Mark Reckless won UKIP’s target seat No. 271 last night with a near three thousand majority. Whatever number it was on the Conservative Party’s list they must now surely be worried about UKIP winning target seats 1-270 in the General Election.
The people put up to do media interviews today are hiding behind messages about ‘a protest vote’ and ‘people doing strange things in by-elections that wont repeat itself in a general election’. Even the Prime Minister had to say ‘the result was closer than UKIP predicted.’ That may be true, but UKIP still won in a Conservative safe seat Dave.
The Party is Changing. Will there be an SDP Moment?
Behind the sound bites do the recent defections to UKIP of Conservative MPs Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless signal an ‘SDP moment’, and a split in, the Conservative Party? Well, that may not be apparent until after the general election in May next year but one thing is clear the Conservative Party is changing and the signs are not good.
The Conservative Party could once boast being the most successful political party in the western world. It was a phenomenal political machine that had the major hand in ruling Britain for 75 years of the 100 years of the 20th Century.
Is the party a shadow of its former self? Well the Conservative Party has not won an outright majority at a general election since 1992 and the polls suggest that run may be extended to 2020.
In that time, the treacherous deposing of the most successful leader in their history, Margaret Thatcher, has haunted them and they have been ripped apart by internal division on the issue of Europe. A lack of discipline and a unifying vision over the last twenty odd years has led to the steady decline of the modern Conservative Party.
Losing Support: Disconnected
Today, the Conservative Party is in danger of imploding by the threat of UKIP.
Since the last election it is estimated that one in four Conservative members have left the party to join UKIP and a similar number of supporters and voters have done the same. If this trend continues through to the general election then the Conservative Party will certainly be denied the overall majority they seek because of UKIP.
The Conservative strategy, led by David Cameron personally (and aided by their friends in the media) to try to discredit UKIP as loons, fruitcakes and racists has backfired spectacularly with their own party and the electorate.
For many, although Cameron is not a bad person, he represents the Oxbridge-educated liberal elite. A privileged ‘toff’ seen as completely disconnected from the real lives of ordinary working people. Even though in recent months he has started using ‘effing’ in speeches and blunter language, it has gone beyond the point where it can be seen as authentic.
These same hard working people are suspicious of the EU, vexed about mass immigration/migration and therefore livid at the behaviour of their MPs including their audacity in times of austerity to accept an 11% pay rise next year.
They don't understand for example why George Osborne stands up in parliament announcing tax cuts for the rich and further austerity for working people in the same breath as increasing spending to record levels on overseas aid to India and China (£400 million) and stumping up whatever way you cut it £1.7 Billion to the European Union. With policies like this, those who have deserted the party for UKIP are surely unlikely to return.
The Conservatives must accept that their base support and the majority of the rest of the country are crying out for change. People want to see amongst other things, Westminster reformed and reformed properly, not tinkering around the edges.
They want to see the social and cultural transformation of Britain that has taken place in some areas completely reversed and an end to the chaotic, open door immigration policy pursued by successive governments. They want a new relationship with the European Union or at least to be given a say on the future of the current relationship. UKIP are offering this very change people want.
So do the recent events represent an SDP moment for the Conservative Party? Not yet, but if they are to avoid that day arriving they have to stop underestimating UKIP, get their act together on large areas of policy and ensure the next leader is someone who can be taken seriously. By the way that eliminates someone who waves a brick around and suggests his political opponents have sex with a vacuum cleaner!