The commentariat class continue to scratch their heads in puzzlement as to how UKIP’s support is not melting away in the face of wall-to-wall attacks from the media and the political establishment, and this blog continues to patiently explain why this is the case.
Well, for those who obstinately refuse to learn, here is yet another reason – Labour and the Conservative Party have given a clear demonstration of their ideological muddle by both hiring former Obama campaign officials to help with their respective 2015 general election messaging efforts.
Ed Miliband hailed the appointment as “excellent news” and predicted the strategist would be a “huge asset to our campaign as we work to show the British people how we can change our country for the better”.
Mr Axelrod said he had been struck by the power of the Labour leader’s ideas and the “strength of his vision”.
He drew a comparison between Mr Miliband’s economic policies and the arguments articulated by Mr Obama in 2008, saying both have at their core “the experience of everyday people”.
And then the Conservatives:
The Conservatives have also recruited another former adviser to Barack Obama, his ex-campaign manager Jim Messina, to work on their 2015 election team.
As with Mr Axelrod, Mr Messina is not leading the campaign on the ground but remains in the US, reporting to the Conservatives’ senior management team.
It is common knowledge that the Britain sits well to the left of the United States on the political spectrum, so in one sense it is not surprising that an American Democrat such as Axelrod might still find common cause with Britain’s centre-right party (he wouldn’t be caught consorting with a Republican in a million years).
But in another sense, it is a terrible indictment of the British political system that both main political parties – our two ‘polar opposites’, the alpha and the omega of our choices come election day – are either so intellectually bankrupt or coldly calculating that they can both recruit from same same American political talent pool and still present themselves to the British public as though they are different as chalk and cheese.
Intellectually bankrupt or coldly calculating. In truth, there is a fair measure of both at work in the Labour and Conservative parties. Both have followed the example of ‘triangulation’ pioneered so successfully by Bill Clinton, in order to win over the undecided middle while hanging on to just enough of their restive core voters to make it over the finish line.
Tony Blair’s New Labour certainly took the triangulation strategy and moulded it into a political work of art. But make no mistake, the Conservatives are at it, too. Even when accounting for the fact that they have governed only in coalition since 2010, the fact that they have allowed harmful defence cuts and continued encroachments on civil liberties while largely tolerating Labour’s legacy of tax hikes and fiscal drag shows that they, too, see more value in playing to the woolly undecided voters in the middle than making a convincing ideological case for their core principles.
Which brings us back to Nigel Farage and UKIP.
Say whatever else you like about them, but here is a party that has a set of core beliefs and is unafraid to articulate them plainly and simply. (If you are reading this and thinking “but surely all UKIP stand for is leaving the EU, with a portion of racism on the side” then you have been indoctrinated well by the media who have slavishly served the interests of the main political parties – but UKIP do actually have a broadly libertarian policy platform that can be easily researched).
Leaving aside the coming European elections on Thursday 22 May, UKIP’s increasing (and surprisingly solid) popularity is not just a function of the British people having nowhere else to meaningfully express their euroscepticism or their dislike of politicians in general (the protest vote). It is driven also by the fact that conviction politics is all but dead in Britain, leaving many thoughtful and politically aware people with no one who speaks their language, but a host of politicians willing to patronise and double-cross them to gain votes, before discarding them once they are delivered into power.
Tony Benn and Margaret Thatcher are no longer with us, and British politics is suffering the absence of them and their kind. The few conviction politicians left in the House of Commons tend to be curmudgeonly old men and women (think Glenda Jackson or John Redwood) whose prime days are behind them and who will never be brought back in from the margins. And this leaves the political future to be shaped by the oily likes of Ed Miliband in the labour party (with young guns such as Chuka Umunna or Gloria de Piero to look forward to when he is inevitably deposed), and Cameron-Osborne for the Tories.
So forget about the European Union and the Newark by-election. Forget about the mudslinging and accusations of racism from one side and intimidation from the other. In many ways, it’s all just noise, the kind of nonsense we are left to argue about when there is so little left to distinguish the three main political parties from each other when it comes to real life policy.
When Labour and the Conservatives are so indistinguishable that they both instinctively look to buy Barack Obama’s 2008 message of “hope and change” from across the Atlantic, is it any wonder that the only party with an authentic, home-grown message is reaping the rewards in the polls?
Picture: Student drawing from an elementary school in Texas