Tim Montgomery @TimMontgomerie of ConHome Tweets: “On NHS, taxing the wealthy, gay rights most voters are on the so-called Left”.
I think that’s open to debate. Today’s Sunday papers carry stories “1165 NHS patients starve to death”, and “80 women sue (NHS) after botched surgery”. I don’t think anyone today thinks that the NHS is “the envy of the world”, and I believe (despite being a eurosceptic) that we could learn from some of the health-financing models of European countries. I think the public generally would share the view that “something needs to be done”, though there would be (and indeed is) a lively debate over what to do.
But I’m grateful to Tim for his reference to “the so-called Left”. So many people — including lazy media folk who should know better — characterise UKIP policies as “right-wing”, and insist that UKIP votes come largely from disaffected Tories.
It’s true that much UKIP support does indeed come from disaffected Tories — we’re expecting several East Midlands Conservative Councillors to cross the floor to UKIP before the May elections. But we’re also getting huge support from former Labour voters, former Lib-Dem voters (yes, Lib-Dem!) and (as Nigel Farage loves to point out) from many disaffected non-voters who simply haven’t seen any party worth their vote for years, but now see UKIP saying what they instinctively believe.
I saw this last attitude night in the Stephen Nolan show on BBC Radio Five Live, when I debated with left-wing journalist @vincegraff. I pointed out that I’d campaigned in the recent Rotherham by-election, which is solid Labour territory. Yet UKIP got what was then a record share of vote — around 23% — though even that was soon eclipsed at Eastleigh. And Eastleigh is a Lib-Dem stronghold. The idea that UKIP is no more than “the Conservative Party in exile” is plain nonsense, and belied by our results around the country. The fact is that immigration — which Vince Graff insisted was “a right-wing issue” — had been the Number One worry on the Labour doorsteps of Rotherham.
We had a similar discussion on Foreign Aid. Both Stephen Nolan and Vince Graff tried to use the line “But don’t you agree that if we cut foreign aid, children in poor countries will die as a consequence? Is a life in Botswana less valuable than welfare benefits in the UK?”. To which the answer is “Today’s papers report 1,165 people dying of starvation in NHS hospitals. The first duty of the British government is to British citizens. If you want to support dying children in poor countries, that’s an excellent thing, and you can give privately to charity, but it’s a personal choice, not what our government should be doing with tax-payers’ money. If Cameron wants to play Lady Bountiful, let him use his own money, not ours. And in any case, trade (if the protectionist EU would get out of the way) is a far more cost-effective way to take poor people out of poverty”.
I’ve always argued that UKIP is neither right, nor left — just common sense. And the ultimate irony of the outmoded “left-right” model? We regard Labour as Left, Tories as Right (sort of), and the Lib-Dems as terminally bewildered. Yet in essence, they’re all social democratic parties. They all want EU membership, and wind farms, and foreign aid, and political correctness. The choice between them is no choice at all. That’s why UKIP is doing so well. Just common sense.