Yesterday I commented on the results from Clacton and Heywood and the apparent commitment from the main Political Parties to learn lessons from the results. I compared their responses to that of an addict who after a particularly bad episode commits themself to a change of lifestyle and behaviour and to go clean. Bearing in mind that our political parties are offering to run the country on our behalf, to take hard decisions and deal with long term challenges, it would not be unreasonable to assume that they would be able to manage more than a few hours of sobriety from their drug of choice. However before the ink was dry on the reports from Messrs’ Alexander and Shapps commitment to learn from the experience and stop taking us for granted, they have already fallen off the wagon.
This mornings news reports make it clear that the Conservative Party is to make changes to its policy position that will prevent UKIP winning their second constituency. The Telegraph spells this out “David Cameron will unveil tough plans to restrict immigration from the European Union within weeks to stop another Ukip MP being elected following Thursday night’s by-election.” It seems that this brazen misunderstanding of the nature of democracy and prinicples of political policy making is now entirely acceptable to this bastion of mainstream media and presumably the Politicians whose views the paper so consistently promote. The point of Political Parties is not supposed to be to prevent other candidates from getting elected, but rather to act in a collective manner to better understand the needs of the nation as a whole and do the one thing that Independent or sole MPs cannot achieve alone. However that is to misread the extent to which our Political Parties have become a Monster to the Professor Frankenstein of the publics desire to simplify the choice on offer to them, irrespective of where they live.
Would that the Telegraph could see the issue through the lens of a Conservative Party trying to better understand the needs and concerns of voters, or even to raise the quality of the debate from a knee jerk response to a range of challenging issues. However in reality the drunk is determined to get back onto their fix, willing to use anything that will give them a buzz, no matter how much harm that intoxicant might cause in the medium or long term. What a shame the same panic did not arise exactly 2 years ago in November 2012 when 30% of the seats in the PCC elections went to Independent candidates. If this was sending a message to the Conservative Party based in Matthew Parker Street and the Victoria Street offices of Labour around the corner there was no evidence of it getting past their reception desks. Perhaps their failure to respond to that clear message was as a result of the General Election being a full two and a half years away, rather than the six months to go now. The interesting aspect of that election was that UKIP failed to elect a single PCC, and in Sussex they barely scraped into 4th place, just beating the Lib Dems with 10% of the vote. I on the other hand as an Independent with no party machinery came a close third after the Labour candidate. Each of us had 20% of the vote. A similar pattern appeared in the other seats which Independents did not actually win. Those results showed that the Public are sick and tired of traditional politics, not that they are all clamouring for a right wing, europhobic anti immigrant populism as interpreted by the results from Clacton.
What is needed is not a change of policy by any of our parties (in my view the Tories are already far too anti immigrant as things stand) but a widespread discussion on the subject of democracy itself. We need a change to the way in which all of our parties patronise and speak to us as voters, demonstrating an inability to listen to our concerns, allowing the pronouncements of the whips and newspapers to drown out our voices except for 1 day every 5 years.