If there were a list of people one would not want to be trapped alone with for any length of time, a ‘Desert Island Don’ts’ if you will, Nick Clegg would feature highly amongst the runners and riders. He’s putting in some excellent legwork this year in an effort to top most people’s list.
This last week saw yet another desperate attempt to shore up the Lib Dem vote ahead of an inevitable embarrassment at the EU elections. Having utterly failed to make a positive case for EU membership, Clegg is now pinning his hopes on dismissing UKIP as “Britain’s protest party”.
In the rarefied atmosphere of the political bubble that Clegg and his kind inhabit, this is a very serious insult indeed. In Clegg’s mind it simultaneously says that UKIP are not a serious party, and anyone who votes for them doesn’t really mean to, they are just part of the “none of the above brigade”. To a sane person, “Britain’s protest party” has a rather nice ring to it. I may even prefer it to “the people’s army”. Once again UKIP’s opponents are unwittingly superb at making the pro-UKIP case!
How about this for an object lesson in breathtaking arrogance and hypocrisy:
“We’re not asking you to vote for us to just stick two fingers up against the other two parties. We’re asking you to vote for something. We are the only party in these elections that have the courage to stand up to UKIP, the only party relied upon to rein in the Conservatives, the only party to undo the damage done by Labour to our economy.”
Let’s look at the hypocrisy first. Nick would have us all vote Lib Dem because they stand “for something”, as opposed to being an empty, negative protest vote against the other parties. What is this “something” that the Lib Dems stand for? That they are not the Conservatives or Labour. It’s not often that you see someone contradict themselves in the space of two sentences, but if anyone can, Nick can.
The hypocrisy continues. Has Nick Clegg forgotten that he is only Deputy Prime Minister thanks to the “protest votes” that he now belittles? Does he not remember that his entire campaign in 2010 was based on attacking the two “old” parties and calling for “change”? He seemed quite keen on hoovering up protest votes then. Well, the Lib Dems will now go into two national elections over the next 12 months devoid of the protest vote, with only their policies and track record to recommend them. Let’s see how that works out for them.
Now how about that arrogance? Clegg’s assumption, and that of the entire political class, is that a protest vote is beneath contempt and can be safely ignored. To the political clones that infest our established parties, and their friends in the media, a protest vote is nothing more than the “mid-term blues”. Some of the natives might get restless, dismayed by what’s on offer from the Tories and Labour, but no matter, if we make the right noises, say we’re “listening”, then they will come back into the fold like the sheep they are. Voters belong to their parties, and any dalliance with another party will only be temporary. Nothing could better illustrate the arrogance and complacency our our political class. To them, “a protest vote” will always be preceded by the word “just”.
What exactly is wrong with protesting? Surely it is healthy for the electorate to express their disapproval when their elected representatives fail to do a good job. Would Mr Clegg prefer that those unhappy with their elected representatives simply not vote, or worse still accept their lot and vote anyway regardless of how badly they are treated? (don’t answer that one Nick, I think I know your answer and it’s not very democratic).
To continue voting for the same old parties in the expectation of a different result is the very definition of insanity. Choosing between Labour and Conservative when voting is like choosing between the guy who mugged you and the guy who, before returning your wallet, removed all your cash.
People are to be forgiven for growing weary of being offered the same, binary, choice for generations; Labour or Tory. As more and more people are switched off politics and abandoned by a complacent political elite, so the parties need fewer and fewer votes to gain power. You no longer need to be popular in this country to rule. This is a pale imitation of democracy, and the established parties know it. Continue to vote for them, and they will continue to treat us with contempt. Where is their incentive to do otherwise?
To anyone outside the political bubble, a protest vote is a perfectly valid, sensible option. It says we are not happy with what we see and we want things to change. Millions of people will walk into their polling booth on 22nd May and put their X next to UKIP. Many will not have voted for years, or are voting for the first time. Many will be doing so to protest against the established parties. This does not mean that they are not also voting positively for UKIP. It is entirely possible to protest against the established parties and at the same time like what you hear from UKIP. The two are not mutually exclusive. Indeed to win a national election, as UKIP are currently on course to do, you need to be more than just “none of the above”.
On election day, when you come to cast your vote, picture Nick Clegg’s face, remember his words “UKIP are Britain’s protest party” and by all means proceed to “stick two fingers up” to the other parties. I certainly will, alongside many other good reasons for voting UKIP. The voters are protesting, Nick, and a very good thing it is too.
Photo by Jennifer Jane Mills