“You are smug and patronising,” pronounced the heavy-set man from the back of the room. Don’t worry; I’ve been called worse. But he was interesting. “I am a lifelong Guardian reader,” he said, during a Guardian Live event. “And I’m campaigning for Ukip in Rochester.” One assumes he was one of those behind last night’s convulsion in Kent, which has seen Mark Reckless relaunched into parliament and the continuation of Ukip’s assault on both Tories and Labour. Our critical friend will be feeling very pleased with himself today.Indeed so. So what?
He shouldn’t be.Oh? Do tell…
I am not one of those who would brand all Ukippians as racist. I can see the need to carefully confront the way the party appeals to neglected, marginalised communities.I thought those ‘neglected, marginalised communities’ were always ethnic enclaves, Hugh? Or travellers, or Muslims?
I mean, that’s what the likes of the ‘Guardian’ are always telling me, anyway…
Lord Ashcroft, according to reports, sounded a recent warning to David Cameron about the risks of further alienating Tories who might vote Ukip. “You’ve got this group of Ukip voters, 95% of whom are decent people, you’ve abused them, you’ve thrashed them, and now you tell them that they are coming home to Daddy.” But at the same time, those voters have a responsibility.Do they? To whom? To you?
They want to protest about the economy, about immigration, about the effects of globalisation, about the detachment of ordinary communities from frontline politics. They can and should be able to do that. The responsibility lies in their choice of vehicle for that protest.Well, how beneficent of you to grant them that right to protest! How noble you are to graciously caution them to make the right choice – truly, we are not worthy!
The voter is entitled to view these things in line with their personal priorities. They may accept the vileness of much Ukip does but nevertheless take the view that this is of less consequence than the party’s usefulness as a stick with which to beat the other parties. That is a practical decision. But let’s not pretend that it is a moral one, or that it is right to absolve their decent supporters of any moral responsibility.Morals..? Seriously, Hugh, you’re going to bring morals into this? To intimate that Labour would be the more moral choice?
In the aftermath of Rochester, mainstream politics must reconnect with alienated communities. People have deep concerns. Politics must work harder to address them, or to at least make it plain that they understand the depth of those concerns. But they must not pander, as they have been pandering, and they should not infantalise the electorate. It is really not unreasonable to ask that decent British people behave decently.And by ‘behave decently’, do you mean roll over and accept what the small, unrepresentative Islington elite declares is in the UK’s best interests, and so we should all just shut up and do as we are told?
I think the voters of Rochester and Strood just showed you what they think of that.