The UK Independence Party (UKIP) have caused a seismic shift in British politics by pushing the Conservative Party into third place in the Eastleigh by-election yesterday with UKIP’s share of the vote surging from 3.6% to 28%.
The Liberal Democrats, despite their previous MP facing jail and their party being embroiled in a sex scandal, still managed to win the election, albeit with a reduced majority of 1771. The Yellow Peril really are a formidable machine when it comes to fighting by-elections, and for those involved in grassroots politics, local council elections too.
But today’s story is actually not the Liberal Democrats, it is the catastrophic result for the Conservative leader, David Cameron. Frankly, the chickens have come home to roost. Politcos like me have being saying since Day 1 of this useless Coalition, that David Cameron is most likely to become the first Conservative leader ever to LOSE two General Elections in a row.
Mr Cameron and his Notting Hill chums (Osborne, Gove, Hunt) have taken over the Conservative Party and convinced themselves that all they need to do to win a General Election is to suck up that bit more to the Left by banging on about wind farms and gay marriage and all will be well. Wrong!
The Left (Guardian-reading types, teachers and nurses etc) are NEVER going to vote Tory. All Cameron’s strategy has done is force the Conservative base to desert the Party in their droves. Many are now voting UKIP and many more are refusing to deliver leaflets or canvass for the Conservative Party. This toxic combination has resulted in the governing Party being pushed into third place only taking a quarter of the vote.
I truly believe this is not a protest vote scenario. The Conservative leadership does not understand its core supporters, neither their members (significantly depleted in numbers) or millions of potential Tory voters. Were they so stupid as to think by promising an In/Out referendum on the EU UKIP would be neutered? Dave and George really don’t get it – the Tory base care about much more than Europe: the economy, immigration, education, defence, crime and order etc. Where are the policies to lift the economy out of meltdown? Why is immigration still wildly out of control with most of Europe seeing Britain as a place which will roll over and pay out benefits the moment the immigrant steps off the boat? Why are we sacking our soldiers but still giving money to mad dictators to buy private jets?
And UKIP aren’t just taking disaffected Tory votes. They took votes yesterday from Labour and the Liberal Democrats too. It was uncanny timing that when I was driving home from the gym this morning, in Socialist Ipswich, I was stuck behind a car with a “Vote UKIP” sticker in the rear window.
David Cameron is now in big trouble. It is not outside the realms of possibilities he will be disposed by his MPs before the General Election in 2015. It’s not as if there is something on the horizon to bring good fortune for him. The economy will continue on a downward trajectory as you can’t fight against the laws of economics – there is NO MONEY left – and the County Elections take place in May in England and Wales, with many Conservative councillors expected to lose their seats with perhaps UKIP picking up tens of seats across the country.
This result in Eastleigh is so momentous I am now prepared to stick my neck out and explicitly state what I have been implying for the last three years: the Conservatives will lose the General Election again in 2015. Cameron will be disposed shortly afterwards (his consultancy firm is probably already on the drawing board) and we will have either a Lib/Lab Coalition or a Labour majority, which, frankly, won’t feel much different to the Government we have now. This means, locally, Ben Gummer will not win in Ipswich and in all likelihood (Labour internal squabbling aside) David Ellesmere will be the next MP for the town.
It could have been all so different but David Cameron failed the first test of political strategy: make sure you lock in your core vote before reaching out to the wider electorate. He didn’t do this either because he detests his own supporters or he is incompetent. As Nigel Farage put it overnight when asked about the Conservative Party’s woes: “Traditional Tory voters look at David Cameron and ask “Is this man a Conservative?” and they conclude no he’s not. That’s the problem they’ve got”.