|An empty gesture|
This protest will be an umbrella for generic disaffection, ranging from welfare cuts to gay marriage. A fragmented protest without direction. As James Delingpole puts it, "The rise and rise of UKIP isn't really about Europe or about immigration or closet racism or any of the other specific issues on which its mainstream opponents have been striving so desperately to skewer it. It is - not unlike the Tea Party in the US - about an idea, a feeling, a mood."
And so the message we take from the euro-polls is that a minority, albeit sizable, are in a bad mood. What exactly are we supposed to take from this? This protest is not a set of demands, it is not even issue specific, thus all we see is the expression of a sentiment - which really gets us nowhere.
Is it that politicians are supposed to listen to us more? If so then we are still in the realms of asking - rather than demanding. This is not an exercise of vital powers, this is a timid squeak. Thus today's voting ritual is little more than an indulgence where once again we parade our weakness - and for the establishment, listening to our voice is still entirely optional. Gestures will be made, but today we accomplish nothing.
Looking at the latest YouGov poll which puts Ukip on 27% (with a 3% margin of error), if we're generous and give Ukip the whole 27%, all it has accomplished in light of the BNP collapse since 2009 is to cannibalise that vote - and the English Democrat vote - along with an interception of old Labour votes that would otherwise go to the BNP. It has not expanded the disaffection base by more than about 2% at best. So what we're looking at here is the Farage Mirage. It has united the protest vote by deliberately hollowing itself out of policy and principle. The only question is whether it can hold it together. I strongly suspect that it cannot when the debate gets serious over the substantive issues.
The only thing to celebrate today is that, until the general election, the white noise will fall quiet for a time. Meanwhile, those of us serious about real change will be plugging away at The Harrogate Agenda.