Single by-elections such as in Newport West don’t always reveal a national trend, nor can they be a reliable predictor of future voting behaviour, but that doesn’t mean one can’t draw some conclusions from them.
Although by-elections usually have lower turnouts, largely because people do not see it as an election for a government, the Newport turnout of 37% is on the low side whichever way you look at it. It was an expected consequence of the disillusionment of people with politics. The lower turnout meant that the Labour vote more than halved to 43% of the 2017 total with a similar effect on the Conservative vote (40%). If this tells us anything it is that not voting changes nothing. Being angry and staying at home simply means that the status quo will remain.
In this by-election there were no new alternatives along the lines suggested by the COI (Coalition of Independents). Had there been an independent and Brexit supporting candidate on the left of the political divide in this staunchly Labour stronghold, this introduction of a viable and interesting alternative may have been enough to get people out to vote, and to vote for the independent option. We’ll not know, of course, until the hypothesis has been tested, but we can draw the conclusion that current alternatives failed to attract support.
Chief amongst the lessons learned, was that UKIP is not the answer. Neil Hamilton, a high-profile candidate and a member of the Welsh Assembly, stood in a 56% leave constituency and tanked. The rabidly anti-Islam For Britain party along with the spectacularly unsuccessful Democrats and Veterans Party barely registered, and we had a clear confirmation that the Liberal Democrats are as irrelevant as they ever were, losing yet another deposit along with the usual rag bag of other parties. Whilst Neil Hamilton has not always been a paragon of virtue, it’s hard to ascribe this catastrophic by-election defeat to former misdemeanours, as he was elected to the Welsh Assembly and became leader of the UKIP group.
The clear inference is that UKIP is finished as an electoral force all the while Gerard Batten is leader and until such time as a credible, personable and intellectually competent leader appears. There is little sign of that happening and with each passing year UKIP’s potential wanes. Every election over the last couple of years has been a disaster, yet the faithful have remained faithful. This, however, must be the last straw.
The result also confirms that either the party branding or the party ideology of the main two parties is incredibly powerful. With a parliament full of liars and traitors, an incompetent Labour leader who prefers to consort with terrorists and a Prime Minister who persistently and deliberately lies without flinching, people can still bring themselves to vote for them. Despite the low turnout, despite the other options available of UKIP, Plaid Cymru, LibDem etc. Those that did vote still chose the tribal option. The question remains though, whether it is the party or the ideology that prevailed?
As European elections are now a virtual certainty, we’ll get an opportunity to test the new party of Nigel Farage. As the European elections exclude independents, by virtue of the electoral system used, I’ll be supporting and voting for the Brexit Party, having already registered formally as a supporter. Will it though, become an election force for a general election that may happen anytime from May 2019 to May 2022?
Even if it were able to build, in time, the infrastructure needed for a national political party, it would not be able to contest every seat, whereas independents could. Whichever way you look, there is a role for a top-quality independent candidate, vetted and approved by an independent body, who would reflect the dominant political ideology of the constituency in question. Independents have stood before, sometimes committed individuals, sometimes for a predominant local cause, but never as a part of an apolitical national organisation, solely concerned with getting the right people for the job.
Such an option would provide something unique, never offered before in a general election and it might just be enough to persuade the disenchanted and politically homeless.
If you think this may be a way forward, a way to break the dominance of the two-party system, or at least think it’s worth a try, then do register with our website so we can keep you abreast of developments.