Monday, April 30, 2007

The Dude takes on the UKIP

Most of the Dude's network in the blogosphere are UKIP supporters so he's looking a bit besieged at the moment having made the case for the Tories over the UKIP. He essentially makes the very sensible point that, even if you prefer a more right-wing stance, Cameron clearly is very different and preferable from a right-wing perspective to Labour. As such, a Conservative vote is a vote for a more right-wing politics whereas to vote for the UKIP is to "look like ridiculous lefties (revolutionary Trotskyite alliance, Socialist Peoples' party, Communist Party of Great Britain, Socialist Workers party etc... ad infinitum) each with their own religious belief in their solution to societies ills". Needless to say I agree.

My recent work campaigning ahead of the local elections has reinforced to me the advantages of having an established party. The network of loyal activists that encourage turnout beyond the ideologically committed. Even if the UKIP were the right way to go it would have to start from scratch. By contrast, trying to convince the Conservative membership from within, who can then vote in the leadership UKIPers want, seems far more profitable. Imagine if the UKIP budget, its activists and supporters energy, had been channeled into a campaign to persuade Britain and the Conservatives we should leave the EU. Couldn't it have achieved far more? Couldn't it avoid undermining the chances of a right-wing goverment?

I'll go through a few of the arguments made by the Dude's detractors. I won't cover everything as I don't think it's necessary.

First from Trixy:

"The Tories aren't in the magic 40% target in the polls, despite many efforts by Cameron to use 'Words that Work'. Like 'Blue Labour'."

Cameron hasn't used the words Blue Labour. For the obvious reason that he is a Conservative and does not want to lead the Labour Party.

"But bearing in mind that the EU make 75% of our laws, including our international trade policy, transport policy, are interfering in health and education, control immigration, whether or not we can deport foreign criminals, are trying to bankrupt the City of London, employment legislation including how many hours a week someone can work, and are even having an effect on how often rubbish is collected, then I suspect that some people would class it as a 'big' issue. And tax is also another vital issue, because fiscal policy is effective, especially on a microeconomic level. And Government doesn't work unless people pay tax into the coffers for their public services."

This meme of "most of our laws come from Europe" is just silly. Not all laws are equal. Some laws have huge effects and some have relatively minor ones. It seems pretty evident your average Westminster Law has far greater effects on the UK than European Law which is usually concerned with minor clarifications of standards. Even within "EU Laws" there is considerable flexibility for our parliament. As such, we don't regulate the number of hours a person can work. Anyone looking at what the UK parliament has been up to over the last decade and concluding it has been of no importance would be deluded. Clearly, therefore, Westminster elections are vitally important.

On tax. Cameron's promise to share the proceeds of growth and, therefore, reduce the size of the state over a parliament would be a massive change from the trend over the last decade. That would be a hugely important difference between him and Labour. I'm not happy about the current Conservative approach to tax either. I don't think the Party is doing what it can to sell tax cuts. However, it clearly is still the low tax party. Of course, you don't need to trust a Conservative on this. Labourites constantly accuse the Conservatives of wanting to cut spending (and taxation).

"Yes, this comment did rather confuse me. Why on earth would I not want to vote for a party which represented my views? How does wanting the people who make the decisions governing the way that I and my friends and family live be accountable to the very same in any way extreme? And more to the point, how is that 'leftie'? Whilst I understand the author is of the political right, surely hurling around insults should be a little more accurate?"

Our electoral system gives a massive advantage to unity and, therefore, encourages compromise within political movements which is a very good thing. It gets people used to the fact that they won't get everything they want in politics. Democratic politics will always require a spirit of compromise and our electoral system incentivises that spirit through first past the post elections.

It is characteristic of "lefties" to be less willing to compromise within a political movement. This is generally caused by a greater tendency among the left to utopianism. The British right has long been successful by being far more united than the Left. This gives a huge electoral advantage and is a key reason the twentieth was a conservative century.

"But people aren't doing well. People are monumentally pissed off, which is why voter turnout is down, minority parties are getting more votes and, importantly, huge numbers of British people are leaving because they are sick of the way the country is being run, and the direction is being taken in. Cameron has not reached the magic 40% in the polls, which, with this government, he really should be doing."

Low voter turnout doesn't necessarily indicate dissatisfaction. By not voting one concedes political judgement to others which suggests a certain confidence in how things will turn out. Low turnout could also be a result of a decline in civic virtue and the belief in a duty to vote which means the irrationality of voting in general (your vote is secret and no election is decided by a single vote) is creating more of a problem.

In terms of the magic 40%. Be careful of throwing rocks in a glass house. At 1% the UKIP has a fair way to go to catch the BNP or the Green Party never mind the Liberal Democrats or the serious parties. The Conservatives, by contrast, are the most popular party in the country.

"The Shadow Chancellor has made it perfectly evident that he doesn't get the link between expansionary fiscal policy and economic growth."

The UKIP are Keynesians?

On DK's response:

Firstly, in his title he asserts his is the principled position. It isn't. A person with principles will make the decision most likely to lead to actual results as close to those principles as possible. If someone votes UKIP even if they know this will make it more likely a Labour government they dislike more than the Conservative alternative will get in that isn't being principled. It's moral vanity. It is putting your own ideological purity above getting the best possible government in line with your principles.

"What, precisely, is Cameron's problem? The vast majority of the people in this country are, at the very least, EUsceptic (can anyone point me to that recent poll showing 69% or something?); why, if he is EUsceptic, does he not adopt this obviously vote-winning position?"

All the evidence is that it isn't vote-winning. After all, the UKIP is stuck behind the BNP and Green parties whereas the Conservatives are more popular than Labour. You would expect the UKIP to at least be going forward if they were the only ones with a real vote winning position.

"The local elections are not going to control who runs the country; it isn't even really going to determine what your local council does: your council depends on the generosity of this NuLabour government for 75% of their funding."

They do have substantial leeway over what they do with that funding.


Jackart said...

Cheers Dude, Much aprreciated!

Trixy said...

Dear Mr Sinclair,

You've clearly missed the point.

A couple I will expand on for you:

1) EU law is supreme to UK law
2) UKIP are not particularly Keynesian, no. However, we do believe in low taxes
3)The point about 'Blue Labour' wasn't that Cameron used it (duh) but that it was a 'word that worked'. (That's the title of a book, by the way)
4) I would argue that low turn out does indicate dissatisfaction. I didn't vote on Thursday, for example, because I didn't want to vote for any of the candidates standing in my ward.