Tuesday, May 01, 2007

More on the UKIP Option

Arguing with DK is like playing with fireworks in a munitions dump. You risk an explosion but can be assured that the ensuing carnage will, at least, be memorable.

I think we have informally agreed to differ on the actual question of whether or not the EU can or should be reformed and made a worthwhile institution. However, the argument as to whether even a Euronihilist such as DK should vote UKIP still has some legs. I appear to have detonated him somewhat in my latest treatment of that debate.

I'll get two things out of the way before I make my main case:

Firstly, the accusation I'm avoiding the debate. I'm really not. I did read the Nameless One's response and I'm sorry I didn't get around to responding to it. However, it doesn't address my case. While one Conservative activist can't change the party's collective mind one UKIP activist can't make a stuff of difference either. The question is where an individual, or a group, can be most effective in advancing their position. Equally, I didn't address DK's paragraph from the post responding to Jackart because he hadn't addressed the possibility of changing the leadership rather than changing the existing leadership's mind.

Secondly, the comparison DK makes repeatedly to the Labour party. This is very stretched. The Labour Party emerged out of the decision of a pre-existing mass movement to create its own party. It took from its union founders a stable source of funding and a huge pool of activists. The UKIP has no such advantage and is genuinely building from scratch.

Okay, down to the main case. I'm going to sum up the pros and cons of two approaches to advancing the Euronihilist position. Both have as their objective the eventual election of a government that will take Britain out of the European Union. Both will need to convince enough of the electorate to form a government and that means, in practice, that the Conservative membership will need to be convinced that leaving Europe is the right position for a party to take and that this is a priority. First, I'll summarise what each scheme consists of and then I'll go over their advantages and disadvantages.

The UKIP Option

Form a new political party and have as many EUNihilists as possible join it. Use that party to try and scare the Conservative leadership into taking your position. Hope that the Conservative Party membership go along with this change out of loyalty and a closet support for the UKIP's objective. If the Conservative Party will not change then slowly break it and hope the UKIP emerges as the new right-wing party that can challenge for government.

The BOO Option

Stay in the Conservative Party or whichever party, with a serious chance of gaining power, will best advance your beliefs. Put the time and money that you would have spent on the paraphenalia of the new party into building organisations and a persuasive case against the EU. Don't worry too much about convincing the leadership in particular. If they can't be convinced change the minds of the membership and then they can, through a leadership election, convince the party.

Advantages to the UKIP Option

  • No need to compromise, vote for and support a "best alternative" party you still disagree with on important issues.
  • You might threaten the leadership into changing their position and shortcut actually convincing the Conservatives.

Disadvantages to the UKIP Option

  • It pisses off loyal Conservatives and turns them off the EUnihilist message.
  • A huge amount of money and time is spent on the paraphenalia of the party (election deposits and the like) instead of on the actual business of convincing people.
  • Minor parties always attract a disproportionate number of weirdos. These discredit the cause.
  • As the UKIP are a minor party (1% of the electorate) a Conservative leadership working to defend their votes would do just as well to cast the UKIP as crazies as it would to appease them. This can be effective because there are plenty of crazies within the UKIP for them to point to.
Advantages to the BOO Option

  • In the meantime you can get a better chance of a Conservative government which is relatively Eurosceptic and otherwise sound compared to Labour or the Liberal Democrats.
  • You have a lot more EU nihilists voting in Conservative Party leadership elections, potential leadership candidates know this.
  • You can attempt to convince other Conservatives as an ally instead of as an enemy. Look at it this way, do you think that most Americans will listen more openly to Barack Obama or Saddam Hussein telling them the Iraq War was a bad idea?
  • If you succeed then you will have actually convinced the Conservative Party rather than having scared them into line.

Disadvantages of the BOO Option

  • It could be that the Conservatives just can't be convinced. In that case the cause is probably hopeless but you could dream of non-voters riding to your aid. They won't as they're mostly utterly uninterested in politics rather than being some angry, anti-EU coherent multitude but the possibility might be a comfort in fringe politics.
The balance is clearly with not forming a new party. It is with attempting to convince people either within the party or outside it but without forming an opposing camp in the form of a new party. This is the approach that right-wing groups have taken on other issues and it is far more effective.


Anonymous said...

Vote online about the future of Europe at www.FreeEurope.info. One liner: "Human development in its richest diversity" ( John Stuart Mill)

The Nameless One said...

I still think you over-estimate the extent to which any one individual or group can advance their position in an organisation as large, and complex, as the Tory party. When I left the Tory party I felt at odds over a number of different issues with the leadership and did not believe I could impact the direction the party was going in - hence my departure.

The problem I have with the "change the mind of the membership/change the mind of the leadership argument" is the clan/brand identification with one party. I could be wrong, but I sense with both you and to some extent Jackart the commitment is to the Tory party rather than right of centre policies. I vote for whichever party best represents my views. And, as Cameron embraces policy nonsense such as environmental taxes and the imagery of the odious lefty Toynbee, that party is not the Tory party. The simple fact is that I would vote for any party that embraced or represented by views - be it the Tories, UKIP, Labour or the Liberal Democrats. I think you would vote Tory regardless of the policies they offer because of the tribal loyalty you have with that party.

I see the "oh, I don't agree with them but am going to stay with them to change their minds" approach basically a form of denial. Just like the "oh, I'm sure he will change when he gets into power" approach.

A couple of questions spring to mind:

Could you ever vote for a party other than the Tories?

What would it take for you to decide that the Tories no longer speak for you?

I don't expect you to abandon the Tories just because I have done so or because DK has done so. But there is a real difference between supporting the Tories because you believe in what they are saying, and blindly supporting them because you always have done.

Matthew Sinclair said...


First, bear in mind, when talking about my personal politics that I don't want to leave the EU. I do have issues I disagree with the Party on though. Environmental policy is a particular frustration.

Second, on your questions about the limits of my support for the Conservatives. I'd leave the Tory party if I felt the Conservatives weren't the portion of the electorate and country most likely to put the policies I want to see into practice. That clearly isn't the case for you guys who want to leave the EU. Tories are very Eurosceptic compared to the rest of the electorate.

I would vote for another party (a different question) if I felt that there was a better alternative with a reasonable chance of winning the election. When the possibility of the Tories adopting a 35 hour working week came up I said that I'd think very seriously about voting Labour if it were adopted.

Finally, you need to stop thinking about the Conservative Party as the leadership with all the members taking or leaving it. Since the Hague reforms in particular the party membership can change the leadership. In the Labour Party your "take it or leave it" view of party opinion might be more sustainable.

The process of achieving a Euronihilist Conservative Party will be hard and slow but you have to recognise your belief is one in a minority. Changing public perceptions is hard work. The question returns to whether the UKIP or some other activity is a more productive means of convincing the electorate of the validity of your cause.