Coffee House

Five points from ‘Super Thursday’

17 November 2012

10:36 AM

17 November 2012

10:36 AM

1). Independents and the changing face of politics. The election of 12 independent police commissioners (at the latest count) in Dorset, Gwent, North Wales*, Hampshire, Warwickshire, West Mercia, Kent, Avon & Somerset, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Surrey and Gloucestershire is cause for celebration. The aim of elected Police and Crime Commissioners is to localise power in communities, making it more accountable and therefore, one hopes, improve the quality of the service. Independent commissioners are, theoretically, the purest form of this. The same applies to George Ferguson, the newly elected independent mayor of Bristol.

Their success also expresses the fact that this was a profoundly anti-politics election. The very low turnout was a symptom of many things, ranging from opposition to the policy on the doorstep (which was widely reported by Labour MPs) to a failure of the parties and the national media to communicate the purpose of the policy. Above all, though, low turnout is a long-term trend. This is a malaise that goes to the heart of our party system and its overbearing role in our democracy. The independent commissioners may, in the long run, prove to be the tonic that we need, although their legitimacy is bound to be questioned due to the low turnout.

It’s also clear that, as party affiliations become looser and issues and identities become more prominent in our politics, the established parties are going to have work with independent candidates where they can at future elections. Adam Boulton reports that the Lib Dems appear to have done this in Bristol and North Wales (*the independent PCC is a party member). It’s also worth remembering the furore earlier in the week when it transpired that the Tories courted James Delingpole in Corby. This may be the course of things to come.


2). A mixed day for Labour.  The Corby result, as James says, gives Miliband a platform from which to sell ‘One Nation Labour’. However, there were some poor results for Labour thrown in. North Wales, Gwent, Humberside and the Bristol mayoralty (where Labour had expended a lot of capital) were, as James wrote yesterday evening, battles that Labour ought to have won. Those results concerned some centre-left commentators; yet, the poor turnout surely means that these elections were not representative of the national picture. Indeed, Labour won the PCC election in Bedfordshire, which is something of a coup for them. I’m not sure that you can extrapolate too much from any of this.

3). The squeeze on the Tories. The Staggers’ George Eaton has a useful post arguing that Corby shows Labour’s route to power: the defection of the Lib Dem left to Labour and a reasonably strong performance from UKIP squeezes the Tories. This is a new twist on the old Tory fear that a united left spells disaster for the divided centre-right. The question is: how does David Cameron unite the centre-right? Does he tack to the right, as Patrick O’Flynn suggests? Does he revive the Lib Dems in the hope of weakening Labour by giving them a few legislative victories? Does he begin the process of killing the Lib Dems off (and perhaps seduce some lonely Blairites along the way) by stealing their socially liberal clothes while continuing to talk of public service reform and fiscal discipline?

4). UKIP triumphant or UKIP perpetual under achievers? There’s been a lot of chatter about how well UKIP did; but did it really? Once again, no UKIP politician will wield power in Britain outside local government.  In the popular vote for PCCs, the party is (at the time of writing) neck and neck with the despised and doomed Lib Dems, some 729,103 first preference votes behind the independent candidates, who were the next largest group. The party finished third in Corby, polling 5,108 votes; a good result, yet its total vote was still 2,680 votes less than the gap between Labour and the Tories in first and second. This does not suggest to me that Cameron would be on to a winner by lurching into the fringes with Farage. The problem for the Tories is not that 5,108 people voted UKIP, it is that 17,267 people voted Labour. This is not to say that Cameron does not need a much clearer policy on Europe or immigration; but it is to say that those policies must reflect the fact that the 2015 election can only be won from the centre. The centre, emphatically, does not sympathise with Mr Farage.

5). It’s grim up north for the Tories. Grim’s not the word. The Tories got smashed in some northern cities. I wrote yesterday:

‘It is…important to remember that the PCC elections are not, in theory at least, a referendum on the government; they primarily concern localism and the law and order policy brief. That said, the Tories’ woeful showing in South Yorkshire (beaten into 3rd by the English Democrats) and in Durham (finished a miserable 4th) – to say nothing of the debacle in the Manchester Central by-election, where the party lost its deposit – should concern the party. As James argued in a recent magazine column, the PCC elections gave the party an opportunity to improve their standing in urban areas by fighting on an issue that suited them. These elections suggest that many people, especially in the north, simply cannot listen to the Conservative Party.’

It is very difficult to see what will make them listen, let alone vote.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • AnotherDaveB

    ” The centre, emphatically, does not sympathise with Mr Farage.”

    Current polling suggests that in an In/Out referendum on EU membership is the desire of the majority in the UK, and that the ‘out’ vote would win.

  • Newsbot9

    “The aim of elected Police and Crime Commissioners is to localise power in communities”

    What rot. It’s about politicising policing.

  • anyfool

    UKIP have made progress but really need a couple of extra spokesman who can hold their own against the elements in the media, who regardless of the merits of the argument will always look for a way to denigrate the points put forward.

  • Cogito Ergosum

    We have a government driven by focus groups. How on earth did they find themselves promoting such a public turn-off as the PCC elections?

    • Newsbot9

      Because they need to politicise policing for their agenda, perhaps? Once some areas do things like make it entirely illegal to be homeless (moreso than their councils already are in i.e. Westminster), they can push them nationally

  • Jules

    We need electoral reform, pure PR. The two/three party system is not suitable for modern times.

    • Newsbot9

      Absolutely. The “parties” are really coalitions.

      Sure, UKIP would have seats. So would my left. Bring it on.

  • Rockin Ron

    I think that with the mainstream parties losing party support (Conservative, Labour and LibDems), they will now push the case for state funding. This has to be resisted.

    • Newsbot9

      Ah yes, because the wealthy businessmen behind the UKIP will pay cash over the barrel for their votes. They’ll take it back after, but hey.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    UKIP is a protest vote, nothing more. Always will be until they are seen as a good bet by the chancers who will jump aboard and change it into the same party as the others.

    BUT, the entire exercise of divining what the voters want by looking at the 15% who turned out is fruitless as it does not address the silently expressed opinions of the 85%. Or in the Thames Valley where I am, 86.4%.

    I think Mr Blackburn for returning to the democratic deficit. This is the real problem, and whenever we frame it in terms of the tribal squabble, yah-boo my party is better than yours, we miss the point.

    • Bellevue

      Rhoda, UKIP may be a protest vote but how else can we protest? How can we make the Conservatives listen to us? Who else can we vote for, if not UKIP?

      • Newsbot9

        Pushing for voting reform to a more sensible system with elements of PR.

        And defeating particular elements of the Government’s reform which affect you. Groups like 38 Degrees…you can pick and choose what to support.

  • Vulture

    The other parties reactions to UKIP’s steady advance follows a well-worn path.

    1) Ignore it.

    2) Ridicule it.

    3) Attack, libel and demonise it.

    4) Vote for it.

    At the moment we are somewhere between 2) and 3).

    David’s attack is part of the pattern – but at least it means that UKIP can no longer be ignored.

    IN truth UKIP articulates the anger of the ordinary voter at being ignored by the three Westminster parties, not only on the EU but also on immigration, jobs, crime and housing (subjects which are all linked and all lead back to the EU of course).

    It’s true that UKIP will not win the next GE and may not even get an MP. But they will easily be strong enough to deny Cameron victory and hence rid the party of him and his clique. Then we might get a proper Conservative, and after the mess that the two Eds will make of everything, that person will clean up.

    The EU, meanwhile will continue to implode and, unlike UKIP, will become ever more unpopular.

    UKIP must simply continue to do what they are already doing: keep squeezing those Tory testicles.

    • Newsbot9

      It’s a great analogy, actually, given it’s about the sort of physical assault your far right love so much. Shame you’ve grabbed the UK rather than the Tories.

      The UKIP is just another in long line of far right parties. You articulate the usual rage and anger of the far right at society, blaming the “other” for all the problems in a simplistic, simple minded fashion.

      You want to twist another party to your fanatical image. And of course you’ll do your best to wreck the country after the Tories lose the election (it’s for them to lose, of course, given Labour’s current state).

      Typical from an anti-British fanatic…I just hope sensible people can stop you shedding too much blood on your usual way to self-destruction.

      • Vulture

        Total nonsense. Go and attend a UKIP meeting and your own fastasies of a bunch of bloody minded fascists will dissolve. These are decent people, the backbone of society, dismayed at the selling out of their own country to an unelected foreign power by the unprincipled clique who currently control the Tories..
        There is nothing fanatical about that – the fanatics, rather, are those who wish to weld the unwilling peoples of Europe into their unrealisable dictatorship. And any bloodshed that will follow – indeed it is already flowing in Grece,m Spain and elsewhere – will come from the unvelling of that inmsane project.

        • Newsbot9

          Oh I have, as part of what I do against Fachism. Very, very little different from those from a BNP meeting of a decade earlier.

          It’s the same anti-British, “racially pure”, far right crap. You are trying to sell your Jihad as “reasonable”. You are the ones trying for violence and making the situation worse with your zealotry.

          Your fellow travellers delight in the pain caused both here and abroad, and want to double down on the failures of the Tories.

      • dalai guevara

        Absolutely Newsbot

        Let’s not forget the simple truth on immigration: the single biggest profiteer of immigration are…the rent seekers. Not only can they maximise profits by importing cheaper foreign labour, but at the same time milk this section of society again in a ‘sheds with beds’ scenario. Last time I looked rent seekers were not socialists. Now, I understand that the right wing poor need a shoulder to cry on, they think they deserve our pity for their own messed up decision making in life. I will remain firmly at Stage 1.

  • Archimedes

    I think the important part of all this for UKIP was not the result as much as the fact that it propelled them into being a serious political party, and no longer a single-issue one. All Farage has to do is make sure a UKIP candidate is fielded at every election, and people will start taking them seriously – once they start seeing them pop up on every ballot paper. They have a considerably better electoral presence than the Greens.

    Interestingly, they don’t do any better than the Tories in Scotland (on a pro-rata basis, both get about a third of their national average), but they have a much better consistency across the rest of the UK. It would be better if UKIP challenged Labour in some of it’s Northern seats, rather than trying to take down the Tories in the South.

    • Newsbot9

      Serious? Ah yes, the descendent of innumerable far right parties.

      And of course they do about as well as the right does in Scotland. Oh, and do bring the left back into the Labour fold – that’s about the only thing which could cause that. The Labour landslide that would cause…well…

      (Hell, it might drive ME back to Labour)

  • @PhilKean1

    Journalists just do NOT get it

    By voting UKIP, voters will be able to remove a Prime Minister without having to support a party whose politics disgust them, at the same time as letting that Prime Minister know why they are removing him from office.

    The “elections are won on the centre ground” propaganda just doesn’t wash. Especially as the ones pedalling this rubbish are those who are wanting British politics to be dominated by the Liberal elites.

    To casually dismiss 5000 UKIP votes as not being significant, especially in a strong Labour-supporting constituency, is complacency of the highest order.

    • Clive Holland

      Very good point. I voted UKIP yesterday not only because I generally support them but there is no other way to get a message across to the Tories.

      • @PhilKean1

        And they will get my family’s vote in 2015, and those of everyone I can convince.

    • William Blakes Ghost

      The “elections are won on the centre ground” propaganda just doesn’t wash..

      Indeed it’s just a pathetic excuse to maintain the status quo and pander to vested interests that parasite themselves off this country. But its fine if Cameron wants to desert the right completely and join Clegg and Miliband fighting over a postage sized piece of tarmac in NW8 (i.e. the Guardianista centre left) it just means there is more ground for UKIP to take over.

      Cameron’s loss will be the country’s gain as subsequently will Milband’s

  • David Lindsay

    UKIP is not really a party. By its own admission, it is purely a pressure group to turn the Conservatives into some fantasy version of their past.

    It is critical of the EU, although financially dependent on it, but it is perfectly happy with American domination, Israeli interference, kowtowing to the Gulf monarchs, and subordination to global money markets and to global media moguls, all of which are at least as serious assaults on our, and of course everyone else’s, sovereignty. It is therefore very much in succession to the Thatcher Government. Except that it is critical of the EU.

    UKIP is run out of the office of a Conservative MP, Chris Heaton-Harris, whose continued receipt of the Conservative Whip demonstrates that this is all part of the Cameron Plan. Anti-Cameron UKIP voters are being played. This comes as no surprise to those of us who are used to right-wing small local parties and “Independents”. Who do you think pays for them, and therefore directs their activity?

    See also James Delingpole, run out of the same office as UKIP. And see the 12 such “Independents” who have been elected as Police and Crime Commissioners, plus the numerous others who were unsuccessful.

    • Rhoda Klapp


      • David Lindsay

        Established fact. The extraordinary Heaton-Harris/Delingpole/UKIP story would have been the end of all three, not just at Corby but at all, in saner days than these.

    • William Blakes Ghost

      UKIP is run out of the office of a Conservative MP, Chris Heaton-Harris,
      whose continued receipt of the Conservative Whip demonstrates that this
      is all part of the Cameron Plan.

      Hahahahahahahaha priceless!

      (Nurse please find this one a tin-foil hat)

      • David Lindsay

        Shown to be the case.

        That whole story was utterly jaw-dropping. Yet, paradoxically, no one was remotely surprised.

        And Heaton-Harris still has the Whip. Would a UKIP MP, or an elected Delingpole, also have it? Why ever not, if Heaton-Harris does? In fact, in the person of Heaton-Harris (doubtless among numerous others), such is already effectively the case.

        But not within the Eurosceptical sixth of Conservative MPs, less numerous than the Lib Dems. Rather, at the very heart of Cameronism.

        You are being played. As, come to that, was Delingpole.

        • Newsbot9

          Same thing as the Tea Party and some of the Republican fringe, yes.

  • Thomas Paine

    The only reason to talk up Cameron & Osborne’s chances next time is to inject an element of drama into the proceedings. In reality they are heading for a train wreck. Those 17,000 Labour voters weren’t voting for the two Eds, they were voting against a bunch of arrogant, incompetent incumbents, who are patently up shit creek without a paddle..

    The paragraph about Cameron’s dilemma – tack right, move left and steal the Lib Dems’ clothes, or give the Lib Dems the kiss of life in the hope of taking votes from Labour – emphasises the underlying problem that Cameron doesn’t stand for anything at all in his own right. (Except perhaps, as a young Steve Bell once lampooned the SDP leadership of Jenkins, Owen, Rogers and Williams, for big dinners, comfy chairs and a nice claret. And chillaxing of course).

    Can you imagine a similar discussion about Thatcher, pondering tacking one way or another to save her skin? Impossible.

    Does the Tory party have a principled individual who could lead them out of this mess? I don’t see it at the moment.

    • David Lindsay

      If she had tacked one way or another, then might Thatcher not have saved her skin?

      Losing doesn’t bother Lib Dems, who don’t expect to win. Tories used to be the opposite, prepared even to knife a Leader who had won them three Elections once she was obviously going to lose them a fourth.

      Not anymore, though. Are they also now people who never expect to win anyway, so couldn’t care less when they don’t? Increasingly, I suspect so.

  • Dave Poole 

    I am at a loss as to what constitutes “up north” to you Westminster bubble guys. Carlisle – John Stevenson, Penrith and Borders – Rory Stewart, Hexham Northumberland – Guy Opperman, Cumbria PCC – Richard Rhodes, Northumberland PCC – Phil Butler lost by a whisker to labour.

    A mere inkling of UK geography would indicate that these seats are the most northern English seats there are apart only from Berwick which is Lib Dem. The “north” does not start at Watford Gap and Yorkshire/Lancashire are just sympathetic midlanders to the real north.

    • William Blakes Ghost

      Indeed all Westminster Journalists are clearly colour blind and incapable of either reading political maps and incapable of comprehending that it is actually Labour who have the regional problem having been pretty much wiped out in the South outside London in 2010.

      The Tories do seem to have an urban problem though….

  • Adam

    Do you mean Bedfordshire ?

    • David Blackburn

      Yes, Adam. I did, thanks for correcting the mistake.

  • Sladen Chambers

    I wish that the election of all those so-called Independents really was such a cause for celebration but a quick perusal down the list proves that they are all either former police officers, former members (and even chairs) of police authorities or ( in two cases) magistrates. The magistrates might prove to be ‘independent’. As for the rest, I’d say it’s more of the same and it raises the question of whether, in truth, what the electorate were voting for was the status quo. Given the status quo hadn’t delivered the responsiveness to the local population’s needs that we all desire, this is more a cause for dismay than celebration.

  • HooksLaw

    ‘ the defection of the Lib Dem left to Labour and a reasonably strong performance from UKIP squeezes the Tories’ – ‘Labour’s route to power’.

    Asinine obsessives whose policy is at it’s heart meaningless risk delivering Britain to a Europhile Labour Party at just the time that new negotiations will determine our new relationship with the EU,

    Whats the betting the nutjob obsessives refuse to recognise the stupidity of that?

    • Colonel Mustard

      No, as a token “nutjob obsessive” (although not a member or supporter of UKIP) I recognise the stupidity of that. But I also recognise that they are de facto a presence, one that threatens the Tories more than Labour and that David Cameron is perhaps as stupid not to recognise that and do something about it.

      • telemachus

        Some of this resonates

        The squeeze on the Tories

        UKIP perpetual under achievers

        It’s grim up north for the Tories

        But “A mixed day for Labour”

        This is truly a misrepresentation of the facts

        They screwed a safe Tory seat from the coalition

        There is a danger of aping Mandrake in today’s DT


        “Mandrake hears that the son of a Marxist historian now
        has two comics giving him advice. James Morris, who acts as Miliband’s pollster
        and is a member of his inner circle, began his comedy career as the president of
        Footlights, the Cambridge University troupe that numbers Hugh Laurie, Stephen
        Fry and Emma Thompson among its alumni………..”

        • William Blakes Ghost

          Your post is the real misrepresentation

          The most frightening thing about the thought of Pied Piper of Primrose Hill and his followers (think about it) replacing the Cameron’s foolade brigade is reading the truly delusional, dishonest and generally unpleasant propaganda that is the sole output of the left.

          Corby is a former pit town with a considerable Scottish mining legacy.. It has been a marginal (except 1997) pretty much throughout its existence as a constituency. Mensch’s majority was less than 2000. It was by no means safe and likely won’t be in 2015 despite the relatively large majority from Thursday..

          Now please name the elections south of Watford that Labour won yesterday because I can name the ones Tories won up north ~ Humberside, Cheshire, Cumbria, North Yorkshire. It’s “Grim Down South” for Labour they couldn’t even take Bristol…..

          And whether UKIP is the underachiever in 2014/2015 we shall see. Increasingly they seem to be replacing the Libdems as the third party in this country and once that is achieved they will then have a profile to make real inroads. It’s already happening with the greater visibility they have had in the media since 2010.

          • telemachus

            I cannot disagree with most

            As I posted

            “Some of this resonates

            The squeeze on the Tories

            UKIP perpetual under achievers

            It’s grim up north for the Tories”
            But Worry not about the South and The Party
            I am from Up North but
            I have 2 children living in London.
            Most of their friends are and have been left leaning but voted Cameron in 2010 because he was exciting and Boris in 2012 because he was honest
            BUT they detest now the coalition but more detest the Tories in the coalition because they see them being draggeg by the traditional Tory ‘Ang em and flog em brigade.
            I perceice in my business travels in the South that this is a widespread view
            As for UKIP the same constituency regards tham as a joke and does not like frogs.

          • Newsbot9

            They are, in fact, somewhat behind the left who are generally not voting.

            That a few wealthy businessmen have competed the far right again to serve an agenda completely against the interests of the 99% is entirely typical – it’s happened with the Tea Party as well.

            Real change? PR. Then you’ll see a party of the left facing off against your far right, while the three major parties shatter. So bring it on.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Stop heckling my comments you insufferable bore. I mentioned none of the things you are wittering on about so FOAGAL.

          • telemachus

            Get this
            In electorally terms the UKIP frog loonies are in National terms an electoral threat to no-one
            The threat lies in the destabilisation of the coalition as the reckless mob drag the weak Cameron leadership to the right while Cleggy moves his motley crew to the left
            So Mr Colman you should be pleased anyone takes notice of you at all

    • Michael990

      Scared, aren’t you!. All Cameron needs to do is move the Conservative party back from the left and develop some sane policies on the EU and our currently wide open borders.

      • Newsbot9

        That’s right, “all” he has to do is murder more British citizens and crash the economy. And of course you’re not aware of the CTZ…you’d land us in Schengen as an EFTA fax democracy, after a lot of economic pain.

    • William Blakes Ghost

      Thats no way to talk about David Cameron or yourself for that matter.