There is usually a certain satisfaction in being able to say “I told you so.” On 1 May I published here an article on the stupidity of the senior British Tories, including Prime Minister David Cameron, in attacking the right-of-center UK Independence Party as clowns, cranks, and racists.
Days later, at the British local government elections, UKIP gained 140 seats and the Tories lost 336.
UKIP is entirely driven by the perceived wetness, leftism, and directionlessness of Cameron’s Tories, as well as by their alliance with the far-left Liberal Democrats, uncontrolled immigration, and, more and more, by Cameron’s apparent determination to deny the electorate a say on the question of European Union within a reasonable time-frame. There has not been a public vote on Britain’s EU membership in 40 years.
While Cameron has some good economic policies, or at least better ones than Labour’s 19th-century Marxism, the Cameron Tories, desperate to portray themselves as the “nice” party, have become identified principally with an obsession with same-sex marriage, inflating foreign aid at the expense of the defense forces, and generally bending over backwards to appease the Lib Dems. They give the impression of bring unable to stand up to the dictates of the European Union on British independence generally. Without a real conservative party, UKIP looks like filling a gap they have allowed to open in the political culture.
A significant number of conservative voters have plainly come to see the Cameron Conservative Party as having betrayed them and UKIP as offering a last hope for conservative values. UKIP has suddenly gone from being a joke party to a serious force, though how long it will last is problematic and once again depends on the Tories. But it is now in a position to attract talent and money. Further, it can offer something a lot more definite than the vague and ambiguous programs of the major parties – a cut-and-dried appeal to traditional conservatism, of the sort the increasingly discontented electorate has not been offered since the pole-axing of Margaret Thatcher. It is a long way short of winning government, but in a first-past-the-post system it could be a deadly threat to the Cameron Tories at the next election.
Commentator Simon Heffer has written, predicting electoral doom for the Tories if Cameron does not, improbably, change course fast:
… UKIP advocates other ideas that were once championed by the mainstream Tory party before it alienated itself from its traditional voters so spectacularly.
It wants lower taxes, the creation of more grammar schools, withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, freedom from the tyranny of the EU and the bolstering of Britain’s depleted Armed Forces.
Any rapprochement between a party with such priorities and one obsessed with legalizing marriage between same sex couples and spending billions on overseas aid is impossible to imagine.
Heffer continues: “[Nigel] Farage [the UKIP leader] is a Technicolor man in a monochrome political class. To the chattering classes, his brash, confident, matey, plain-spoken persona makes him something of a demon. But to millions of voters he’s someone with whom they can identify, and who avoids the nuanced language of almost all other politicians.”
Last June more than a million people turned out in freezing rail to see the Royal Jubilee procession up the Thames with other gatherings all over the country. The crowds lining the streets for a glimpse of the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and even for Margaret Thatcher’s funeral a few weeks ago, hint at a vast reserve of traditional and patriotic sentiment in the country, which Cameron has given every indication of not merely ignoring, but positively despising. He has refused to consider a UKIP offer of joint candidates. Nigel Farage, on the other hand, as the Spectator pointed out recently, wears socks with pound, not Euro, signs on them and Spitfire cuff-lines.
The Cameroons, however able they may be in theory, betray almost no understanding of the fact that politics is about more than money. In national politics emotions, passions symbols, and history have mighty roles to play. This is especially true of Britain, with the storied past on every hand, from guardsmen’s uniforms to the design of coins.
There seems to be no resonance between any of the major parties’ ambitions for Britain, whatever these may be, and what the people as a whole, alarmed by a number of developments, want for a future. Increasingly it looks to many as if UKIP alone still cares about that future.
After the local government elections Cameron said, in Thomas-the-Tank-Engine language, that he would “work really hard” to win back voters who switched support. Actually he doesn’t need to work really hard, only to adopt genuine conservative policies and show that he cares for the preservation of Britain’s sovereignty.