The “rise” of UKIP

How many times will we have to hear Euro-fantasists (sorry, I mean Eurosceptics) scream the same old screams at the slightest instance of a rise in UKIP polling figures. Apparently, as Lib Dems, we are supposed to be quaking in our boots due to an iminent UKIP rise to power. I do not want to veer into an area of political complacency, and of course I know UKIP have polled their highest in the latest Survation poll since 2009, but we need to consider the circumstances in which we always see these small explosions of UKIP popularity. The obvious example is during the European Elections, a time when UKIP are given a great amount of airtime to spell out their Eurosceptic ideals to the nation. In this period they quite clearly have a great record of playing on the fears and worries of voters who are not necessarily “Eurosceptic” but merely looking for an outlet of their anger towards the state of our nation. Other than during the European Elections, UKIP (as well as many of the “other” parties) have managed to capitalise on times of public anger towards the political mainstream. The expenses scandal provided the perfect setting for Farage and his party to really set the scene with a narrative of an “us against them” kind of scenario. It worked well, as the Harris poll in June 2009 showed with UKIP Westminster Voting Intention figures hitting an all time high of 10%.

However, the big struggle that has always been present and clear for UKIP is the fact they have always struggled to maintain support. We talk about the great struggle our party faces but we only need to look to UKIP who, admittedly very impressively, poll only behind the Conservatives in the European Elections but still become banded in the single figure polling figures attributed to the “other” parties in Westminster polls, just days after the elections. The problem has been outlined before you. UKIP only “rise” in times when there is a clear and outspoken amount of disadain for the political mainstream (expenses scandal) or in a time when UKIP’s favourite topic (the EU) is put before the public for scrutiny. With cynics like myself already in doubt of such a “rise” I feel I do not even need to go into the fact that the polls showing such positive figures for UKIP do so using questionable methods of producing figures for their recent political surveys.

Now I must insist this is not a case of complacent behaviour or a kind of Lib Dem fantasist diatribe as I am well aware of the issues a genuine UKIP rise would raise. The big problem for our party is that a UKIP rise to the so called “mainstream” of British politics (that I myself am evidently clear of accepting as a reality) is that for a party like the Liberal Democrats, General Elections are not always just about winning the battle of policies and presenting the best case for Governance, but also a case of trying to gain fair airtime amongst the Labour and Conservative dominated electoral landscape. If UKIP were in a position to seriously attempt occupying parts of this landscape they may well gain a lot of coverage in the media, thus making it harder for our party to have the say they often miss out on. God knows what questions this would raise for the 2015 Leaders Debates! We know Farage was vehemontly against the UKIP exclusion from the debates in 2010 so it would be hard to shut him out of such a debate this time around.

Now, for the party, the aforementioned problems with gaining equal coverage of the campaign is always going to be an issue but that appears to be the only potential stumbling block at this stage. Although the prospect of UKIP lying neck and neck with the party in terms of polling figures is a scary one, it would not necessarily be the worst thing in the world electorally. What is clear is that when the UKIP vote rises, ours stays strong. It is in fact the Tories who lose out to UKIP in the biggest way. Their party has a similar effect on the Tories in the way that we do (or sadly, did) have on the Labour party when looking back in time. If such a UKIP rise to prominence became a reality the great interest would not be, for us, the potential seats we may lose to UKIP or seats that UKIP may gain nationwide, but the Tory-Lib Dem marginals which may prove crucial for us in 2015. We risk losing votes to Labour, but would the concession of votes be quite as heavy as that of Tory votes to UKIP? This is completely hypothetical at this point, but what I have outlined would at least be consistent with history. I hope we are not presented with such a situation in 2015, but the electorate may still be looking for something new, especially in a time where many feel they are still getting a rough deal with the European Union supposedly eroding away British sovereignty (I’ll leave that one to you guys!). Polls are important, but have yet to be on UKIP’s side when it mattered. Time will tell but I shall not be holding my breath.

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Why we should not underestimate Chris Huhne.

For anyone who saw Question Time last night you will have noticed a certain Lib Dem minister taking a lot of flack for Coalition policy (nothing new there, eh!). But what was different was that it was Chris Huhne. Chris has come under media scrutiny in recent times due to alleged driving offenses, although after last nights television appearance this was very much an aside to what was discussed. As I said, Chris took a lot of criticism for Government policies being implemented but the responses were not your typical Lib Dem responses.

Often, whilst watching Question Time, I find myself clenching my fists and holding back the frustration when our very own ministers find it a difficult to explain and defend policy clearly to the public. I have even been in the audience to experience such painful experiences, whether it was Simon Hughes on tuition fees or Jo Swinson on…oh wait, tuition fees. But last night Chris seemed like a man on a mission. He is often criticised for shutting out others in a debate and rubs people up the wrong way with his manner of not allowing others to speak. However, this felt almost needed last night. Too long have we sat back and allowed ourselves to be tossed about and spoken down to without any sign of retaliation. Chris Huhne clearly noticed this and was very much on the offensive. He commanded the debate from the beginning and would never stop until his point was put across. He even achieved something Liberal Democrat representatives rarely achieve on Question Time, which is draw applause from the audience. He managed to point the economical blame at Labour without labouring (excuse the pun) the point too much.

Chris Huhne has never really recovered from his tense leadership election battle with Nick Clegg and the criticism his campaign drew from that period. It is almost surprising that “calamity Clegg” didn’t stick in the media like you’d quite possibly expect it to in this time of Clegg-bashing. Huhne, although never shying away from a media appearance, has almost been in the shadows since 2007. You cannot blame him as there may well still be bitter feelings towards Clegg since the leadership election, but this may be a time to finally let go. Chris is an intelligent and forthright individual who the party needs at the forefront to fight for a strong Lib Dem influence in Government (he was part of the Coalition dealmakers after all).

So what does the future hold for Huhne? My view is that has too much value for the party to disregard. He may not be the sort of Clegg loyalist we see in the likes of Danny Alexander, but he is most definitely a party loyalist. I think Chris Huhne needs to be valued for exactly the reasons he proved last night; that he is one of the best Liberal Democrats at putting across the message of a strong Lib Dem voice in Government, as well as being a great commander of debate. Chris Huhne I salute you!

Another Debate Over and the GOP Field Becomes Yet More Stale

You’d think by now we would have a clear “top-tier” as the pundits refer to it as over in the US. Apparently not. Polls are consistently showing Romney is failing to capitalise upon his lead with his polling figures still stalled in the mid twenties. Romney supporters may take comfort from the fact that his support has yet to dip, even with a swarm of GOP contenders vying for popularity, yet for every candidate that rises and subsequently crashes, Romney is failing to take any of their support. We have seen this so far with Bachmann, Perry and now we are seeing the same with Cain. Now with the rise of Newt it suddenly feels different. The Speaker of the House is not so much a big gamble candidate that the aforementioned three certainly would be as Presidential candidates. He is very much Republican establishment, something sadly the GOP quite probably need when hoping to pose a serious threat to Obama in 2012. The charm of a Ron Paul or Michele Bachmann ticket maybe appealing to some anti-Obama Republicans, but the risk is simply too high if they want to make Obama, in Bachmann’s words, a “one term President”.

But what did tonights CNN debate on National Security reveal for us? Well very little. Perry and Romney are still intent on finishing off what is clearly a very personal battle whilst Ron Paul only reaffirmed what we have grown to know him to be, a bit of a rogue. But well meaning at least. This is how I’d rank the candidates after tonights debate:

Gingrich – 7/10 – His words on refusing to break up families on the discussion on illegal immigration felt very much human and would appeal to a lot of voters who are disgruntled with the idea of criminalising immigrants making an honest living in the US. What he said on the wider international issues may not have been particularly radical or unusual to hear from a GOP candidate but he often spoke in a forthright manner, something which followers are learning to respect from the Speaker.

Bachmann – 6/10 – Bachmann surprised me tonight. I very much wrote her off and although I do not think she stands a chance of winning the nomination she showed that on the big issues that face America she stands as almost, dare I say, the sensible voice from within the Tea Party. I predict she may be the VP choice for the winner of the candidacy looking to appeal to Tea Party voters.

Paul – 6/10 – With a huge campaign behind him from every day Republican voters and the rising “Blue Republicans” he will probably have not won any new fans tonight but did a good enough job of affirming Paul’s supporters love for him with his libertarian viewpoint taking centre stage to really set himself apart from others. Dismissing the benefits of foreign aid, oftenly naively, will appeal to Tea Party identifiers.

Huntsman – 6/10 – Republican’s generally see him as too associated with the Obama administration due to his role in Government, but tonight proved there may be more to Mr Huntsman than his fluency in the Chinese language. It just feels all too little too late for him to really pose a serious threat to the “top tier” candidates of the GOP field.

Romney – 5/10 – At times its felt, whenever he wasn’t bickering with Rick Perry, he was in fact arguing with himself. A poor performance from Mitt, but nothing that will seriously damage his chances. He is still safe, but for how long?

Cain – 4/10 – Made a lot of sense of cyber-security issues, but that was really it. Cain looked out of his depth and far too often we are seeing him showing a lack of immediacy and instinction. Can American’s really trust Cain to be the sort of President to make the sorts of decisions on National Security required of a President? Unless he has a well informed, strong team around him the answer is a definite no.

Perry – 3/10 – Perry, it seems, is oddly trying to follow in the footsteps of libertarian Texas congressman Ron Paul. Taking a hands-off approach to a lot of issues, but still seeming out of touch and reactionary with the real issues and problems. Perry is finished.

Santorum – 1/10 – Just get this man away from my computer screen. An absolute liability.

Tonight’s debate will probably not change much. There were no real standout moments and it does make you wonder what any of the GOP candidates actually offer to the US in any form of hope. Obama struck a nerve with voters in 2008 and even in times of unquestionable economic unrest he managed to present an opportunity of hope and change. The GOP field, with the exception to maybe Paul, offer nothing but the same old rubbish they were rejected for first time around. Blunt, but sadly true.

ICM Show Public Still Blame Labour For State of Economy and Lib Dems See Poll Jump.

The recent ICM poll, commissioned by the Guardian, has revealed that 30% of people blame the last Labour government for the recent economic slowdown, whereas only 24% blame the current Government’s cuts agenda with 19% blaming banks not lending and 18% placing the blame at the doorstep of the Eurozone. Now what this tells us is that Labour is losing the blame game. Whilst many felt they were tired of hearing the Government consistently refer to the “mess left by Labour”, it still seems clear that the sentiment actually rings true in the minds of many voters. However, this does not mean the voters are not willing to entrust Labour, as the party still has a 2% lead over the Tories in the same ICM poll (although this was shortened down from the previous 4% lead they held).

What is clear is that, although voters blame Labour for the state of the economy, it is not necessarily a game changer in the sense of whether they will reject them in a vote at the election in 2015. It would also be naive to say that anyone who blames Labour for the mess automatically support the cuts. However, regardless of what you may read into the poll it is still worrying for Labour who are losing the blame-game politics they have happily exploited on every possibly platform where the economy is discussed. My advice (which is, pretty much, irrelevant) is for Labour not to spend all time and resources into condemning the cuts programme but to spend more time plugging their own plans for the economy. If they want to stand a chance in 2015 they need to ensure the electorate have a clear idea of what an Ed Miliband lead Labour party would do for the country, because at the moment it seems like the “five-point plan” is heavily undermined by petty tactics and point scoring which are proving not to work.

Now, although the ICM poll continues to highlight the woes Britain faces economically, or at least what they people think Britain faces economically, there is a small consolation for the Liberal Democrats. The part is now up 1% to 14% which is a nice change to the onslaught of YouGov polls which have showed the party polling in single digits on many an occasion. The recent Populus poll for The Times also shows an improvement for the party as they increase their voting intention figures by going up 5% to 13%. Even within the margin of error of +/-3% this still signifies at least a gain of 2% on their previous polling figures. I know it seems almost pointless to take anything from polls so far away from elections, but as a party under such close scrutiny it is important to observe when support is mounting and when it is not. When we see poll leaps like these you need to consider why attitudes have changes and how we can build upon them. It has, by post-2010 Lib Dem standards, been a quiet few weeks since autumn conference and maybe there have been a series of quiet successes that have spurred on support. I would, personally, like to think this is all down to Baroness Shirley Williams and the other Lib Dem Lords pushing for fair change to the NHS Reforms in the Lords, but the likelihood is probably quite the contrary. However, it does raise the question that all this talk of “Cleggmania: Round 2” may not be too much of an outrageous thought after all? Time will tell, but this poll will give Lib Dems comfort, if only for a short time.

I’ll keep a close eye on any polls of interest and will try and update the blog with anything I see of worth. Hopefully next time (maybe tomorrow), I’ll post on the US Republican Presidential Primaries for 2012. Especially since the next debate is coming up.

Welcome to Liberal Insight!

So I have, on and off for a good few years, blogged about various things regarding my life and other such things of interest to myself. Mostly it has been concentrated on music and cultural things, but now I feel the time to express my political views over the internet.

“INSIGHT!?” I hear you all cry. Well I may not necessarily be able to offer you the best insight into the way the Liberal Democrat party are always operating and can’t always guarantee I know for sure the intentions of the party in government, but I hope what I can do is give you, at the very least, an insight into the mind of a young Lib Dem looking to make sense of the messed up political world we live in, the political system and the party I am a member of is a part of. I want to be a voice (in an already highly populated political blogosphere!) that can speak independently of the party in a way that can at times be critical, but more important than that, constructive of how the party can cope with the struggles of being in coalition with a party that, by history alone, stands for many things that sit at the opposite end of the political spectrum to that of the Liberal Democrats. So I may not necessarily be the best beacon of praise for the party, but I hope I can at least be part of something that wants to see the party do well in government and do its best to upholds its values to better the lives of people living under the current coalition.

There are many things I hope to cover over the next few blog posts that cover a wide range of issues in politics, with a specific relevance to the party itself. They include the economy (something you’ll come to realise I’m not too hot on), education and democracy to name but a few. It is important, I feel, that we as politically active individuals are heard loud and clear on the issues we feel most passionately for. This is increasingly important in a party like the Liberal Democrats due to our democratic nature, as we are a party where the grassroots political activists actually play an important role in the formation of policy and choosing the direction the party goes in. Our democratic nature means it is up to the likes of myself and people like me to ensure we are using our democratic powers to help the party move forward in a positive manner. It is the democratic processes the party upholds that really got me hooked in when I became a member in 2008. So it seems simple; if the opportunity is there then why not utilise it to make a positive difference in the party?

I hope that you come back to this blog as I am hoping for it to be a continuous stream of my political thoughts which will then become a starting point for debate. So if you are ever reading and wish to challenge me on what I have said then please do so! I am here not just to lecture on my own points of view but to learn from other politically engaged individuals. I thank you for reading up to here and I hope you visit again when we can get down to the exciting task of debate and discussion!