How Long Can They Remain Aloof From The EU Debate?
Southampton is one of Labour’s strongholds in the south and UKIP is a relatively new force in the City. I am standing in the local elections against the leader of the Labour run Council.
It was a sunny afternoon and I was out leafleting in an area of Bitterne that has a mixture of current and former social housing. A woman, who I later found worked in child-care, followed me. The smile suggested this was not going to be a telling off for posting unwanted leaflets. “What did I think about the two year old funding situation?” she asked me.
I tried not to look like a goldfish gasping for air while I tried to retrieve in my mind what I knew about Surestart. But, as is common, this thoughtful voter actually wanted to discuss her views on a familiar problem – the welfare trap. She found parents were not being asked to improve their family or other skills in the time it afforded them. I was able to discuss UKIP’s view that school hours (and for that matter the school leaving age) should not be extended merely to provide an elaborate form of childcare.
I talked about UKIP’s desire to return welfare to a temporary safety net for all except the disabled with the discussion around humane workfare for those not ready to return to work, as opposed to the government’s current system of universal pressure. I talked about the lack of jobs and high cost of living attributable to membership of the EU. And I found we agreed about Labour’s view of pushing education at the expense of grants and seeing it as a social cure, when it had made it more difficult for people like her to study.
Like many, this lady was not taken in by the main stream media’s discussion around UKIP. During my campaign, I have met many other people who used to support Labour but have now turned to UKIP. On seeing my rosette, people have come up to me unprompted. And someone who has not voted in decades called me to say he would vote for me.
I am pleased that our latest posters talk about the cost of living crisis brought on by the EU. Labour today offers a strange mix of a sense of economic victimhood and authoritarianism. When the economy was considered strong under Labour, many did not have a piece of that pie. Now even the hope of improvement has gone. Also, the assisted moving of Ford, nearby, to Turkey as a sort of sweetener to join the EU, shows how the EU views both skilled and unskilled working people as pawns in a game.
One recent pledge by Ed Miliband roused my curiosity: that he would make it illegal to insult members of the armed forces. There was another who insulted our uniformed defenders of British Liberty, long ago. His name was William Blake. Near the seaside town where I grew up in West Sussex, Blake’s enjoyment of a pleasant evening in his garden was spoiled by rowdy soldiers. He made an angry comment, so they said, hoping for a Napoleonic invasion, in preference to the men he had causing him annoyance. Whatever he did say, his acquittal at the local assizes was a victory for the liberty we sought to keep even in war. The case proved our liberty to insult those in authority, and forces of the state. In Europe, attitudes to officialdom are different with a greater tendency to authoritarianism.
Blake of course was a social reformer as well as visionary and much else. He wrote the words to Jerusalem hoping for a reformed England and Labour supporters are fond of heartily belting it out at conference. What would he make of the attempt to make those soldiers victims of his words? Not much probably.
What would Kier Hardy, George Orwell, the Chartists, the suffragettes and many earlier radicals make of the Labour leadership’s view that the votes of ordinary people must not be allowed to upset European treaties which have produced a system that cannot reform itself and will therefore be secretive and unstable? Even if all that the EU did was good, I do not think they would sacrifice their right to hold power to account for anything that could be offered. We in UKIP should welcome former Labour supporters, who have long been sceptical of the EU. Just as the Tories have no monopoly on patriotism, many working people no longer see Labour having a monopoly on social concern.
(Editor’s Note: A week later this article was published in The Independent about Southampton)