Monday, 6 May 2013

Local Elections - The UKIP Factor

Towards the end of the count for Fenland's part of the County Council elections, I watched a group of UKIP candidates and supporters celebrating in the corner, on a day when I had seen good colleagues who have been outstanding Conservative Councillors lose their seats, I have to say it hurt.  But I chose to go across, shake their hands, and offer my congratulations.

I did that for a number of reasons, but firstly because success needs to be  congratulated, but also because they are people I am going to be working with. The truth is that the broad thrust of  UKIP's mainstream policies are Conservative policies. We are a party that is largely Euro-sceptic and want to sort the immigration situation out - so there can be no doubt that however the future of the County Council pans out, that close political thinking is sometimes going to be a factor.

The success of UKIP has surprised everyone. I was expecting a UKIP swing, but I was not expecting anything close to what happened, in fact neither were UKIP - which is why a few of what they themselves admitted were just paper candidates were not at the count and were surprised to win.

It is quite clear that UKIP are the only party who have reason to celebrate last week's vote.  The rest of us have to lick our wounds and listen and learn.  Many are painting this as a protest vote about immigration; We need to think deeper than that, it is not just about immigration (although that is the particular issue at this time) The level of the protest vote and the swing away from mainstream politics was at an unprecedented level - and I believe this is because of factors that go beyond the particular issues that UKIP stand for.

Politics is about people, not politicians. Too many senior politicians surround themselves with people that are inexperienced about life, don't understand the world many people live in and are choosing to put the voice of an inexperienced professional political  elite over the wisdom of others who have a better understanding about the way the world works, including ignoring a real voice of wisdom from some very experienced Members of Parliament.  It is that which needs to change. if it doesn't once the immigration and Europe issues are sorted, another major issue will arise where politicians will prove themselves distant from reality, will ignore the voice of the public and the voice of wisdom surrounding them and yet another pressure group will rise.

The reason I come to this conclusion is partly a reflection of my own result, where I achieved a higher turnout than the rest of Fenland and where my own personal vote pretty much held up.  There can be little doubt that a major factor in that was the supermarkets issue locally, where I have visibly  stood up for the interests of Whittlesey and the voters have recognised that I have listened and learned.  Compare that to the National situation, how many people can say that the Government (or the opposition) have genuinely delivered or represented them on the issues that matter to them, and if they have, has their message got across?

This issue about how mainstream politics and leaders operate is a problem for every mainstream party, it is not just a Conservative issue and they all need to learn from last Thursday.


  1. Never forget the price of a loaf of bread and a pint of milk.

  2. There are aspects of the European project that are vulnerable to manipulation and distortion. It's possible to gain funding for elaborate schemes that benefit no-one but vested interests, and in some cases may indeed lead to harm. The difficulty is going to be how to retain the best and leave the rest.

  3. This is why Europe needs to change if it is to survive.

  4. I thought the County Council could go to NOC. 4 out of 6 simulations showed this result. The trouble was this election was so close to call. A few percentage points less and the Conservatives would lose more seats. A few points more and Conservatives have a majority. The range of seats for the Conservatives I predicted to be between 36 and 30. You needed only to lose 8 seats to go NOC.

    Why did I come to this conclusion? Back in 2009 the Conservatives did well at the county elections but your vote was soft and around 25% of your vote decamped to UKIP and others at the Euros held in tandem.

    What changed between 2009 to 2013 is:

    1. UKIP didn't really fight the county elections in 2009. In 2013 they tried to put candidates in every seat.

    2. UKIP took Ramsey Town Council. This they are using as a propaganda tool. Freezing Council Tax and cutting Council Tax.

    3. Conservative Party policy is to freeze council tax. This is included in the coalition agreement.

    4. Conservatives in Cambridgeshire simply ignored this policy. The County, Districts, Police, Fire and some Town Councils increased Council Tax.

    5. UKIP do well at the Eastleigh by-election.

    What you have was the perfect storm. David Cameron and Eric Pickles were campaigning on the Blue team to freeze or cut Council Tax whilst in Cambridgeshire the blue team was jacking up Council Tax by up in a range of 2% to 8.3%.

    Enter UKIP with a proper campaign in some wards surrounding Ramsey. Peter Reeve informing the electorate that UKIP freezes and cuts council tax. Look at Ramsey, he says, where UKIP Town Councillors clean toilets to keep down the Council Tax.

    Cambridgeshire is not a low Council Tax area. The average Council Tax for shire counties is £1101. CCC tax rate is £1100. The average band D CT bill is £1510 for Shire Counties. Council Tax ranges from £1512 to £1617 in Cambridgeshire depending which district you live in.

    Whilst your Council Tax survey showed that the majority of residents would accept a small Council Tax rise as long as it was used to fund their priorities, the majority of the residents aren't your supporters.

    A large minority of Conservative supporters do not want council tax increases and this is the main reason your support either decamped to UKIP or stayed at home. Even your own report says resistance to Council Tax increases in higher in Huntingdonshire than anywhere else. UKIP knocked out Jason Abelwhite and Nick Guyatt, leader and deputy leader of HDC as they were standing in the County elections.

    If the Conservatives want to stop UKIP and push back the tide then you and your colleagues in other Cambridgeshire local authorities need to freeze and then cut Council Tax. That is the pillar that holds up UKIP support and you need to remove that pillar. Other pillars (immigration and Europe) are national government problems. Council tax is yours and your fellow Council Leaders.

    UKIP now have a arc in north and west Cambridgeshire. Next year are the Euros. The Conservatives could lose control of Huntingdonshire. The more UKIP makes gains into Conservative areas will mean Djanogly, Vara and Barclay will have problems with UKIP at the GE in 2015.

  5. Martin lots being said about Sainsbury not able to deliver the land for our supermarket is this true and if so does that mean we will have to make do with Station Road also is there a pending appeal by Tesco regarding their store for eastrea road? and if so do they have a change of winning it.

  6. I don't believe the bit about Sainsbury is true. They have had to provide some evidence to confirm they have the land deals are there, which I understand they have now done - albeit they are a bit upset that the criteria being applied to them do not apply to other applications in Fenland.

    Tesco can appeal, but I can't see it succeeding whilst a permission for Sainsbury exists. Most likely outcome is a court battle - something I have been predicting for a few years.