My analysis (yes I’ve had an extra day) is quite different from any local and national paper I’ve read – and it’s not all about a leader whose name recalls a Count Duckula Episode*
The English county election results this week have been exaggerated by the press. They all focus on UKIP, blurring the overall picture. A letter to the Independent said that the press’s coverage of the Purple Party caused their profile to be raised and helped them win votes – why couldn’t they have focussed on other parties, particularly the Green one? And what might our outcome have been then?
The i helpfully published a nifty before and after map of all the counties going to the vote, with statistics about changes (which didn’t add up and some misprints). It was clear that UKIP actually lost seats and its entire presence in places where it once held them – Bristol, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire. Leics is not +2 for UKIP – it’s merely maintained its 2 seats; Staffs lost one seat.
UKIP won no overall control of any council and in all cases was considerably under the minimum seats needed to do so, even where they came second (eg Norfolk, Lincs, Kent) were a third of the requirement needed to gain control. Mostly UKIP came 3rd-5th place winning only 2-4 seats, and did not feature everywhere – there’s none in the North save North Yorks, or in Bristol, or Essex, where other parties grew.
I suspect that disaffected Tory voters would feel uncomfortable choosing a left wing party and there is, save the BNP (who lost its only council seat), but one for them to pick; and nor would they want to choose the other half of the coalition, the Yellows.
I picked a couple of counties to analyse in detail (from their own council interactive websites), and found that only a few actual UKIP seats had been won, and that these had been Purple previously. I also noted that it happened in areas where only red, blue and purple stood – I don’t remember any Greens or independents or small parties candidates in anywhere UKIP were most successful.
The Greens have long been in my view the 4th party (which reminds me of the AA advert that called themselves the 4th emergency service). They held on to their presence in all of their councils bar Cambs, doubled their number in Bristol and Worcestershire, and introduced themselves in Essex, Warwickshire, and Cornwall. They lost a couple from their hotbed in Norwich, but gained back the seat held on to by defecting local leader. But the Greens put up only a small proportion of seats, whereas UKIP were widely represented.
I also see a welcome rise in independent candidates; already the majority in Cornwall and Anglesey (the only non English election); they are now top in the Isle of Wight, 2nd in County Durham still by a large margin (though smaller than it was) and North Yorkshire; and sizable in Lincolnshire above the Lib Dems, although coming 4th overall.
I note a huge loss for the two parties in government, both in seats and county favourites which I’d like to think shows disillusion with them. I am glad that the colour of the political map has changed – there are three red counties instead of one, 10 less blue and 12 (not 4) not being under no overall control – which is how I would like to see politics done.
I am concerned that UKIP has been chosen (note I do not spell it the annoying Guardian way) by several as its protest vote, hoping it took seats from Tories and Lib Dems whilst not swapping them for a recent government which frustrated even its own supporters. As I said above, there was not always anyone else to put an X beside. And I think that’s why 70+% of the population once again did not vote. Do they feel all parties are bad, none are different, that their voice won’t be heard, whoever’s in power?
I’ve seen little focus on the silent majority in news reports. I feel that having to pick this or that and not being able to say ‘none of the above’ or suggest anything else makes voting very limited, especially with first past the post voting system that favours the two original parties.
I am dismayed by the presumption (which I do not fully believe) that all these purple crosses mean that the public want more severely right wing policies. When it’s already so right wing it’s farcical if it weren’t so dangerous and frightening, when you wouldn’t believe it if you put it in fiction, some are asking or harder welfare rules (how could there be?!) and tougher stances on immigration.
I read UKIP’s policies as I am a fair minded person – as I did for 9 parties, not keen that they should plant cookies on me and think I am in any way a supporter. The “milder BNP” epithet still stands. Some of their tax ideas were interesting, but badly put with poor sentences (now I feel I’ve set myself up!). I definitely detected a Thatcherite “everyone pays the same” over income tax – something which lost her even staunch Blue sympathisers. And as for Trident… I wondered if I were reading an anti Green party parody instead of a serious manifesto.
What I do hear is that racism should not be linked to national pride or wanting a sense of identity. It is true that we have lost our sense and right of being a distinct nation apart from our Celtic neighbours, who have gathered more strength in that. I have heard the comment that it’s racist to be an area where there’s no other nationalities and ethnicities – but that seems to be reverse racism, attributing judgement and narrowness, as if positive discrimination is to be applied to where people live. We should never feel awkward, discriminatory or lesser for having more indigenous people than not.
But UKIP and its cousins (BNP, English Democrats) are linking multiculturalism to our problems, making outsiders causes to be repatriated rather than seeing them as potentially enriching. Remember the freedom we’d like to move abroad, especially if we needed refuge.
The work ethic that the right wing wants clashes with what they say about foreigners. They want us to get any job and work hard, but they’re cross when immigrants do it instead of original peoples; and don’t see that the very work ethic they wish to promote to benefit claimants creates a culture of poor working conditions, even kinds of slavery. No, getting round minimum wage and working an unhealthy amount of hours is not acceptable, and if one person accepts a bully’s terms, so will the next… And life is not about toil and the taxable income you generate, or submission to hierarchy…
I am glad the ruling parties have got a message that people are turning from them. I am glad there is more shared power and co-operation (what I’d hoped from the 2010 general elections) in the county councils. I am glad more independents are gaining voices.
I’m alarmed that several have chosen to vote for a further right wing party, and that (looking at comments online) that some do support harsher regimes (which don’t affect them, of course).
But I am sorry that we have a system where so many don’t feel it’s worth their while going to the booths – and that’s the statistic that should speak the most. It’s what can’t be said in a ballot box that really counts.
* a 1990s cartoon: episode No Sax Please, We’re Egyptian “I am the One they call Nigel”