by Mike Newland.
UKIP’s problems at their recent conference have pointed a searchlight on one of the key issues in how any outsider to the system party should address its audience out there in the country.
Nigel Farage railed about how fed up the public is with ‘cardboard cut-out careerists in Westminster who don’t say what they really mean’. Within a day he’d expelled from office one of his own closest associates for saying what he really meant! Doh.
The trouble with Farage’s now plainly theoretical view of what makes desirable politics is exposed by asking a question. Who wins elections? Is it the parties of cardboard men or the more plain speaking? Bad news for plain speakers – well too plain speakers anyway. The cardboards win nearly every time.
So should parties like the BDP talk in robot speak. ‘Hard-working families’, ‘let’s be clear on this’, ‘the right thing to do’? Scream!
The flaw in the debate as presented is a fallacy of the false dichotomy. It’s either robotic cardboard creatures or ‘language’. The reality is that the most effective politics is somewhere in between. What tends to happen with small parties – as with Godfrey Bloom – is that frustration with the state of the country leads people involved to feel they are entitled to ‘have their say’ without consideration of the more tender concerns of the voters.
The fact is that the people are rightly fed up with the disastrous misrule we suffer. They are also terrified of radicals who might make things go really belly up in their enthusiasm for change. There is a lot of clinging to nurse for fear of something worse.
If a party like the BDP wishes to be politically effective it needs to present a radical view without frightening the horses and it is.
Anyone who has been in a nationalist party knows of the fury that suggestion produces among some people who ‘just can’t wait to get at ’em’. Well sorry but this is not a country like France where they come out on the streets at the drop of a hat. People expect you to sound like you will make sure the petty cash is in order as well as bringing substantial change. Britain is not a country where people are poised to bring out their pitchforks.
UKIP has not learnt the lesson. You can indeed be radical but a certain decorum is also required to gain public confidence. Godfrey could have said what he wanted to say with very minor changes and no mileage for opponents. But he just had to let steam did he not? Effective politics is not letting off steam. Little Crick did his usual trick of chasing behind the politician’s elbow in the street with loaded questions. Godfrey’s boiler blew. Not good.
So far so good for the BDP. But we must be on our guard against the excess of enthusiasm us veterans have seen all too often in other groups. Meant with the best of intentions, it can stump you if you are not careful. The voters won’t tell you what they are really thinking but they think it anyway. The dreaded words: “I agree with what they say but they are not ready for government”.
We are not trying to appeal at large to a minority of hard-core nationalists. The aim is to appeal to the vast majority who will only support what looks like responsible government. There is always a middle way of presenting a radical case in moderate terms.
You sink or swim in your willingness and ability to do that.