Who’s laughing now? Nigel Farage and Mark Reckless for two. David Cameron, not so much.
UKIP won the Rochester and Strood by-election amid offstage chatter of more Tories abandoning the party and throwing in their lot with UKIP.
A second seat at Westminster for UKIP confirms a fundamental change occurring in Britain that the mainstream parties dismiss at their peril. Which of course is exactly what they’ll do.
For too long voters have been told by the traditional parties to ignore UKIP in general and Farage in particular.
They’ve been warned that UKIP just coasts along by burnishing the insecurities of a proportion of the British population while avoiding hard policy detail, save pulling up the drawbridge on Europe.
It was easy stuff.
Ridicule UKIP followers and call them racist, looney or unhinged. Sneer at their traditional values and maybe tweet an image of a terrace house, union flags and a white van (I’m looking at you, Emily Thornberry).
It was tried in Clacton, it was tried in Rochester. On the evidence of the ballot box, abuse isn’t cutting through. Nor is smart-arsery.
People are voting UKIP and clearly enjoying the experience.
Scare campaigns have been just as ineffective when – especially when – they’re designed to appeal to the hip pocket.
Remember in the lead up to the Rochester poll the Tories cautioned that a vote for UKIP would damage property values?
Tory MP Charles Walker of Broxbourne was quoted in The Daily Telegraph saying “The danger is if you vote UKIP, the value of your house will go down.”
Such conceit. There was no evidence to back the claim. Walker might as well have added that hens will stop laying and it will rain every Sunday between now and the end of time if UKIP was allowed to triumph.
It treated Rochester voters with a contempt that is all too common among the inhabitants of the hamlet of Westminster.
UKIP will continue to steal votes from the major parties as voters wake to the fact that the more politicians say “I get it” over concerns on immigration and EU ascendancy the more their actions reveal the opposite.
The Cameron government seems unable to stop the endless flow of economic refugees from eastern Europe and increasingly northern and sub-Saharan Africa.
Witness the camps of young men (for it is mostly men) in Calais waiting to hop a ride to the UK.
They’re sure not coming because the weather suits their clothes.
Let’s hear from the Mayor of Calais.
Last month Natacha Bouchart told the Home Affairs Committee there were “aspirational” reasons for migrants to want to come to the UK.
Asked by the committee’s chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz whether the UK is perceived as “a soft touch for those that want to come here”, Ms Bouchart replied: “Oui.”
“You have a much more favourable regime in Britain than other countries. The second thing is the entitlement to benefits of £36 which are given to asylum seekers or migrants, which is a huge amount for people who have nothing in their lives.”
Lest anyone be left in any doubt about her opinions, Ms Bouchart added the “real magnet is the benefits that are perceived in Great Britain”.
The government promises to act to stem that flood but does nothing. Ad nauseam, ad infinitum.
Timorous Labour under Ed Miliband is also adrift, shamed as it is by opening the human floodgates during Tony Blair’s time in office.
Labour’s small target strategy on everything is delivering smaller and smaller returns with voters.
As for the LibDems, their message changes so often that many have just given up trying to understand what they represent aside from power for power’s sake. The party lacks a point and a purpose.
LibLabCon are guilty as one of seeing the world they want rather than the world as it is. They’re London-centric with leaders possessing identical Oxbridge backgrounds and socio-economic advantages that set them at odds with the everyday reality of most of the rest of the country.
Nigel Farage knows this. He speaks over the nodding heads of the Westminster elites to the people who fear for their jobs, their future and their country.
At the same time the Tories ignore the views of those reduced to spending their life as renters rather than property owners, of people constantly told how strong the economic recovery is yet find evidence of real wage growth lacking in their pay packet.
Then there’s the European Union.
David Cameron has promised to magically claw back power from Brussels ahead of an in/out vote referendum by 2017, but that is predicated on the notion that the Tories will still be in government after 2015.
So what are the mechanics of leaving the Disunited States of Europe? The Prime Minister has cautiously deflected any questions about exactly what he would do and when he would do it if renegotiation fails, only saying he would be clear about whether to vote to stay or leave.
I’m glad we cleared that up.
For all the constant EU meddling in Britain’s affairs and the disproportionate calls for more money from British taxpayers to be siphoned across the Channel, Dave’s response is pretty much: ‘Well, you’ll have to trust me on that.’
Not bloody likely.
Too many voters now look around a country they grew up in and no longer recognize it. They find the only solution to that conundrum is backing UKIP.
The Euro-sceptic party might inspire jokes and cartoon characters in clown shoes and twirling bow-ties, but the threat to the Conservative core vote is real.