|The Glamorgan Gazette carries the news that ex-Tory Porthcawl Town Council leader Chris Smart has decided to help set up a UKIP branch in Bridgend. I have had several people ask for my reaction to this news. “Welcome” sums it up in a word.
(Chris Smart – it is safer to judge this book by its cover, rather than its name!)
Anything that can help stir up a bit of attention on the moribund political scene in Bridgend has to be welcomed. The fact that they are a right wing party that plays on scapegoats and ignorance is obviously a pretty vile proposition, but who are they going to bother?
They cannot bother the Conservatives too much as there are not that many of them to bother (outside of Porthcawl). This is one of the few consolations of the political scene here in South Wales.
It is hard to imagine the Lib Dem support that has not already melted away being tempted by the UKIP offering. Getting in bed with the Tories has been catastrophic enough; so flirting with ‘super’ Tories cannot appeal.
As for us, they may well nick a chunk of the protest vote that we may otherwise pick up, but that is ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ voters that do not engage with our message, but want to simply give a bloody nose the Party of Power. We have seen that already in local elections, where we can poll 25% in a two horse race as purely the anti-establishment vote. Most of it melts away as soon as others are attracted into the fray. If we are to have any long-term success it has to built on a core vote that is convinced by what we have to say. That simply cannot be anyone remotely tempted by UKIP’s message.
Just in case you remain in any doubt what that message is, as well as peddling the usual immigration myths to scapegoat Johnny Foreigner, in traditional far right tradition, they are also firmly in the the climate change denial camp. You can see the full horror of UKIP’s vision for us here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/mar/07/ukip-policies-manifesto-commitments (Their sop to the Green inclined? “Incentivise the production of electric cars.” Full stop.)
So what of the Labour Party here in Bridgend? Should they be concerned? They clearly have the most to lose, as they hold most already. And Farage has mastered the art of appealing to ‘Blue Collar Conservatives’ – those that all too readily prepared to blame foreigners for our own failings; that discuss their politics over a pint and a fag; that want to believe we can have it all without having to make sacrifices; that will jump at short term fixes, because they are so fed up and miserable now!
While we cannot offer any of this, anything that can challenge the stubbornly blind loyalty to Labour around here cannot be all bad. If their heads can be turned and the eyes and ears opened we may be able to finally engage with them too, and get them to realise that the socialist virtues that truly look after their interests, and were once (but no more) the bedrock of Labour, are now available in the new ecosocialism, based on social justice, localism and sustainability, that we represent in the Green Party.