Friday, October 10, 2014

Britain: Media mud over UKIP

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by Michael Roberts

I don’t usually comment on political events as this blog is for economics. But I just could not stop myself responding the British media’s distorted account of the recent by-elections (i.e. elections between the general election) for two MPs.

The British media is engaged in talking up a petty-bourgeois right-wing Eurosceptic party, UKIP, at every opportunity. UKIP has just got its first MP in a by-election in Clacton. But not really. The UKIP candidate was the sitting Conservative MP who defected to UKIP, so he was ahead from the beginning.

There was another by-election at the same time in central Manchester because the sitting Labour MP had died. This was a relatively safe Labour seat and in the by-election Labour held the seat narrowly by just over 600 votes from the UKIP candidate, from a 6000 majority in the general election in 2010. Apparently there was swing from Labour to UKIP of 17.5%.

The media reported that this showed Labour too was in trouble from surging UKIP support, just as much as the incumbent Conservative party was. But if we analyse the result properly, this is nonsense.

First, the turnout for the Manchester by-election was hugely down. It was only 57.5% in May 2010. Now it was just 40%. But this is the rub. Labour’s share of the vote actually ROSE from 40.1% of the turnout in May 2010 to 40.9% in the by-election. The Labour vote was not affected by UKIP.

What happened was that the non-Labour vote all went to the UKIP (apart from a small vote for the ecological Green party). The Conservative vote collapsed from 27.2% share to 12.3% and the junior partner in the current government, the Liberal Democrats, saw their vote disappear from 22.7% in May 2010 to just 5.1%. Actually, if you add up the combined voting share for the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and UKIP, it was 52.5% in May 2010 and in the by-election it was 56%. That’s hardly a surge. Indeed, if you include the vote for the fascist BNP in May 2010, the share going to the anti-Labour vote FELL from 59.5% to 56%.

The media does not want to report the facts because it is determined to weaken the popularity of the Labour party and ensure its defeat next May. It may succeed, given the craven and pathetic leadership of the Labour elite. The Labour party has failed to galvanise the British people’s undoubted disgust and disappointment with the policies of the Conservative-Liberal government. So any electoral opposition has gone to a Eurosceptic, anti-immigration party, as it has in many European countries and did in the recent Euro elections.

So Labour has not ‘lost’ any share of its vote to UKIP. For this reason, the chairman of Conservative party is right. A vote for UKIP increases the chances that the Conservatives will lose seats to Labour in the general election, given the British ‘first-past-the-post’ system. That is why I expect the UKIP ‘surge’ to melt away next May.

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