Vote 2014: Round 1, the locals

‘UKIP EARTHQUAKE’ ‘THE SAVAGING OF RED ED’ ‘LABOUR IN POLL CRISIS’ ‘KNIVES OUT FOR MILLIBAND’ 

Reading the above collection of quotes from papers such as The Times, The Telegraph and The Mail, one would think that Labour had flopped completely, failing to take councils, losing wards and votes not only to UKIP but also the Tories, despite the unpopularity of the current government. You would think that cracks in the Labour Party, expected and historically prophesied, would start to appear. Of course, Labour’s destiny of sinking into in-fighting and quarrelling would finally be fulfilled.

Shall we take a little look at the results then?

Results locals 2014

Target councils won? Check.

Vote share increased in target constituencies? Check.

Winning the most seats and having more councillors than the rest put together? Check.

Let’s be clear here, these local elections have been won by Labour. Evidently hampered by UKIP, but won none the less. If this has been a savaging, all I can do is quote Dennis Healey, because it is a savaging by a dead sheep. The only knives out for Milliband are the knives to cut cakes to celebrate the utter crushing of the Lib-Dems and the Tories.

Let’s not be complacent though. UKIP took votes away from Labour and prevented us from winning councils, especially in places such as Swindon and Thurrock. Without UKIP, our councillors won would be well into the 500s. Clearly a more head-on approach is necessary, exposing the vile ideas that hide behind a facade of cleverly crafted rhetoric and character. Privatising the NHS, a flat rate of income tax, a full repeal of worker’s rights are all UKIP policies. The message that UKIP are hard line thatcherites and worse is not getting across to the voters who, after a media frenzy, think of UKIP as only a way of registering disgust, rather than knowing them to be a vehicle of respectability for ex BNP, National Front and EDL members.

Despite the UKIP EARTHQUAKE, the party thankfully still hasn’t won a majority in any council. Being a ‘new’ party (even though it has been around for a good 20 years), the people they fielded for councillors weren’t terribly professional. This will hopefully mean that there will be a year for the few hundred newly-elected UKIP councillors to make complete fools of themselves, as many already have. This may be the peak of UKIP support, their only taste of power before they show themselves to be utterly incapable of leadership.

Anyone who has studied the history of the Labour Party will know that we were once in the same position as UKIP. But British politics is harsh on new parties, as it took Labour a full 45 years from winning it’s first MPs to a full-blown majority. The early ILP also had the full might of the Trade Union behind it, providing activists, policies and money. UKIP has none of this. 20 years of its existence has brought no MPs, no councils, only MEPS. Only in the past few years, spurred on by a popular rejection of the normal political landscape, have they been gaining attention and votes. The Labour Party thrived in the early 20th century because it capitalised on the working class’s lack of representation after they had been given the vote. It found a gaping hole in the market. There is no space large enough in British politics for UKIP to do well in. In a lot of ways it is like the Tories’ SDP. Just like the SDP, UKIP has no fixed geographical support, vital in the FPTP system. Like the SDP, it will hamper other parties, rather than do well itself and more importantly like the SDP, it will probably merge into another party, or at the very least, be in an electoral alliance. This will obviously be the Tories, and some of them have even started calling for an pact with UKIP.

The Tories would probably gain the most out of such an arrangement, surrendering a few of the most at risk seats for the knowledge of no vote-splitting anywhere else. A merger would have profound impacts, as the Tories would be swung massively to the right, although they might lose their ‘posh boy’ image somewhat. Given this elections poor results, especially in Hammersmith and Fulham, Tory backbenchers, anxious and jittery, will start calling for a rightward shift. Osborne’s already done it. They may, to Labour’s advantage, take the gamble and, instead of addressing the cost of living debate, they’ll try to win back UKIP voters.

At this point, please take a moment to laugh at (or feel sorry for) the Lib-Dems.

So what about Labour? Evidently UKIP has hampered us in these elections, but we still won resoundingly, especially in London. And what about in 2015? Who knows. Strangely, we’ll be fighting with ourselves then. Not in the factionalist sense, but the fact that we will have to distance ourselves from the unpopular Labour government before us. We have to be a different party and the same party simultaneously. That will be the only way of winning back Labour>UKIP voters. Being a member of the Labour Party, I like to think I know what happens in it. Certainly there are no grumblings against Milliband. No one is thinking about getting rid of him, especially now. Then again, no one is expecting a Labour majority at this rate. Reversing Labour’s historic inability to sort itself after an electoral defeat is remarkable, and I respect Milliband for that although I doubt his ability to lead the country. The part I do question though is David Axelrod’s vast salary which, so far, hasn’t translated into much. We have a lack of a coherent message, unlike UKIP, which really holds the Party back nationally. What is Milliband’s vision for Britain, the far-reaching changes he wants to make? Defining and creating the Britain he wants is the leadership this country needs, not just tinkering. Will that be delivered by next May? That’s something only the very top of the Party knows. I’m optimistic, though currently I’d only put money on a Labour minority government.

The political landscape of this country has definitely changed, but it changed in 2010, not 2014. The question is not the rise of UKIP, but the way the electorate has reacted to recession and the age of austerity. Now, we’ll need to see the results of the Euros, not just domestically, but continently. Expect part two of this post sometime over next week.