Wednesday, 13 June 2012

How UKIP could overtake the Tories in the North

An excellent article appeared on IndHome by Lee Jenkins  about how UKIP is actually doing better in Northern Labour strongholds rather than the True Blue Tory Shires which is the rather lazy stereotype held by the media. Opinion polls on Northern voting intentions consistently show us wiping the floor with the Lib Dems and being not too distant from catching up the Tories. To do so would be a major coup for us and a major psychological blow to the Tory party.

But can we do it?

As a Northener myself (though unlike Lee from the White Rose side of the Pennines) I would say we certainly can, as long as we take the trouble to understand the North's political culture: - something no other party has bothered to do for a long time, regarding the region as an impregnable Labour Party fiefdom.

Firstly to expand on Lee's observations, it is true that in terms of it's economic culture, the North, or at least the industrial North, would appear to be barren terrain for UKIP. Previously dominated by large manufacturing concerns employing mass labour, the small trader, individual entrepreneur culture which is most likely to identify with UKIP's broadly Libertarian economic policies has always been much weaker there.  (It's no accident that TV's most famous sitcom entrepreneurs, Del Trotter and Arthur Daley, are Londoner's, and Nigel Farage could have played a hilarious cameo role in either series.) In recent year's things have got even worse, with Gordon Brown's 'sovietisation' of much of the region: in most areas government generates most of the GDP. Consequently, much of the North is economically depressed and remains deeply suspicious of capitalism.

Sadly, the issue which most Northerner's are most likely to identify with UKIP is immigration. It can not be emphasised strongly enough that the immigration patterns observed by the Metropolitan elite - broadly speaking the migration to London of a high-skilled, middle class, truly multi-cultural workforce who come to London for their careers - is totally different from the low skilled and often Islamic migration channelled by arranged or forced marriages experienced in many Northern cities. The effect is no less than the en masse transfer of rural, deeply conservative Southern Asian cultures into these areas, and it is no surprise that this is causing the rise of dangerous sectarian tensions in places like Dewsbury and Blackburn. Cracking down on this type of immigration is vital if social stability is to be maintained.

But there is another, more generic factor to UKIP's appeal: authenticity. Whether or not they agree with aspects of UKIP's policy portfolio, they at least respect the direct style of politicians such as Nigel Farage or Paul Nuttall. Northerner's are well known for their love of straight-talking and have always disliked what they see as the dishonest, cowardly and hypocritical avoidance of hard truths they associate with the Southern manner of speech in general and the Political Class in particular.

Lastly, there is also another very painful truth we must acknowledge, and one that no political party has really got to grips with: the rise and rise of the London City State at the expense of the rest of the UK. I heard a remark yesterday that encapsulated the issue perfectly:

"London is an international,  multicultural city tacked onto an increasingly irrelevant country."

It hurt so much because it is largely true. Economically, of course, most of the the UK has lagged behind growth in the South East for several decades. The fact that is that people feel ignored by and irrelevant  to an arrogant, effete, self-regarding Metropolitan over-class that now dominates the LibLabCon parties and seems almost colonial in it's attitudes to the rest of the country rubs salt into the wounds.  The powerful, festering resentments this has created are exhibited by the rise in nationalist sentiment in Scotland and Wales, which is reality a reaction to Metropolitan rule rather than English rule.

Not having nationalism to fall back on as a political outlet, the North is currently trapped, with no party currently articulating its intense frustrations. What is needed are true localist policies that give the North  a large measure of independence from Metropolitan rule. (Though a fine policy in itself, an English parliament really doesn't address the issue, and in some ways it could even amplify London's dominance.) Instead, we must continue to build up our party strength locally on a campaign theme of independence from London. (Obviously such a campaign should be couched in positive, constructive terms rather than falling back on the all too common bitter prejudices about t'bloody Sutherners.) Having consistently failed to deliver on localism despite repeated promises, none of the other parties will ever be believed on this issue, but there is chance that UKIP, with it's reputation for honesty, will be.

With the Lib Dems in seemingly permanent eclipse and the Tory Party is steep decline, the prize of UKIP becoming the second party in the North of England is truly within sight.

Let us now take it.