Wednesday, 26 November 2014
Those of us who have lived through the ecstasies of Torrington and Orpington can perhaps be forgiven an indulgent smile at UK's euphoria over its recent by-election successes.
In 1958 the Liberal Party achieved its first by-election success of the post war period when Mark Bonham Carter snatched Torrington form the Tories with 38% of the vote. However this first of many "Liberal Revivals was short lived. In the general election of the following year we were back to 5.9% of the vote and just six MPs,who could proverbially hold their party meetings in a telephone box.
Four years later, in 1962, Eric Lubbock thrashed the Tories with no less than 52.9% of the vote and gained Orpington. This did prompt the then prime minister Harold Macmillan to sack a third of his cabinet in the "night of the long knives," but in the following general election, 1964, although we polled over 3 million votes, we still had only nine MPs, needing, perhaps, a Tardis rather than a phone box for their meetings.
When the Gang of Four formed the Social Democratic Party in 1981 our Alliance briefly led the "Old Parties" in the opinion polls, but in the next election,1983, although together our total vote nearly beat Labour's, we still had only 23 MPs compared to Labour's 209 and the Tories 392. The "mould" was hardly cracked, never mind broken.
So from the first green shoots of revival in 1958 to actually forming a very minor part of the coalition government (57 Liberal Democrat MPs to 305 Conservatives) in 2010 took just over half a century.
Has UK the stamina for the struggle?
Actually, if they can keep it up it may not take them quite so long. Way back in the 1950s the two dominant largest parties between them took 96.1% of the vote. Today things are much more fluid with that same two parties' share falling to only 65.1% of the vote in 2010 on, by coincidence, a turnout of only 61.5%. On the other hand, there are more mouths eagerly open to receive the protest vote: Nationalists, Greens, and perhaps the odd "save the NHS" independent.
My belief is that UKIP may poll well in the next election whilst the euphoria lasts, but is unlikely to win more than a handful if seats, if that, and them will fade away. Its policies now seem to be reduced to two: withdrawal from Europe and halting immigration, maybe even sending some back The arguments in favour of both are fallacious. and so, I fervently hope, unable to withstand the passage of time and serious scrutiny.
For lots of home truths about immigrants from the EU please see this very well informed post on a blog by Jon Danzig