The UKIP Lesson

The stunning electoral success of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the recent British council elections highlights the failings of David Cameron’s brand of conservative government. Namely, that it isn’t actually conservative but more a pale imitation of a soft left policy agenda led by a man whose most notable commitment has been to make the once proud Conservative Party more ‘green’ than Labour.

A few years ago, there were a number in the Liberal Party here who actually thought this was the best path for us to adopt too. Had such a vision been allowed to flourish, the electoral disaster would have been akin to Cameron’s – albeit we would never have actually won government!

Cameron led the Tories into an electoral battle against a 13-year Labour government led by Gordon Brown – a man loathed by much of the electorate. Labour had presided over the virtual bankruptcy of the nation, allowed almost unfettered immigration and social dislocation and overseen the crushing of a domestic economy. They pursued almost every ridiculous policy agenda you could imagine with a strong commitment to wind farms, higher taxes and more government authority.

The public were crying out for change; not simply a change of government but a change of approach to how they should be governed.

The hot button issues were immigration, social cohesion and the devolvement of national sovereignty and self-determination to the unelected and unaccountable bureaucracy of Brussels. Cameron chose to ignore these demands from the thinking public and instead dragged his party steadily left. The result was a forced coalition with the Liberal Democrats in an election that was clearly there for the taking by the mainstream Conservative constituency.

Since then, the Cameron team has consistently foisted unwanted social and economic policies onto the British grassroots.

Instead of committing to the family, Cameron forced a vote on gay marriage with the resulting rebellion of nearly half his MPs. Instead of tackling the disenchantment with the European Union, Cameron has been lukewarm about a referendum at some stage in the future. Government spending hasn’t been reined in and national debt continues to rise. The Bank of England is printing money with abandon and the economy continues to languish.

The result has been a predictable disaster for the Conservatives. Cameron is languishing in the polls and is seen as more concerned with his old Etonian buddy network than the worries of ordinary Britons.

His approach has seen tens of thousands of Conservative Party members desert in favour of joining UKIP – a party that many believe reflects the traditional conservative ethos and whose leader is considered to be speaking up for mainstream concerns.

Cameron’s response to this rise in popularity was to dismiss UKIP supporters as “fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists”. This statement was seen by many as reflecting a Prime Minister who is ‘out of touch’ with the general mood of the electorate.

The lesson from the failings of Cameron’s ‘conservatives’ is one for us to heed in this country. Simply winning an election against a poor incumbent is not enough. More often than not, voters aren’t changing bad governments for more of the same; they kick them out because they don’t like the direction in which the country is headed.

Right now, Australians are worried about our nation. They don’t like the irresponsible spending. They don’t like the new and increased taxes. They don’t like a nanny state government encroaching into their personal freedoms and responsibilities. Most of all, they don’t like their concerns being dismissed in a cavalier Cameronesque fashion by out of touch politicians.

Unfortunately in some quarters this is exactly what is happening. Concerns about immigration are ‘racist’. Worries about the agenda of Islam are ‘loony’. Wanting to retain traditional marriage is ‘Neanderthal’. If you think multiculturalism is a dangerous approach or that the green dream is plain stupid then you are a ‘fruitcake’. I could go on to cite many other dismissive and pejorative reflections of anyone who dares to publicly question the left agenda.

However, I remain convinced that mainstream Australians want these and many other issues addressed by the major political parties. In fact, they will be looking to change the current government in the hope that a very different approach to governing will actually take place. In the event that it doesn’t, don’t be surprised to see increasing support for a UKIP-style party in this country.

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