Sunday, 16 June 2013
A lead in the polls isn’t ‘connecting’ with the public.
Could this be the end for Dick Dastardly, otherwise known as UKIP leader Nigel Farage? An opinion poll published this week shows the surge his party experienced after the recent local elections had spluttered out like a cheap firework.
The poll conducted by ICM for the Guardian puts UKIP on 12%, down from 18% a few weeks ago but still three points up on their previous highest rating. Labour polled 36% with the Tories on 29 and the Lib Dems managing a minor rally to join UKIP on 12%.
Despite being ahead this is no time for the two Ed’s to be popping champagne corks, the same poll gives David Cameron and George Osborne a 9% lead when rated for economic competence; so showing themselves willing to dismantle the principle of universal benefits has brought Labour exactly nothing in terms of political advantage.
It isn’t all good news for David Cameron though, less than half the people questioned believed he has the backing of his party, a fall from 62% last year.
Speaking about the results to politics.co.uk on Wednesday Martin Boon of ICM said they showed that the public were ‘plainly fed up with politicians of all stripes’ and that as a result fewer people were willing to admit, even to themselves, ‘who they will plump for next time.’
The rapid decline of UKIP is hardly a surprise; they are a classic one trick pony of a party, on any subject other than Europe they have little to say worth listening to. Farage is an entertaining contrarian in small doses; prolonged exposure always results in severe irritation.
This poll offers even less comfort to the three main parties than it does to UKIP, many of the members of which are much happier shaking their fist at the world than trying to change it.
Labour have managed to establish a healthy lead, but not a good enough one to win the next election; the Tories have retained their, utterly unfounded, reputation for economic competence; meanwhile the Liberal Democrats are just relieved to still be breathing. As it stands the Tories will probably win the next election due to being seen as the ‘least worst’ option and the whole sorry farce will trundle on as before.
What this poll tells us is that the public are heartily sick of politics. They see it as a nasty parlour game played by strange people that has only a tangential connection to their everyday concerns.
This is almost entirely down to the antics of the boys, and a few girls, in the Westminster bubble. They hollowed out their grassroots party networks because they found all those members with quaint ideas about having a say on policy tiresome; preached hypocritically about tightening belts whilst fiddling their expenses and every week they are the ones who embarrass an ancient parliamentary tradition with the childish freak show that is PMQ’s.
I say the parlous state of British politics in the second decade of the twenty first century is almost entirely down to the behaviour of its practitioners, almost, but not completely; we the voters have to take a slice of the blame cake too. We had an opportunity to vote for a more mature type of politics in the 2011 referendum on AV, but thanks to a mix of apathy and fear let it slip though our fingers.
For the system to regain public confidence we need a parliament that looks more like the country it governs, with more BME members and women certainly and more people who have had jobs outside politics too. We also need a political culture that is lass adversarial and more collaborative; sadly I won’t risk holding my breath as I wait for one to arrive.
The three main parties will, no doubt, be relieved to see Nigel Farage exit stage left, although he was rather more like a character in a PG Wodehouse novel than a real extremist; a noisy, but ultimately harmless, buffoon who added to the comedy of life as he shot across the political firmament en-route to the inevitable pratfall.
The next such figure or the one after that to arise may not be so benign though; when the public lose faith in politics genuine extremism flourishes.