Nigel Farage’s UKIP party won two by-elections last night in England and for once the British conservative press is asking the right questions. Why is UKIP winning?
Speaking of former Tory MPs and now UKIP supporters, Tim Stanley writes:
Somehow these posh, wide boys have managed to connect with an extraordinary coalition of angry middle-class and alienated working-class voters. How?
The answer must surely lie with collapsing faith in Westminster. The Credit Crunch, the expenses scandal, NHS horror stories, child abuse nightmares, even the dark hints of paedophile gangs at the heart of power – it all adds up to a sense that the establishment is irredeemably broken. And attempts by the mainstream parties to fix it are undone by their lack of cultural legitimacy. If there really is a class war going on, Labour has totally abandoned its position as the voice of the workers.
UKIP started the class war, and is winning it, says Stanley.
I am reminded of the Reform Party’s march to power in Canada. When we started in eastern Canada, we were just a bunch of middle aged guys with computers, deeply angry at the state of Canada under both Mulroney and especially Chretien. I mention computers because, in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, computer literacy was just beginning. We were not the mouth-breathing bigots of legend.
We were crapped on by the CBC. Peter Gzowski was telling us our values were “un-Canadian”. Opinion coverage in the CBC would feature three left-wingers, Tory, Liberal and NDP, discussing why balanced budgets were wrong. Then as now, the Globe and Mail was a source of smug fatuity, condescending to explain to us the errors of our ways.
Those organs of opinion still exist, and the opinions represented by those organs still prevail in many parts of Canada. Yet for the main part, Canada has moved on. Geoffrey Simpson used to be the prophet; now he is chronicler of opinion among the Assistant Deputy Ministers and the kind of people who live in Ottawa’s The Glebe district.
So was it a “class war” we Reformers were waging? Perhaps you have to be a Brit to see it that way. I saw the Reform movement as an attempt to re-connect Canadian politics to Canadian values: the real ones. Since the fight between us Reformistas on the one hand and everyone else on the other was a cultural fight, it was fought over bitterly. The Laurentian hereditary Liberal upper class was being uprooted, and continues to be uprooted, from their accustomed seats of power. In so doing the Canadian nation has at long last been allowed to see itself in the mirror, and likes what it sees.
Will the same process continue in England? Will UKIP eventually unseat the Tories from their thrones of power? Read this:
To beat Ukip and retake command of the national political narrative, the mainstream parties have to reconnect with the people and to demonstrate that they share their concerns, are being honest about the problems ahead, and have faith in the common sense of ordinary people. Labour and the Tories have to remember that – to borrow an American phrase – the average man and the average woman is the king and queen of British politics. They are the masters and the successful politician is simply their servant.
The Tories in England will not be able to do this under Cameron; they will only be able to do this under the leadership of Nigel Farage. Whether UKIP assimilates the Tory party, as Reform did to the wet Tories here, or whether he marches to power over the corpse of the Tory party, is the relevant question.
There as here, when the hereditary governing party starts to see the nation as alien to itself, and inferior, and in need of replacing, then the days of the hereditary governing party will not be long. Here it was the Liberals. There it remains the Tories. If Canada is a model, then Farage will win, because the British people want him to.