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Saturday 4 May 2013

UK Local Election: Triumph of Real Conservatism and Sea Change in British Politics

Anti-immigration, anti-European-Union, against wind farms and other absurd climate change policies, pro-family and anti-homosexual-marriage UK Independence Party, or UKIP, (there is much more to be against than to be for at the moment in Britain) has today changed British politics, very likely forever.

This far-right, real conservative party which not long ago had a support of barely 5% of the population has experienced a surge in popularity and is the triumphant winner of yesterday's local election in England and Wales, getting a quarter of the vote nationally.

UKIP is not the winner in the sense of getting most votes, but is certainly the party that got by far most gains.

These are the 2013 local election results as share of the total national vote:
  1. Labour - 29%
  2. Conservatives - 25%
  3. UKIP - 23%
  4. Liberal Democrats - 14%
  5. Other - 9%.
The previous local election gave these results for the top 4 parties:
  1. Conservatives - 44%
  2. Liberal Democrats - 25%
  3. Labour - 13%,
  4. UKIP - 5%
UKIP has pushed all parties below 30%, Labour as well as Tories. There are now few points dividing UKIP from either of them, and all three are between 20% and 30%, while the Lib Dems are on their way to be consigned to history, so eventually there will be two of the three main parties on the Right and only one on the Left.

If we look at the number of seats, we can see that even the way the number of seats gained by UKIP, 139 (an astounding rise from 8 to 147!), closely mirrors the number of seats lost by the Lib Dems, 124, shows in purely and clearly arithmetic terms how the former party is replacing the latter.

A by-election to replace a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons was also held at the same time in South Shields, near Newcastle upon Tyne. Labour easily won this, a safe seat for them, but UKIP came an astonishing second pushing the Lib Dems into seventh place with a result so bad that they lost their deposit.

UKIP was the big story of this election. Every other sentence in all the commentaries on the vote contained the word "UKIP".

Prime Minister and leader of the Tories David Cameron, who had in the past called UKIP supporters "closet racists, loonies, nutters and fruitcakes", is so scared of them now that today he expressed respect for them and their choices, saying that it's no good insulting them and they must be listened to and treated with respect.

The most interesting aspect of the election results is that UKIP has not just taken votes from the Conservatives, the only right-wing party among the major three, but also - albeit to a lesser extent - from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, parties of the Left.

This disproves the predictions of those who before the elections were warning of the danger that voting UKIP, dividing the Right, would help Labour, with which I disagreed.

In the traditionally Conservative South of England, the Labour Party has been pushed into fourth place in many localities.

As Conservative minister Michael Gove said, this was not a protest vote against the government - which is a coalition of Tories and Lib Dems - but a protest against Labour, therefore against all the three main parties.

But the most important thing is that the UKIP victory means a reshaping of the face of British politics, what UKIP leader Nigel Farage calls a "game changer".

It is no longer a three-party-system now, but a four-party-system.

Previously the three main parties were one on the Right and two on the Left, now it's two on each side.

Not only that. The other major story of this election is the defeat of that pathetic party, the Liberal Democrats, whose policies are best described as being to the left of Tony Blair's New Labour, which was forever and with some success chasing that elusive centre ground, also known as Middle England, and to the right of good Old Labour, which is what we have now.

The Lib Dems, this insignificant former third party of Britain, the point of whose existence many acute minds have in vain tried to discern, seems destined to a well-deserved extinction.

There is a lesson here for U.S. politics as well. This extraordinary rise of a small, fringe, truly conservative party with more ideas than resources and more principles than media coverage has shown that people want more really conservative, right-wing, sane, commonsensical policies and unambiguos, unapologetic clarity on them than we credit them for.

Someone during the British media commentary on the election made a comparison between UKIP and the Tea Party.

I don' t know how much that comparison is appropriate, but I do know that the Republicans, like their British counterparts, the Tories, at the moment are not true to their conservative principles.

Doing the Romney thing, selecting a left-leaning Republican presidential candidate who has "evolving" views on same-sex marriage - when we know that we must win the culture war in order to win the political war, as the Left has demonstrated to us by its successful example of the last 50-60 years - is the best way to lose the race for the White House, because it sends mixed messages.

Rather than going after the centre, or middle ground, in the hope that this will bring more votes by widening the spectrum of consensus, the UKIP example has shown that it is better to choose policies we truly want implemented and try to bring the people on our side, thus moving that middle ground in the direction that we desire.

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