On January 11th, on the BBC’s East Midlands Sunday Politics show, Conservative MP Sir Edward Garnier faced off against UKIP’s Paul Oakden (the BBC had wanted an MEP, but both Margot and I had prior commitments). Starts about 48 minutes in. I believe that Labour MP Vernon Coaker was there as well.
Sir Edward was caught out in what appeared to be a contradiction. He insisted that “he was not worried about UKIP”. There was a discussion of the marginal Amber Valley seat, and Sir Edward insisted that incumbent Tory MP Nigel Mills (famed as “the Candy-Crush MP”), with a majority of just over 600, was not at risk. But in the next breath he was repeating the tired old claim that a vote for UKIP would hand the election to Labour, and give Miliband the keys to Number 10.
Of course these propositions are incompatible — he can’t have it both ways. The second proposition is also wrong. UKIP has done well in Tory seats — but we’ve also done outstandingly well in Labour seats. In Rotherham. In Heywood & Middleton (where as Paul pointed out, UKIP came a strong second, so a Tory vote was a wasted vote, and let in a Labour MP). And in Lib-Dem seats like Eastleigh. In hundreds of seats across the country UKIP is the main challenger, and likely to benefit from tactical voting.
Sir Edward insisted that in May UKIP would win two or three – or at most four – Westminster seats. I think he may be in for a surprise on May 8th.
One other interesting point emerged. Sir Edward repeatedly claimed that “UKIP want to take Britain back to the 50’s” (clearly the emerging main plank of the Tories’ anti-UKIP strategy). He made no attempt to explain or justify that proposition — and nor could he have done so. We are interested in restoring independence, self determination and democracy to our country. Does he see those as old-fashioned, 1950’s values? But I should hardly think he’s the man to denigrate self-determination and democracy. He’s an honest and decent chap, and I don’t for a moment believe he regards freedom and democracy as old-fashioned. And no one wants to take Britain back to the sort of poverty and low incomes that we saw in the 50’s (though Labour policies might have that effect).
So yes, UKIP is interested in the 50’s- but the 2050s, not the 1950s. Will our grandchildren have jobs? Will they be more prosperous than we are today, or will their future be trammelled with debt, and energy shortages? Will they have warm homes, and personal transportation? Will British education be at the forefront in global terms? Will our country be secure, both in terms of food and energy, but also in defence terms? Will it be safe to walk the streets? Above all, will they be living in a free and independent and democratic country?
That’s UKIP’s concern, Sir Edward. The future. Not the past.