Friday, 5 July 2013

Will UKIP Overtake The Tories?

Today, a poll by Survation put us within 1% of the Tories, with UKIP holding steady in the support it has picked up recently on 22%, and the Tories falling to a record low with the organisation of 23%.

Yes, we all know not to get too down or excited by individual polls: Survation is kind to UKIP and YouGov is cruel, the latter having us only level pegging with the Liberal Democrats in one poll recently and well behind both Labour and Conservatives.

Nonetheless, is overtaking the Tories before the next election a realistic goal?

From UKIP's point of view, the advent of the summer months and the silly season means there is a frustrating hiatus to our momentum, as people forget about politics and enjoy the sun for a time. That said, it may give our activists a chance to recharge our batteries after all the hard work in recent months. After that, the latter part of this year and next year give substantial reasons for optimism, with the lifting of immigration restrictions on Bulgarian and Romania nationals playing to the party's core issue. This should give the party renewed momentum in the run-up to the European elections in 2014, which UKIP have a great chance of winning. To actually win an important election, of course, makes an immense psychological difference to the series of impressive seconds we have already notched up. Indeed one may feel it is now necessary for us to do so at this juncture - we don't want to get a reputation as a 'nearly but not quite' party - always the bridesmaid but never the bride!

In comparison, Tory hopes are strongly reliant on a recovering economy and the travails of a Labour opposition which has said almost nothing since the last election and still refuses to take any responsibility for the disastrous financial and economic issues it left behind it. However, as John Major found out, economic recovery can be a very double edged sword: during the recovery from the 1990s recession, it took a full four years before median real incomes recovered for many demographics, even as Gross Domestic Product showed strong growth. Paradoxically, the recovery actually fuelled public anger, because the wealth that was being created at the time was being concentrated in the hands of a few. Human nature being what it is, people find it much more difficult to cope with hard times if others appear to be doing better than you. Then, as now, there was huge anger at "fat cat" salaries for greedy bosses. Median incomes only started to rise strongly after the 1997 election, with Tony Blair and New Labour reaping the benefits.

Indeed, the Cameroon's disastrous error of judgement was their typically complacent assumption that by now economic recovery would be far enough advanced that most people would be feeling better off: instead the early "green shoots" we are experiencing arguably could not come at a worse time for them. (This incidentally, is the real reason behind Osborne's wholly cynical and idiotic "help to buy" ponzi scheme.  It is designed not so much to help the young to afford a house but to increase property values in the run up to the next election: as house prices improve, it gives the perception of rising wealth across the board even if the reality is very different.)

Personally, I do not think that an improving economy will help the Tory cause that much, whatever George Osborne's scheming shenanigans: people sense that we have undergone a epochal shift in our society which neither the governing parties or the opposition have had the courage to address. However, despite the reticence of the cowardly political class, the British people are eager to have that very conversation. In a recent excellent column, Charles Moore of the Telegraph captured the mood of frustration the electorate feel with politicians who instead seem to be spending their time "polishing their CV's and keeping an eye on the exits". In contrast, if UKIP keep showing the courage to address the British people as adults, then that will stand us in good stead to carry on our momentum after the 2014 European elections towards the 2015 general election.

All that said, it would not be at all surprising if by 2015 our support had begun to come of it's high. John Major's experience notwithstanding, there is usually some kind of swing back to the governing party, and this time around Labour are not lead by a charismatic and plausible Tony Blair. In time-honoured tribal tradition, many may migrate back to the Tories or Labour party from UKIP out of fear of the "Auld Enemy". Added to that is the undeniable  fact that we as a party we have some way to go to look like a team of competent people able to hold ministerial office rather than a one man band.   It would therefore not surprise me if our support came in around 15% when the general election votes were finally counted, with us in third place behind the Conservative and Labour parties.

If that sounds pessimistic it isn't meant to be. We have come very, very far in a short space of time. After years in the wilderness, UKIP are undeniably part of the mainstream, and will remain so. Before the 1979 election, Jim Callaghan famously remarked that every now and again there was a big sea change in politics. The advent of UKIP as a reaction against the sclerotic and rotten machine politics of the LibLabCon is one such change, and UKIP will be in government well within most of our lifetimes.

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