest the opposite. In London for example, BNP 2nd prefs broke 26% Conservative, 26% UKIP, 10% Labour and 9% Green.

  • Comrade Stalin

    PaulT:

    Or indeed BT, still charging line rental but not actually investing it in a modern telecoms infrastructure, well the shareholders must come first.

    I think you just exposed your ignorance there, BT spearheaded heavy deployment of digital telephony in the UK (one of the first all-digital telephone networks in the world AFAIK), and then ADSL under Verwaayen, are busy deploying fibre to the kerb (“BT Infinity”). To my knowledge broadband provision/availability in the UK is among the best in the world, excepting places like South Korea with very high population densities. I think the regulatory regime on telecom in the UK is pitched just about right; there’s plenty of competition for most of the country and prices are quite low especially if you know where to look. A big part of this is local loop unbundling, a concept pioneered by the Tories.

    Publicly owned telephony was disastrous for the UK. It used to take months to get a phoneline connected and it cost a small fortune if you wanted two. Labour governments drafted workers into the post office in order to get the unemployment numbers down, so you had a lot of people in there employed to do nothing except drink tea. I am glad that it was privatized, it is an important aspect of keeping the UK economy running (no I do not work for BT – they certainly have their faults, but letting the infrastructure go to pot is not one of them).

    On the point about manufacturing, there I agree. It’s not all the fault of Thatcher – the unions were simply too damn powerful and acted to inhibit modernization and the adaptation of new manufacturing methods and new technology. That problem had to be dealt with. On the other hand, building a manufacturing economy to rival Germany’s one could not happen under the Tories. The German government extensively invested in supporting these industries, together with good training and skills development; the Conservatives’ monetarist ideology did not allow this and perfectly good businesses with good products were allowed to go bust for the sake of cash flow – the De Lorean plant in Belfast is a prime example.

  • http://sammymorse.livejournal.com Gerry Lynch

    I know a couple of LibDem activists in areas of Northern England where the BNP won council numbers of council seats in their early-mid 2000s heyday. They all said that a large part of the BNP vote came from people who hadn’t historically voted, at least in local elections, and was heavily male. Burnley was a bit of an exception, where a tradition had already developed of people voting Labour or Tory in general elections, but for populist Independents, some of whom had fairly trenchant views on race and integration, in council elections. Those people found it quite easy to make the next step of voting BNP in council elections, one reason why they did well there.

    The same people also found it easy to abandon the BNP once they realised how useless they actually are.

  • Jimmy Sands

    My favourite quote of the evening, tweeted by the grauniad’s Helen Pidd:

    Marlene Guest, the BNP candidate, is fuming at Ukip’s Rotherham performance. “I’m so angry. Ukip are like us, but they just lie about it.”

    This may herald the end of the apparent local election pact between the parties for the last two years, the sort of thing which UKIP could get away with while it was under the radar but is going to have to be much more careful about going forward.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Gerry,

    Ironically this was precisely the demographic courted by the LibDems in inner London in the 90s.

  • Harry Flashman

    “well the shareholders must come first”

    Oh heavens above Paul, it’s like reading a copy of the Socialist Worker circa 1983 with your posts.

    I do appreciate that to you the word “shareholder” sums up a man in a big black top hat who twirls his waxy mustache as he cackles maniacally over his ill-gotten gains saying “mine! all mine! bwaahahhahhhaaa!”

    Let me just inform you what a shareholder is, a shareholder is a man or woman who invests his or her hard earned money in order to get a return on investment. They usually do so through those evil institutions known to the rest of us as pension funds in order that they might have something to live on in their old age. In order to make sure that the income continues they expect the directors that they pay to make sure the company functions profitably.

    Now the quickest way for a company to stop making profits is for that company to stop providing goods or services that people in a free market want to pay their hard earned and over-taxed money for. In a free market a company that does not provide its customers with what they want goes bust and the shareholders lose all their money thus making them most displeased.

    Therefore the shareholders, and this might come as a shock to you, actually want their company to provide good services to their customers, shareholders like their customers, they love them very much. “Happy customers, yum yum, that means more money for me, and I am a greedy bastard so the more happy customers the better”.

    See how these free market things work? Clever isn’t it?

    Now the free market starts to fail when our old friend the government gets involved you see the government doesn’t as a rule like things out of their control, they like to keep power to themselves. That’s why they love state monopolies so much, how cool are they? In state monopolies the government tells the customer what they’re getting and how much they’re going to pay for it and when the monopoly might get round to actually providing it. The government can pack the state monopoly with their own clients to pay them off for voting for them.

    The state monopoly, unlike those evil shareholders, doesn’t give a flying fuck what the customers want because the customer will simply have to suck up the shite service or goods that the government gives them.

    Socialists refer to such a monopoly as the “family silver” and get very moist eyed thinking about such beautiful institutions.

    Now I did mention free markets, the thing is they do actually have to be free, not crony capitalist organisations favoured by the government. Thus if a couple of banks in a particular politically favoured region, oh just for fun let’s say Scotland, decide to lend money recklessly then it is incumbent on the shareholders to do something about it, if they don’t the banks go bust and said shareholders lose all their money, tough titty they’ll know better the next time.

    What absolutely should not happen is if the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer who by a remarkable coincidence also happen to come from the above mentioned politically favoured region decide to confiscate billions of bounds from hard working tax-payers to bail out the shareholders of those idiotic banks.

    Governments, you’ve got to love them, staffed by such intellectual giants and economic geniuses I mean how couldn’t they make a better fist of running companies than the people who actually own them eh?

  • Greenflag

    harry flashman ,

    “Happy customers, yum yum, that means more money for me, and I am a greedy bastard so the more happy customers the better”.

    A naive comment . The world’s greatest mass murderer was and is not Stalin or Hitler but the Tobacco Industry . The total estimated deaths to date since cigarettes were ‘invented ‘ is 100 million . I guess you could make the point that a dead customer is a happy customer or would that be vice versa ?

    Left to their own devices ‘capitalist corporations ‘ will kill , steal , rob , gouge and do whatever it takes to make a profit or just to survive in competitive environments .This has been the case since the earliest days of commercial ‘civilisation ‘ . How did the Dutch gain a monopoly on ‘nutmeg ‘ from the East Indies ? Theft and genocide basically .

    ‘Governments, you’ve got to love them, staffed by such intellectual giants and economic geniuses I mean how couldn’t they make a better fist of running companies than the people who actually own them eh?’

    Good point but then just look at who was ‘running the banks ‘ in the UK , USA , Ireland etc up to the recent 2007 collapse ? Yep those same owners .

    Even the current UK Government under Cameron can do little given that there are now only 4 big financial institutions in the UK and the failure of any one of them i.e not bailing them out -would send the UK into a high double digit unemployment rate and into another recession .

    Which is I suppose why despite the bookie’s odds the UK Government decidedfor the first time ever to appoint a non British Governor of the Bank of England i..e a Mr Carney – a Canadian . And we all know or we should know by now that one of the main reasons why Canada avoided the self generated chaos inflicted on the UK , USA , and ireland by their banking /political elites was because the Canadians kept stricter controls of their financial sector and did not allow their banks to become gambling casinos .

    On that note while a ‘market economy’ remains the best model for economic progress worldwide in some places it’s coming at a price of what can only be called the ‘market society ‘ I read that in the USA a gambling casino has given 10,000 dollars to an 18 year old girl for her providing a commercial service . For the rest of her life this 18 year old will sport on her forehead a permanent tattoo advertising to all who meet her the benefits of gambling at a certain casino .

    Call it an upgrade of the old time poor sandwich board merchants as they shuffled their way through the streets of London .

    Wonder what the next upgrade will be ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Harry,

    Much as it might be surprise you I work in a small business and I know about the importance of risk and investment. Without risk doesn’t happen, without investment there is no way to take ideas and products forward, and therefore shareholders must be looked after.

    However that does not mean the idea of putting short term shareholder value first is not without its flaws. Great companies have been destroyed by senior management figures, often sporting little more than an MBA degree from Harvard and a few well-placed connections, bribing shareholders with short-term rewards and implementing headline-grabbing initiatives. One of the worst is the mantra “focus on non-core business” thing where the shareholders bully the management into selling off key, profitable assets in order to get some cash in position to temporarily shore up a flagging stock. We were talking about BT above, there is a perfect case in point – they over-bidded for the 3G licenses, the share price was hit, so under pressure from shareholders during the dot-com meltdown they decided to spin off the profitable BT Cellnet division. That division renamed itself O2 and now it generates massive pots of easy cash for its Spanish owners, Telefonica. This was a monumentally stupid decision taken for no reason other than to placate the short-term demands of panicky stockholders.

    There are many other examples, such as HP spinning off all of its cool, profitable and very specialized engineering technologies (such as Agilent) to focus on the bloody stupid market of flogging mass-market PCs. HP are now in trouble and as they have no diversity in their business they don’t have these other lines to fall back on.

    German manufacturing industries which are successful and profitable are often not dominated by shareholders. Large organizations I can think of include Bosch, most of whose profits are diverted into a philanthropic trust, and high-end consumer goods manufacturer Miele who are privately held and who sell expensive and uncompromised household appliances. Shareholders just as often encourage a race towards the bottom. I really do hope that UK and US businesses learn to find better ways to manage their affairs than appeasing every whim of the omnipresent stockholder.

  • PaulT

    Heyhoo Harry, right then, pension funds.

    Firstly, why would a shareholder in a ex-public utility (or indeed and shareholder) worry about customer service. As a shareholder with several several 000’s invested I can assure you I and all shareholders only want a return.

    In utilities which are mostly monopolies the desire for a return is even more as there is no competition (believe me the Chinese investment in Thames Water this year was not driven by a desire to provide a better service)

    Re pension funds, in Britain, they charge a 3% management fee (1% everywhere else) people need to invest in pension funds as the gov will not provide a decent state pension. Those people want a return and nothing more from their pension pot.

    Sadly it’s high risk, the recent crash wiped out many pension pots. But there is little alternative in Britain but to hand your cash to fund managers.

    Incidently, already NEST is being describe as setting up the biggest financial mis-selling case in history.

    You call me a socialist, guess thats meant as an insult, I’m a hardnosed businessman, I understand economics, I only want a better return for myself and mine, However, while there are loads of idiots with nothing and little intelligence crowing about how great things are it’s difficult to achieve change.

    We are stuck in a society (aided by the internet) where it is acceptable (nay, taken for granted) that people believe their ignorance is as valuable as someone elses intelligence and knowledge, until we make those people understand that their ignorance is of no value and to please stop rabbiting on about stuff they have no knowledge off we are not going to progress.

    However, thank you for your comedy gold on O2……

  • Mick Fealty

    Framer, erm, What was that about Rotherham being a weakness in Merry’s analysis? http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2012/11/labours-safe-seats-stay-safe/

  • Comrade Stalin

    Firstly, why would a shareholder in a ex-public utility (or indeed and shareholder) worry about customer service.

    Because if service is bad people will switch to other providers and consequently the value of the shareholding will drop ?

  • PaulT

    Really Comrade, I’m unhappy with my water supplier and my train company, can you recommend an alternative?

    Actually not overly please with the hikes in bus fares either, throw a few alternatives at me for that as well.

    indeed having tried all 6 major Gas and Elect suppliers I’m concerned none of them are investing in new power stations, any suggestions?

    Indeed as was pointed out on Radio 5 this week if the utility companies are demanding that the taxpayer fund new power stations, than the billions they’ve been taking out of the companies as profits, aren’t actually profits, it’s money that should have been invested in the company.

    Example, ever exit a taxi and been told “thats £12.50 for the fare mate plus £30 for a new wing mirror, I broke the old one last week!” It wouldn’t happen would it, nor would it happen with any company outside ex-public companies who are allowed to run monopoloies

    Actually Richard Branson is now supplying NHS services in London, if I don’t like it whats your suggestion.

    Why are Academy Schools allowed to feed sh*t to children thats banned in other schools, it’s banned for a reason, non?

    Why close down all the job centres and hand £500,000,000.00 to a 2 or companies like A4E who only manage to find 31,000 badly paid jobs in return.

    So where’s the alternatives Comrade?

  • Framer

    Merry?

  • pragya

    real minuscule in fact. The vast figure of immigrants in Britain are from the once colonies and it began in solemn during WW2.
    Instead of centering all on the 1690s you strength impoverishment to acquaint yourself with the events of 1960s. Tis a wee bit more relevant.

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