It doesn’t matter what you think of Mark Reckless. It doesn’t even matter what you think of UKIP. Whether you love them or hate them their victory last night in the Rochester and Strood by-election was a victory for (almost) all of us.
Let me explain why by way of reference to two characters who embody almost everything wrong with our current political class.
Exhibit A: Emily Thornberry. You wouldn’t necessarily guess this from her plummy voice, patrician hauteur, her £3-million-plus residence in London’s Islington, the fact that she is married to an Old Radleian barrister earning upwards of £1 million a year and that she educated her children at selective schools. But the now former Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry is in fact one of the Labour party’s most senior and heavily promoted Members of Parliament.
Yesterday, in the final hours of the Rochester and Strood by-election, Thornberry demonstrated just how far her party has travelled from its roots when she snobbishly tweeted a photograph of a council house, its walls decorated with the Cross of St George, a white van parked outside, with the message: “Image from Rochester.”
The tweet may have cost her her job, but as Alex Wickham noted here yesterday this is precisely why white working class voters are deserting the Labour party in droves and gravitating towards UKIP instead.
The modern Labour party just doesn’t represent their interests any more. It’s unpatriotic; it’s largely responsible for the mass immigration which is costing them jobs and housing and school places and hospital beds; and it no longer cares about the workers – only about quangocrats and EU directives and immigrants and public sector parasites and tedious battles of no interest to any real person, such as “diversity” and “equality” and “heterosexism”.
Exhibit B: Oliver Letwin. It wouldn’t be quite true to say that Oliver Wetwin or Oliver Leftwing (as he is variously known) is the architect of everything that is wrong with the modern Conservative party. Just most of it. Damp rag, squishy centrist, Hampstead intellectual Letwin is, as the Conservatives’ longstanding policy chief, the man who helped “detoxify” the Tory brand by cleverly ensuring that there was almost nothing Tory left in it. From gay marriage to green energy, from defence cuts to ring-fenced overseas aid, Letwin is the reason so many Conservatives loathe and despise the Cameron Conservative party.
Which is what makes it so surprising that Letwin, of all people, was the latest senior Tory to be given permission by party HQ to talk weally, weally tough on Europe. If Britain didn’t get what it wanted in its European negotiations then it should consider leaving the EU altogether, he told students at University College, London – in a no-doubt, carefully-planned, eve-of-Rochester bombshell.
It was as if Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA, were suddenly to call a press conference, dressed in mink-trimmed leather, and announce over steak tartare canapes that from now on she was going to dedicate her life to hunting grizzly bears.
Why is this incident so significant? Because if it weren’t for UKIP’s burgeoning success, it would simply never have happened. Cameron’s Tories are centrist, Europhile, politically correct. But the march of UKIP has brutally forced them out of their squishy comfort zone and forced them to start thinking like real conservatives again.
This is what’s so exciting about the election result. Yes it was a victory for Mark Reckless and UKIP. But it was an even greater victory for the British people generally. For years – certainly since the beginning of the Blair era – they have been treated with contempt by an increasingly remote political class which didn’t, for example, give a damn about what they thought about all the mass immigration and diversity being forced on them by government policy. Finally, not before time, they have struck back.
Today the remote, complacent, identikit careerists in the Westminster bubble have been given another bloody nose. Let joy across the nation be unconfined!