Coffee House

Move to the right? The Tories need to worry about anti-politics voters too

1 March 2013

9:22 AM

1 March 2013

9:22 AM

So in the end Eastleigh went for the ‘crisis for Cameron’ option by putting the Tories in third behind UKIP. For those opponents of the Prime Minister, last night’s result represents a line through another one of their ‘five key tests’ for his leadership. I understand that those close to Adam Afriyie already expect the backbencher to make a number of interventions over the next few months which they hope will cement him as a serious voice speaking out against the Tory leadership, and even those who aren’t are mulling over how the party should change its strategy.

The inevitable reaction, and one every commentator and opposition MP is just waiting to happen, is that a rump of backbenchers press the Prime Minister to move the party further to the Right. There is a debate coming up in the House of Commons on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants which could well be a flashpoint on this, given the energy with which Nigel Farage’s party campaigned on immigration in Eastleigh.

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But this push to the right ignores how it was that UKIP actually managed to come second. Sure, they pushed on all the dog-whistle issues you’d expect, but so did the Conservatives with an anti-gay marriage, anti-EU candidate and a campaign which majored on immigration and welfare (as well as that darned gravel pit). All the polls were actually pointing to a UKIP that was taking votes not just from the Tories but from Labour and Lib Dems too. On the Today programme this morning, Nigel Farage bigged up his Beppe Grillo credentials as much as his party’s right-wing stance, saying:

‘The UKIP message is resonating with people and we’re daring to talk about things like open-door immigration, which everybody wants to brush under the carpet, and secondly, I think there is an increasing revulsion at the three political parties who frankly, look the same, sound the same, and don’t offer any real policy differences.’

Michael Gove made the same point when he appeared on the same programme:

‘I think there are two aspects to it. I think on the first it is the case that there is a greater sense of disengagement from conventional politics now than there’s been certainly in my adult lifetime. The ‘none of the above, you’re all the same’ vote, is stronger. I think its part of a broader distaste for elites. People believe that elites have failed, everything from the expenses scandal, to what’s gone on in banking, to the recent revelations of what’s gone on in mid-Staffordshire, means there’s a sense there that the establishment, however you describe it or however constituted, has let folk down. That’s powerful.’

One question which is surely as important as where the Tories should position them for 2015 (and Cameron has been holding Chequers summits on the matter in the past few weeks), is how the main parties can address this anti-politics problem that is bleeding their vote. Douglas Carswell offered some thoughts on this on Coffee House yesterday, and as UKIP becomes a serious campaigning machine, this is going to be an increasingly important debate.


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Show comments
  • ButcombeMan

    “Push to the right”?

    “Dog whistle issues”?

    Britains ongoing relationship with Europe is one of THE most important issues being discussed in Britain today, as is unchecked immigration.

    Neither is a simple left/right issue

    The thousands who voted for UKIP are entitled to be treated with more respect.

    You are making the same mistake as Cameron.

    Broad support for UKIP is straddling traditional political lines.

  • andagain

    But this push to the right ignores how it was that UKIP actually managed
    to come second. Sure, they pushed on all the dog-whistle issues you’d
    expect, but so did the Conservatives with an anti-gay marriage, anti-EU
    candidate and a campaign which majored on immigration and welfare (as
    well as that darned gravel pit). All the polls were actually pointing to
    a UKIP that was taking votes not just from the Tories but from Labour
    and Lib Dems too.

    Perhaps, but it seems highly unlikely that they will pay any attension to those petty logical arguments.

  • iviv44

    @caediteeos:disqus I agree there is too much positioning and not enough belief. But there also seems not to be enough good old-fashioned quality management. Why had CCHQ not sent people down to work the area solidly over the last year?; why had they either not given the candidate extensive media training or found someone more media-friendly?; why were [electronic!] contingency plans for Merlin falling over not in place [well actually, why had someone not scrapped the darn thing long ago and commissioned software that is actually usable on the ground]?; why pick a fight with the activist base and those with a UKIP tendency over gay marriage just before a by-election such as this? This is all bread-and-butter political management stuff, and completely separate from policies.

    Of course, the whole Renard case demonstrates that the Lib Dems must be a nightmare to work alongside in government, but that is no excuse for not having the internal Tory mechanics ticking over smoother than a well-maintained Rolls Royce.

  • RKing

    Camoron must be feeling pretty lonely this morning.

    In the Mail Von Rumpy is telling him to get stuffed (if you believe the Mail).

    The EU wants to tax our banking system out of existence.

    The triple AAA rating down the pan.

    The flood of immigrants is yet to come.

    Someone should tell him and the other oik Milliband that their policies of flooding this country withe foreigners, building all over the countryside, six months waiting time to get a hospital appointment, rip off energy prices etc….
    It’s just not sustainable!!
    Now the voters are telling him to get stuffed!

    Happy Days CaMORON!!

    • Noa

      It works very well indeed for Miliband, unfortunately.

  • https://mikestallard.virtualgallery.com/ Mike Stallard

    “how the main parties can address this anti-politics problem that is bleeding their vote. Douglas Carswell ”

    There are a lot of us silver surfers out here and we are not happy bunnies. I have read Douglas Carswell’s excellent book and thoroughly recommend it.

    Our local MP is a fine man, chosen by open Primary. But his website is a disaster: no comments allowed! It is therefore completely out of touch with the general public. All he sees are the demands of vociferous people interested in traffic problems, milking the welfare and worried about dog’s muck. He kisses a lot of babies and drinks a lot of tea.

    Europe? Never mentioned. The looming bankruptcy of the State? Not there. The scandal of postal votes (1400 was it?) not discussed. Free Schools? Nothing.

    Of course, I could make an appointment, drive 20 miles and visit his Surgery only to be dismissed as – what was it? – “swivel eyed”.

    So when I hear about UKIP from people like Roger Helmer, I am fascinated and read his excellent blog every day. Clued up, trenchant, realist, I find it all very attractive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

    Steve Bell has a cartoon in the Guardian showing how Cameron is perceived. They are a shell, a carcass with no animation. There is nothing Cameron can do….it is always too late by the time politicians take heed of the anger of the electorate

  • David Barnett

    This is great news for Labour – even if they did do badly in Eastleigh. Bad news for the UK.

  • CaediteEos

    Perhaps the Tories should stop thinking about where to “position themselves for 2015”, and start thinking about what is actually important for the British people. Then perhaps they might find that the votes follow.

    Start by abandoning this metro-left appeasing modernising guff, get a proper hold of immigration (that means REDUCE it) and make proper cuts, not just to government budgets but to the actual size and scale of government interference in our lives.

    Of course this won’t happen. Cameron et al need to realise that people may actually, stone the crows, be voting for UKIP because of their superior policies, rather than simply as a “protest vote”.

    • jimmy mac

      “Of course this won’t happen. Cameron et al need to realise that people may actually, stone the crows, be voting for UKIP because of their superior policies, rather than simply as a “protest vote”.”

      So, Lib Dem voters are suddenly voting UKIP for their policies, are they? Stone the crows, indeed.

  • HookesLaw

    Who gets a protest vote when you am a coalition?
    As it is The Tories did not get a winnable seat
    Result? A liblab EU friendly govt in 2015?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

      You must stop using Normal Backwardisation and start looking at the Rules of a New Game

  • Russell

    Gove is 100% correct in his evaluation of Eastleigh result, as are Carswell and Beppe. The electorate are sick and tired of Miliband, Cameron & Clegg, the corruption and incompetence in many public services and the huge salaries being paid to these corrupt and incompetent people who regard themselves as above all who pay their salaries and luxurious lifestyles. I don’t think any of the three main parties will change their ways, they are all to arrogant and believe their own hype.

    • Scrapper

      Sequestration, anyone?

    • Olaf

      I thought Gove hit the nail on the head too. What he didn’t say was what they are going to do about it or admit they’d got anything wrong.

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