The Future of The Party: Part I -UKIP
By Rosalind Hulse. Regional Reporter for Yorkshire and Humber
In the next three article I will be looking at the future of the party and what people feel. In this first blog I look at the impact of UKIP and talk to one of its members. In part two I look the governments U-turns and ask people in and out of the party what they think. Part three is an exclusive in-depth talk with Joe Markham, one of the co-founders of the ‘Young Conservative Reform Group’, I discuss how ordinary members are trying to make a difference and save the party. In the final article I review the whole series and look at what people have said. If you have a view on the party as a whole or on the topics I discussed in the three parts then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org , if you do NOT wish to be named for any quotes which may be used in the final piece then please let me know in the article.
What Have They Got That We Ain’t?
When I was growing up the one Prime Minster I knew of, the one who I first respected was Lady Thatcher. Being born two years before Blair came to power I guess you could say I was already born with a sense of rebellion against the Prime Minister and the party which would govern throughout my childhood. But now I don’t sense the threat from the left, Ed Milliband, if given the chance, could become a bigger joke than Neil Kinnock. Where I see the threat is in UKIP, a party which seems to be recruiting our hardcore Tories, our die-hard supporters who’ve had enough with the leadership. I’m not going to go into whats wrong with us, I’ve written about it before and so have other. In this part of ‘The Future of The Party’ I am going to look at why people choose UKIP and what they seem to be doing to promote this trend.
Early in the year I interview Thomas Booker, another young member of UKIP. We spoke about the council elections and what was happening.
“Old Tories, the voters who have been members and supporters all their life went purple. We must remember there was a poor turnout on May the third. UKIP did very well, in Sheffield they did better than the Conservatives” -Thomas Booker
Early this week I spoke to Sam Launder, a local student and activist for UKIP. I first met Sam at the recent local elections, although neither of our parties won a seat in Sheffield his did considerably better.
ME: Why are Tories, especially long term supporters jumping ship and swimming over to UKIP?
LAUNDER: We are seeing many Tories now quite simply stand up and say that the Conservative Party was not the Party that they once joined, that their principles no longer lie with the Party, and who can blame them? When they hear UKIP talk about lower taxes, increasing the number grammar schools, giving much greater support to our armed forces, to our small businesses, then you don’t just see a vast number of Tories jump ship you see many come over from Labour too.
Patrick O’Flynn (Chief Political Commentator of the Daily Express) said at a regional conference that I recently attended, ‘agent Cameron’ is doing a fantastic job. (i.e. in terms of boosting UKIP membership). He’s completely right. One of the most worrying things for you is the diminishing support of the grassroots, with the County Council elections just around the corner it’s quite a worry for you. No-one should ever underestimate the importance in politics of the grassroot support in a party. Personally, I think Cameron started losing touch with some of the grassroots before he even became PM. Calling himself the ‘heir to Blair’, the claim that supporters of grammar schools were ‘deluded’. I can’t imagine they went down too well.
ME: So, Why are people voting UKIP?
LAUNDER: People have now realized that we’re not just a party that talks about the EU. You saw here in Sheffield only a couple of months ago at the local elections how we came second and third in the majority of wards, we beat you by around 3,000 votes.
People are now hearing what we have to offer. That under UKIP people would be paying a lot less in tax, eventually scrapping national insurance altogether, whilst taking 4.5 million of the lowest paid workers out of tax altogether. The policy that there would be a much greater emphasis on selective education ensuring the brightest child from the poorest background gets the best possible education. The fact that we have 4.5 million small businesses here in the UK, and that these are the people we should be looking to help in terms of stimulating the economy. We really need to get rid of so much of the red tape, so many of the regulations and directives, of course it was something that Cameron spoke about before the election wasn’t it? But it’s something he hasn’t even touched on since. Just imagine the positive effect on employment that these policies alone would have.
ME: Both of us were there at the count in Sheffield, although UKIP didn’t win any seats they did very well. Is the the UKIP surge greater in the North?
LAUNDER: Overall, when you look at the opinion polls and the underlying details, it does suggest that we do poll slightly better in the North. However, in terms of ‘hotspots’, here, one of our biggest strengths is also one of our biggest set-backs. Obviously you look at the fantastic progress and growth of support which is happening for us here in Sheffield, and then look down to the South West, in Plymouth and Exeter, we’re just as likely really to find a UKIP voter in Plymouth or Exeter than we are in Sheffield or Hull. A line often thrown at me is ‘Well, the Green Party have an MP now and you don’t’, but you look at Brighton and it was perfect for them, that was there ‘hotspot’. However, in many other parts of the country they are considerably weaker. With us, we are pretty strong and our support is growing all over. I’d much rather be in our current position than theirs, the potential and momentum we have right across the country is quite something.
So what MUST be done?
As I looked through what Sam had told me I wondered what could be done. UKIP may be our biggest threat but it appears we’ve helped them a little too much. When I look at the list of people who’ve left the party for UKIP I see a pattern. The sort of person who I would class as a true Tory are getting fed up. Many people view this as a good thing, they feel one less Neil Hamilton and young Enoch Powell will help the party to become modern and electable. But clearly this isn’t the case, with party donations critically down and UKIP fourth in the opinion polls, I view these pre-election signs as a clear message. The party is neglecting the voters we rely on and the few new ‘wets’ who we pick up by acting like Blair won’t compensation the losses. So what do we do?
I speak to ex-Tories and understand where they are coming from. Like me they fell in love with the party of Maggie and Tebbit, now suddenly they’ve woken up to find someone else in bed. But is it the party as a whole? No, I see it mainly as Cameron’s attempt to get rid of the past and give the party a nicer face. But in hard times like this is a pretty face really important?