UKIP may well top the poll in terms of vote share in the Euro Elections on Thursday 22nd May, but to what end? UKIPers seriously do think that coming first in an election to an institution, which UKIP says is pointless, counts as a political earthquake.
If, however, UKIP were serious about winning seats in the only Parliament that counts, when it comes to enacting legislation to put an In/Out Referendum to the UK electorate, then it would surely focus time, resources and money on winning elections within the UK that would help it gain seats at Westminster. Therefore, the results that really count for UKIP on May 22nd are not the Euro ones, but the parochial local authority contests taking place across England and in Northern Ireland.
As any party campaign strategist will tell you, local authority Councillors are the boots on the ground that you need to raise your party’s profile in local areas. It is not Quantum Mechanics to say that, if you want to be a serious contender to win seats at Westminster, then you need locally elected representatives of your party undertaking the ‘mundane’ work of Councillors and, crucially campaigning all year round with all that implies.
One might almost be led to think, by the decision to field Roger Helmer in Newark, that the party has no serious wish to win the seat. Were there no more emollient, less controversial characters from which to chose a candidate, perhaps even a woman? Someone well placed to maximise the expected protest vote in the by election? Or are more controversial statements and gaffes, forests of column inches, extended media coverage and Nigel Farage appearing on every programme on the BBC (with any tenuous link to politics) more important than finally securing a seat in Parliament through the ballot box? Is UKIP, instead, hoping to gain a seat through yet another (fag end of a Parliamentary term) defection by a well past his sell by date, hard right Tory backbencher? A Roger Helmer of Westminster, in fact.
Without any likelihood of there being a referendum for many years, UKIP and its supporters are putting sizeable efforts into electing a group of their members into, in their opinion, a moribund institution. These lucky individuals, predominantly white, male, middle aged and well heeled can look forward to five years of honing their expenses claims skills, whilst doing next to nothing to constructively represent their constituents and the UK in Brussels and Strasbourg (and the wider world). And, whilst doing nothing they will at every opportunity bellyache about the institution that they are doing their best to undermine from within, one expenses claim at a time. And, just in case any UKIPer is reading this, it is your taxes that pay for their generous expenses, allowances, research trips etc. Their extravagant expenses (as UKIP themselves refer to them) are part of our subscription to the European Union.
Of course, if turkeys had a vote, they would probably not vote for Christmas, so perhaps we should not be surprised that UKIP’s would be MEP turkeys are quite happy for their party to commit significant resources to get them elected to well paid sinecures (funded out of the purses of their fellow taxpayers). Resources that would surely be better used to get them the political leverage within the UK to bring about their collective heart’s desire, an In/Out Referendum, if they were serious about obtaining one?
Aneurin Bevan said, “How can wealth persuade poverty to use its political power to keep wealth in power? Here lies the whole art of Conservative politics in the twentieth century.” UKIP have assiduously studied and copied this art, whilst at the same time absorbing it through osmosis, courtesy of ex Tories like Mr Helmer. No slouch he at completing a European Parliament expenses claim. Should he lose in Newark, he will be able to drown his sorrows at length as a newly elected MEP.
Whatever else UKIP’s supporters may or may not be, they are looking more and more like mugs, easy prey for a bunch of hardened expense account liggers. Liggers who know as much about the lives of the people whose votes they are soliciting as David Cameron knows about what it is like to live on JSA, with no hope of getting a job.