Chewing my keyboard

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The old ways...

For some reason, despite being as much of a europhile as you can get, I can feel nothing but pride in UKIP's European election result [see here the Telegraph, the Guardian and the BBC].

I always had a terror in the back of my mind that the British public were like zombies who would vote methodically for the same parties year-on-year and when they didn't vote it was a consumerist-induced apathy. I think the main parties have campaigned along this line. It's always 2 parties (we're seen as 'irritatingly' in the way, but increasingly where we are first or second it is still 2 parties. Us and them. The Lib Dems can't win here, Labour can't win here, the Tories can't win here), tribalism, your supporters, their supporters and voting strategically against whoever's in competition. Policy is rarely mentioned. This is an observation made from debating on boards with 'the other side', reading leaflets dropped into my pigeonhole and campaigning. Sadly, in many cases the Lib Dems are as bad for this as everyone else.

I am glad that Tony Blair has proved for us what happens if you ignore your electorate or just assume they'll vote Labour because they always have. I'm glad that it wasn't the BNP who had to show this to the political establishment. I'm proud to be pro-Europe and Liberals are always internationalist but pre-UKIP, Europhilics had nowhere to vote. Now they do and I hope that we can now start having a dialogue about Europe and asylum to win hearts and minds instead of lazily pretending that Europhilics don't matter and that the BNP only win seats on low turnout. Europhiles and people fervently anti-racist like me KNOW we're right; it's our job to convince the UKIP and BNP voters instead of sitting around with our fingers in our ears and pressing on regardless. Politics is about winning hearts and minds NOT expecting people to put a cross in the box for you because you're not the team with a different rosette.

It's also our job to form a cross-party coalition to go out and talk to people who aren't voting in person. It's amazing just how many people you can talk around on the doorstep if someone says they're not going to vote and you don't just walk away (I've done this). Better yet, if you're the first one to do it then the likelihood is that you're the one they're going to vote for because you took the time to listen and talk to them. It's a mammoth job and it's no single group's responsibility. The interesting thing is just how many people you could get out there to help if it was non-partisan. There are many who would never join a party but are fervent about the importance of the political process.

Finally, the machinery cranked out every election by all the parties needs to be taken apart and examined carefully. The people have a lot more information than they used to and the old conflicts: owners/workers, Tory/Labour don't mean what they did. The wind has changed, the old ways are just that, old, and the establishment doesn't seem to have noticed. We need to 'shock, horror' have a proper conversation with the people for once instead of leaving it all to the Sun. Viva the new age of politics! (she hopes but Tony Blair won't... too set in his ways sadly).

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