I have been away. Or not so much away, as up to my eyes in work that remunerates, but is not much in the public eye. That is likely to be changing soon, at which point it will, i hope, be politics as usual.
Or, given the high irritation factor currently being generated by that Farage man on TV, I may dabble a little in party politics. Because i dunno about the rest of you, but i am sick and tired of a party – UKIP – that appears to have achieved the double: simultaneously to have poisoned the UK body politic AND still sound like cheese grating across the blackboard of our collective national soul.
Today, I’d like to write about this nonsense of UKIP having “won” a national election.
About 10 days ago, UK voters went to the polls and voted for two things. Some councillors. And for some political parties to represent them in Europe.
UKIP local success? Support down by a quarter!
The first election, voted in only a proportion of seats nationally, gave the following party shares:
Labour 31% (29%)
Tory 29% (25%)
UKIP 17% (22%)
Lib Dem 13% (14%)
The figures in brackets are the figures for 2013. Difficult to interpret, since different areas were coming up and, intriguingly, UKIP did better, seat wise on a lower share of the vote than a year ago.
Still, i’d not be overly impressed, personally, were i leading a party that had lost almost 25% of its vote in 12 months. In most circumstances, that feels like a bit of an anti-success story.
But then, that wag, Farage! I’m sure he knows that really and is just joshing us when he talks about breakthrough.
Euro vote: UKIP victory?
Next up is that stunning Euro victory:
Labour 25.4% (20)
Tory 23.9% (19)
UKIP 27.5% (24)
Lib Dem 6.6% (1)
Green 6.9% (3)
Here, the UKIP vote did increase dramatically on their previous performance (2009), up by something like 11%.
Wahoo! Cue BBC soundbite that this is the first time in a century that a national election has been won by any other than (one of) the two big parties.
Well, sort of. But that does require something of a stretch, defining as a “national election” not, er, a national election, but an election at which all the nation had a chance to vote on the same day – whereupon just 34% of them bothered to turn out, meaning that something like 9.3% of the population were arsed to go out there and put an “x” in a box next to UKIP.
Some election: some victory!
Its irritating, though, in a pedantic sort of way, because commentators and politicians alike persist in playing fast and loose with concepts like electoral victory. Do they mean more votes? Or more seats? Do they mean most – or a majority of either?
Because the history of the last century shows that depending on how you pick your terms, NO party has ever quite won. On seats, sure: our perverse electoral system (see below) continues to deliver seat majorities to parties that thoroughly don’t deserve it.
On several occasions (1974, 1951, 1929) the party with the most votes has not ended up with the most seats – sometimes by quite a margin. On present figures, don’t be at all surprised if the next election delivers Milliband to Downing St on fewer votes than the Conservatives receive.
Just once in all that century has any party obtained a majority of the votes cast – and that was the Conservatives taking 55% of the vote in 1931. Even then, they only scored something like 42% of the total electorate. Though compared to modern day scores, that IS impressive.
Electoral perversion pours bucket of cold sick on UKIP poll hopes
But what of next time? What of the general election? The real issue – the only place where i will confess to the slightest scintilla of sympathy for the Farage – is this. The UK election system is corrupt and weighted absolutely in favour of Labour.
Really? Doth milady protest too much? Well, no.
On a uniform swing (parties increasing/decreasing uniformly across the country), assuming a result where Labour and Conservative BOTH end up on 33%, Labour almost take power, with 314 seats: the Tories trail with 268. Or thereabouts.
Assuming the incredible, and an election at which all three of the main parties score 25%, then the seats split Tory (223), Labour (287), Lib Dem (111).
Take one step beyond and into the realms of the surreal. Assume a four way split with parties, including UKIP, getting 20% and the result is Tory (220), Labour (275), Lib Dem (1101), UKIP (8).
That’s right: 8 U-kippers clogging up the green leather benches. 🙂
Of course, if such a result did occur, then the swing is likely to be anything but uniform. UKIP have their target seats and it seems likely that long before they achieve a decent national total, they might, at a general election, bring home a few extra target seats.
Still, its a mountain to climb – and those figures show why.
Apply uniform swing again and on their current council result, UKIP get precisely ZERO parliamentary seats
Do the same with their Euro result (assuming NO uptick in the Lib Dem fortunes as protest voters return to the fold)…and UKIP might bag a somewhat more reasonable 70 MP’s.
But that won’t happen, and here’s why. The electoral system. And while i will still be the first to rail against the iniquities of a system that gives minority parties 10% of the seats for nearly 25% of the vote, its what we have to play with.
Unless UKIP start to get around 20% of the vote in national NATIONAL elections, they won’t get any seats. Period.
And forgive me the UKI-pessimism…but i think, even with another minor tremor in Newark, their 2015 vote is going to be closer to their council result this year than their Euro one.
So why the fuss?
Well, its news, innit?
It makes sense for politicians from the big parties to worry away at the UKIP result, because in the end, there won’t be a uniform swing and if UKIP takes votes disproportionately from one or other big party, they will affect the outcome of the elction even if they achieve nothing themselves.
But as far as the Beeb and other news organisations are concerned, maybe someone should be asking some big questions in respect of the publicity they are currently giving UKIP.
They know full well – at least their election wonks know – what i have written above. That the UKIP influence in the next parliament is likely to be at best derisory, probably nil.
And while the Europe elections are ONE story, that’s it: they’re over. Done. Finished. On, please, to the next.
On the other hand, if the rule, now, is that they are prepared to look at the vote on the ground, irrespective of representation, then when this current froth is over, other parties should remember that. Because even when the Lib Dems were touching the heady heights of 25% in national polls, i don’t remember the BBC paying such attention to Lib Dem leaders past – any more than they pay much attention to Greens with around a quarter to a third of the UKIP vote and actual parliamentary representation.
There are many questions facing UK politics today.
But one of the biggest, it seems to me, is why our national news organisation continues to provide so much free air time to a party that is at heart racist, homophobic and really rather nasty – and in the elections to come, mainly irrelevant.