Friday, 4 May 2012
Tories wouldn't vote for UKIP if the Party listened to what they are saying
You disparage the electorate at your peril – tell them they’re committing one of the great sins of political correctness (racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia and so forth) and they look you in the metaphorical eye and tell you politely to shut up and go away. And this lesson is especially important for the Conservative Party because those slightly grumpy, politically incorrect voters are part of our core audience.
So when we adopt a superior position – proclaiming in the cause of “detoxification” that we will be saints of political correctness – we annoy that audience. Now, in times past they’d nowhere to go – just as Tony Blair could patronise the traditional, working-class, council-estate dwelling Labour voter secure in the knowledge that he’d nowhere to go, the current Conservative leadership seems hell-bent on doing down my sort of lower middle-class, beer-drinking, cigar smoking, steak-eating Tory.
The problem is that UKIP has provided a place for those voters to turn. And don’t give me all the “elections are won from the centre ground” twaddle. I’ve seen what the residents on my ward – a ward that returned a Conservative councillor yesterday with nearly 60% of the vote – have to say about the issues. Not much mention of climate change, gay marriage or constitutional reform. But a great deal of worry about immigration, crime, jobs and, of course, Europe. For the older of these Tory folk, there’s the stress over living on a fixed income when government policies have led to higher inflation. And everyone is annoyed by ever higher taxes – Granny-tax, Pasty-tax, fuel duty, the cost of fags and the price of a pint.
These people – let me remind you again that they are good Tories at heart – look at the government and see waste. They look at the welfare system and see spongers. They like the NHS but think it over-filled with pointless form-filling and political correctness rather than focusing on the core point – treating us when we’re ill. And these people would rather like to see the occasional policeman other than on the television. You know – on the beat, dealing with noisy kids, catching burglars and keeping an eye out for trouble.
I could continue – talk about schools and how the refusal to accept selection fails young people, ask why we send millions to India in aid when even the government there says they don’t want it and enquire gently as to how it is that we can deport an autistic kid to the USA but can’t send a known terrorist supporter back to Jordan.
If the Conservative Party wants to become a party of the wealthy shires – of Beds, Herts, Bucks and Surrey – then it’s going about it the right way. If it wants to remain relevant up here in the bit of the North no-one ever mentions – decent, family-oriented, hard-working, not especially wealthy but OK – then it needs to stop implying that UKIP are the BNP in blazers and start engaging with the issues and problems that are making very loyal Tories turn away in sorrow and vote for another party.
In our survey of Bingley Rural residents – not scientific but a pointer none-the-less – we’ve seen response after response indicating these very concerns. And a goodly chunk saying they might just consider voting UKIP. Respond to their concerns – on Europe, crime, immigration, schools and taxes – and they’ll stay loyal and contribute to a real Tory government after 2015. Ignore those worries and we'll have another disastrous Labour government.