The Labour and Tory parties are dying. What were once proud, principled parties, each with clearly defined beliefs and a huge popular following, now only exist for one reason; the continued survival and advancement of a remote elite at the top.
There may be some good folk remaining at grass roots level, but those grass roots are withering. Membership of the Conservative party has halved since David Cameron became their leader. UKIP membership has doubled since the start of 2013. UKIP will get more money from membership fees in 2014 than the Tories.
It was the 1992 general election when I first heard the phrase “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always gets in”. It struck a chord then, it strikes more chords than Status Quo now. Both established parties have painted themselves into a corner, they are stuck with the rhetoric and dividing lines of the past 50 years. This results in increasingly hysterical pantomime politics, to mask the fact that there is little substantive difference between them. The only real difference is that the Tories get their millions from big business and Labour get theirs from the unions, hence the different spin.
Indeed, they each rely on the other to continue their cosy consensus of the past 20 years. Neither party dare genuinely challenge the other on immigration, overseas wars, the true state of the economy for fear of rocking the boat and exposing their own track record. This leads to the current state of affairs where we have in Labour a government opposition that does precious little to hold the government to account, despite being paid £6.9million of the taxpayer’s money to do precisely that. From migration to the economy, Labour make a lot of noise but oppose very little, and provide an alternative even less. UKIP are the only true opposition party, as we saw this week with the deft way in which Steven Woolfe and others dismantled Cameron’ s migration plans.
What exactly is the Labour party for in 2014? On the night before the public sector strikes earlier this month, the party of the workers were hosting their gala dinner for rich supporters in London. Tickets ranged from £100 to £15,000 for a table, and if you had sufficient cash on the hip you could bid for the chance to play football in a five-a-side team with Ed Balls, or on an Anthony Gormley painting starting at £100,000, or have tea at the national gallery with Tristram Hunt. I don’t have a problem with any of this, other than on grounds of good taste obviously, political parties have to be funded somehow and I would rather it wasn’t the taxpayer who gets stung. However it illustrates how hypocritical and intellectually barren the Labour party is. They will quite happily condemn the Tories for having wealthy donors, or for auctioning tennis matches with the PM, but do exactly the same themselves.
Labour’s income was £33million in 2013, the highest of any political party. How much tax do you think the party paid on that income? Just £14,000. You rarely see the word “hypocrisy” without it being preceded by the word “breathtaking”, and Labour show the reason why.
I’m not suggesting they have done anything illegal, but the two Eds have constantly railed against the Starbucks, Amazons and Gary Barlows of this world for exactly this kind of legal tax avoidance. Being a bit hypocritical on wooing wealthy donors is one thing. Preaching about tax avoidance and the rich “paying their fair share” while quietly minimising your own tax burden is something else.
It is a similar story with zero hour contracts. Labour denounce these as unfair and unjust, tools of an evil capitalist system. Yet Ed Balls and other Labour MPs use them. As do Labour councils. Labour are quite good at nepotism too. The children of Neil Kinnock, Tony Benn, Tony Blair, Jack Straw are all being parachuted in to safe Labour seats. Fully half of Labour candidates for marginal seats at the next election are Westminster bubble special advisers (SPADS), or other internal party greasy-pole-climbers. This top-down contempt can only benefit UKIP and their use of local candidates. Contrast to the diverse background of UKIP’s MEPs.
Niccolò Machiavelli truly said a mouthful when he observed that “the mass of mankind accept what seems as what is; nay, are often touched more nearly by appearances than by realities”. Millions of people up and down the country still blindly vote Labour because they believe that the use of words like “fairness” and “progressive” mean Labour understand them. Millions vote Tory, because they swallow the spin about “tough decisions”. Neither of these perceptions of the two parties remotely reflect reality.
We get the politics we deserve; mindless, tribal voting leads to complacent, arrogant and distant politicians. How many people vote for one party to keep the other lot out? Both parties have ‘evolved’ to the point where they treat their core vote with utter contempt. Both are run by identical career politicians. For all Labour’s hypocritical “posh bashing” of the Tories, the Labour front bench is entirely interchangeable with that of the Tories. Privately educated, wealthy people who have never had a job that wasn’t taxpayer funded.
The really good news is that people are waking up to this sham. In 1953 nearly everyone voted, and they all voted Labour or Tory (97% of an 82% turnout) By 2010, only two thirds of people bothered to vote, and only two thirds of them backed Labour or Conservatives. Less than half of voters backed either party at the EU election in May. 2.8million people were card carrying Tories in 1953, that figure is less than 134,000 now. The Tories and Labour are speaking to fewer and fewer people. This suits them, but it is bad news for democracy.
Which is why the rise of UKIP has been so rapid and is so welcome. People who have been left behind by such cynical politics are taking an interest once more. People who hadn’t bothered voting for years have found something worth supporting. UKIP have taken around 50 council seats from Labour this year already, on the first past the post system that will be used in next year’s general election. Up and down the country, in rotten borough areas where you could stick a blue or red rosette on the cat and get it elected, UKIP are providing a credible opposition for the first time in decades. Vote for change, vote positive, vote UKIP.