The 2017 Local Election Results In The UK, A Victory For UKIP By Any Other Name

Just a few quick points on last week’s local elections in the United Kingdom and the continuing post-referendum shift in the country’s politics to the nationalist right. In many ways Britain, or rather “Greater England”, has defaulted back to its pre-Tony Blair days. The era when Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party consistently used the heft of English votes to outweigh left-inclined supporters in Wales and Scotland. While it’s a crude analogy, it seems that the “Loadsamoney” class of the 1980s has morphed into the “White Van Man” of the 2000s, as English working- and lower middle-class voters attracted to the market-led philosophy of New Labour in the 1990s return to the Tory fold under Theresa May. In some ways, the Brexit plebiscite and the on-going negotiations with the European Union has provided May with a vote-winning Falkland Islands’ moment (a patriotic issue which saved Thatcher’s unpopular premiership in 1982-83 and in a different form may well do the same again for her most recent successor). Naturally this leaves Labour leader Corbyn as the Michael Foot of contemporary British politics, despised by the country’s elites, from Westminster to the metropolitan press, and likely to be ousted by a corporate-friendly contender following the general election in a few weeks.

Of course there are other factors at work here and early 21st century Britain has marked differences from its late 20th century equivalent. While the Labour Party may have been electorally weak in England since the 1980s its Welsh and Scottish mandates could never be doubted, even when threatened by embryonic progressive movements in both nations. However, whatever about Wales, the politics of Scotland have changed out of all recognition since the granting of devolution in 1999. The Scottish National Party (SNP) has become the dominant force north of the border, displacing Labour from its traditional role, leading to a straight-forward contest between itself and the Conservatives. It is remarkable to note how much Scottish politics has begun to separate in two over the last twenty years, with the pro-independence SNP, Greens and other parties on one side and the “pro-union” Tories, Labour, Lib Dems and UKIP on the other. As the press in Scotland reported this weekend, a surprising number of newly elected Labour and Conservative councillors identify with the Orange Order, a fundamentalist Protestant fraternity with deeply sectarian and racist views. That does not bode well for the future, given that a “communal” vote may well have contributed to Tory successes in the former Labour stronghold of Glasgow.

The dramatic upsurge in the Conservative Party’s local election vote in Scotland has allowed the UK media to downplay a decent performance by Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, somehow transforming a handful of losses into a full-blown crisis (while largely ignoring Labour’s dismal performance in the country, which has made the Tories the de facto party of unionism in the Borders and Highlands). A similar phenomenon has taken place in Wales where an increased vote by the Conservatives, coupled with a lower than expected number of losses for Labour, has somehow negated an increased level of support for Leanne Wood’s Plaid Cymru. Certainly, the Welsh nationalists did not do as well as many hoped for but a significant jump in votes and representations in the frenzied Brexit politics of Britain is no small thing. However, yet again, journalists in London have turned a modest success into a career-imperilling failure. It is no wonder that significant swathes of the electorates in Wales and Scotland are turning to independent or foreign media for information on domestic matters. The lessons of the 2014 independence referendum in Scotland have been largely lost on editorial teams in London and their outlying operations.

The preposterously-named United Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) seems to be on its last legs. Having done its job, cajoling the Westminster and media establishments into facilitating a UK withdrawal from the EU, while pushing British politics to the farther right in the process, the party is now all but dead. Across the island, the Conservative Party gobbled up former UKIP votes in the local elections, especially in Wales and Scotland. This may well be a foreshadowing of the general election ahead. While in France the mainstream electorate has largely rejected the politics of the far right, in Britain the mainstream electorate has largely co-opted the politics of the far right. Though the naked chauvinism, xenophobia, sectarianism and racism of UKIP may have been diluted or excised by the Tories, and the Scottish branch of Labour, drinking from a poisoned well is never a good idea, no matter how well filtered.

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12 comments

  1. Try looking at the actual seat count and the vote count in the Scottish Council elections.

    I mean the real actual figures not the “alternative facts the BBC” propaganda machine churned out.

  2. There are a number of important article on how democracy has been and is being hijacked by the moguls of big data. Here’s one: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy.
    We need to legislate on media ownership and the use of individually targeted political advertisements that cannot be seen and addressed publicly or suffer the same fate. Fortunately, we have a more equal society than either the UK or the US but we cannot be complacent. There is evil abroad and we cannot plead neutrality over this.
    Peter Thiel and his ilk have been busy buying property and acquiring citizenship abroad, NZ in his case, in case they lose control of the pitchfork brigade.

  3. Another collection of well placed thoughts and observations, thank you.

    The orange order, I read a couple of interviews with McHarg and I was left with the impression that the orange order weren’t sure how many or names of orange members/ supporters that were elected. Was this being media driven? I couple this with, what seems to me, an increase in orange order and loyalists being mentioned in the media, over the last few weeks. I suspect that after heightened attention over the role played by the loyalists some outrage against them will be blamed on SNP/indy group. Mz May has already grouped independence supporters, in the same sentence, with extremists and terrorists.

    As for reporting, new depths are being reached. The much publicised Fergus lie Park win by the tories was anything but. Under STV voting as each candidate is eliminated he or she votes goes to the next preference, the tory got in at stage 10. SNP stage 1 with several times the vote of the tory. It is also suggested, but hard to prove, that a well thought of local standing as an independent had the same name as the tory (McIntyre) and voters numbered the wrong box. To top it the BBC published their version of the election with SNP losing 7 seats and vote share, truth SNP gained 6 seats and increased vote share by 21% over the 2012 election, all be it on a low turn out. Hopefully we are now seeing peak tory in Scotland at this local election.

    1. Not clear yet if the press or the Orange Order ere exaggerating the links but some definitely there.

      Worth remembering the way Labour in Glasgow played the Orange Card in 2014, with some success. It certainly hasn’t been forgotten in SNP circles.

  4. I keep hearing it, but May is far from UKIP. Maggie Thatcher hoovered up BNP votes in the late 70’s early 80’s, so some similarities with “strong” immigration policies.

    1. In my opinion Carsewell and Reckless did not defect to UKip, they were a plant. The two mentioned are long time friends of Daniel Hanson. They agitated the split between Nuttal, pro privatisation NHS, and Farage, pro ring fence NHS. Now that mission is accomplished both are back in the tory fold. Although Carsewell spent a short time as independent first. I get the feeling that once Farage had left the tories looked on UKip as a store cupboard for votes. The local elections back this up in some measure. The general election and coming months I find interesting and slightly worrying.

        1. I Agree UKip are now rudderless. UKip policy over NHS was weak and unclear because of the splits. The above has a typo, predictive text, Hanson should read Hannan.

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