As we see the newly elected Mike Thornton take his seat in Parliament, I’m glad that we have got another pro-equality trustworthy candidate sitting in the Commons. Welcomed by his loyal leader, Thornton took his oath of allegiance to the Crown on the 5th of March. His self-described ‘stunning’ victory in Eastleigh sadly does not come without its downsides. Despite the Conservatives best efforts, UKIP managed to slither its way into second place, gaining 1012 more votes than the Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings.
Whether it was the fact that Maria Hutchings attacked the state education system or reaffirmed a commitment against marriage equality, neither of those factors will stop the Conservatives from blaming their loss on simply an inadequate candidate. The proud local mum has massively missed the Conservative’s expectations.
Unfortunately, UKIP gained a massive swing in Eastleigh and as a result Diane James stated that now they will ‘be in all the interviews,’ despite not actually having a single seat in the Commons. People have claimed that UKIP is the new third party, but before preaching EU distaste and UKIP popularity, they should probably consider the fact that UKIP, alongside having no seats in the Commons, holds less local government positions, less House of Lords seats and currently less European Parliament seats than the Liberal Democrats. Furthermore, UKIP has no representation in the London Assembly or Scottish Parliament whatsoever. So, considering clearly not being the third party in the UK, it’s understandable that UKIP supporters are expressing their joy at the party’s result in Eastleigh.
On the streets of the Eastleigh constituency, the BBC reported the local reaction of the by-election result. Some people were ‘glad’ that the Liberal Democrats had won again, despite an apparent ‘lack of faith’ in the party nationally. My concern is, when discussing UKIP, voters still see that ‘we have got to get out of Europe and only UKIP will do that.’ I’m instinctively pro-EU, and my concern is not that people want to leave the EU; it is that people don’t know what they are voting for when they vote UKIP.
This is perhaps one of my biggest grievances with the common voter. The consistent lack of knowledge regarding party policy. Despite starting as a single issue party, UKIP has expanded to a whole range of policies that if people were truly aware of, may cause them to think twice about voting for a so called ‘needed change,’ in British politics. I do wonder if the 11,571 UKIP voters knew that the party supports a 31% flat rate income tax. A banker paying the same rate as a barista? Surely not. Again, I wonder if UKIP voters have seen quotes like ‘make welfare a safety net for the needy, not a bed for the lazy,’ which is nothing but a typically right-wing response coming clearly from a party that doesn’t understand people who rely on benefits.
But of course with a leader such as Farage, who some call ‘charismatic,’ some call ‘Stalinist,’ and I call repugnant, the common voter is blinded from comments showing the party’s true colours. For example, the view of Winston McKenzie, the UKIP Croydon North by-election candidate, who compared same-sex couple adoption to child abuse, and the ridiculous UKIP claim that over half the Bulgarian population will flock to Britain as soon as the border controls are reduced. These comments are merely the first in what will be a long line of simply moronic statements. Doubts as to whether the common voter will see beyond Farage’s image is sadly a simple reminder of the politics of publicity and public relations.
After passing the mid-way point in this Parliament, we see not only the government, but the country facing immense national challenges, one of which is the rise of UKIP. EU withdrawal is one thing, but UKIP may prove a force in taking the Great out of Britain through the ludicrous policies which voters barely know about.
By Jack Robinson