According to the Guardian this morning, on the subject of UKIP’s gains in local elections yesterday, Labour’s Hilary Benn tells the BBC that:
Hilary Benn, the shadow communities secretary, played down the Ukip threat. He told the BBC: “It is a protest party and not a party of government. Its economic policy does not add up.”
Meanwhile, the same paper reports:
Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University said Ukip had achieved a “remarkable performance”. In a briefing paper for the Political Studies Association on the local elections, he said Ukip presents the most serious threat by a fourth political force in England since the second world war.
Now it might, as the Tories suggested recently, be that fruitcake party everyone fears. Certainly, its selection procedures seem to have been found rather wanting (more here), leading many of us to feel that “fruitcake” is exactly the right metaphor for a grouping whose ingredients are so very mixed.
But I think when Hilary Benn says what he says, and especially when he argues its economic policy does not add up, he is being about as lackadaisical as he could be on the threat that UKIP poses to the allegedly “non-fruitcake” parties.
Let’s just summarise what’s happened under the reign of these non-fruitcakes: we discover that bankers, MPs, police officers, journalists, celebrity sex-abusers and a whole host of other citizens have been allowed to continue for decades doing their stuff, in what most of us consider entirely unfair and even immoral ways.
These non-fruitcake regimes have allowed such things to continue happening unchecked: most stones appear to have been left unturned from Thatcher’s days onwards. What’s more, in a complex society where technocratic experts hold the reins, they have failed the needs of ordinary people mightily. Billions of pounds-worth of dosh has been transferred from civil society to bankers, from taxpayers to MPs, from people who struggle to get to the end of the month to people who take bribes, and from licence-payers to famous people who sexually assault under-age boys and girls during decades.
And now it would seem that any present or future governments of the non-fruitcakes will continue to force ordinary people to pay for the awful consequences of the acts of the inefficient powerful. Is it hardly surprising, then, that voters should want to protest?
So maybe Benn is right when he says UKIP is a protest party. But if he considers this to be “merely a protest party” sort of message, then he and his fellow MPs have got it really wrong. To date, we’ve seen little organised protest on the streets of England, or the UK more widely. We’re not like the Spanish or Greeks – we’re not, yet, at the edge of the abyss. But when Little Englanders change their voting patterns so consistently and so radically, surely professional “non-fruitcake” politicians should be sitting up and paying attention, rather than casually comforting themselves with the idea that UKIP’s idea of an economic environment doesn’t currently add up.
The real issue being, of course: whose does?
UKIP will continue to make mincemeat of our body politic, if politicians of the calibre of Benn continue to choose to defend themselves via a naked appeal to technocracy. Technocracy has failed us disgracefully: it’s bloody time to protest about the implications! And if the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems cannot see this for what it actually is, then UKIP will not only make mincemeat of the body politic, it will be able to do so without having to convincingly add up the economic numbers beforehand.
Not that this would make them necessarily ineligible to govern in Westminster. Right, my non-fruitcake friends?
Update to this post: final results for yesterday’s elections have come my way concisely via Twitter just now. As follows:
RT @Tom_Waterhouse Final seat tally: Con 1,116 (-335), Lab 538 (+291), Lib 353 (-123), UKIP 147 (+139), others 208 (+28) #vote2013